Saturday, April 20, 2013


In the midst of the Second World War, Joseph Stalin, seized by one of his historic fits of paranoia and cruelty, declared the Chechen people disloyal to the U.S.S.R. and banished them from their homeland in the northern Caucasus to Central Asia and the Siberian wastes.

Tens of thousands of Chechens, along with members of other small ethnic groups from the Caucasus and the Crimean Peninsula, died in the mass deportation or soon after—some from cold, some from starvation.

The Tsarnaev family eventually settled in a town called Tokmok, in Kyrgyzstan, not far from the capital, Bishkek. Most who survived the next thirteen years in exile were permitted to return home, in the late fifties, under Nikita Khrushchev, and they reƫstablished a sense of place as well as identity. Some remained expatriates.

Chechens speak Russian with a thick accent; more often they speak their own language, Noxchiin Mott.

The Caucasus region is multicultural in the extreme, but the predominant religion in the north is Islam.

The Chechen national spirit is what is invariably called “fiercely independent.” When the Soviet Union collapsed, in 1991, nationalist rebels fought two horrific wars with the Russian Army for Chechen independence. In the end, the rebel groups were either decimated or came over to the Russian side. But rebellion persists, in Chechnya and in the surrounding regions—Dagestan and Ingushetia—and it is now fundamentalist in character.

The slogan is “global jihad.” The tactics are kidnappings, assassinations, bombings.


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