XU history professor offers perspective on Chechnya

(FOX19) - As authorities learn more details about the Boston Marathon bombing suspects and brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a local Russian history professor offered perspective about the Tsarnaev's ethnic country of origin, Chechnya.

Chechnya, located in the southeastern part of Europe in the North Caucasus mountains, has a history of war and domination by Russia, which according to Xavier University professor Alexandra Zorros, has created a lot of resentment.

"The consequence of all this is that there's a very long-running, anti-Russian tendency among Chechens," explained Zorros.

Chechnya has a population of about 1.3 million people, who Dr. Zorros revealed are primarily Muslim.

"Because Chechens are Muslim, the civil wars against Russia have also been training grounds for various militant Islamic groups."

According to Zorros, those are the same groups that fought for independence.

"Against a nation that had a different religious set of beliefs and consequently, there is a tradition among, within, Chechnya of militant Islamic behavior," said Zorros.

The professor was quick to point out that it's unclear if the Tzarnaev brothers had any militant Islamic influence, but she says Russians have often accused Chechens of being terrorists because of their resistance to being ruled by outsiders.

"Islamic militants come to fight in areas where Muslims are combating Europeans, who tend to be seen as oppressors."

She said there was evidence of that during World War II when hundreds of thousands of Chechens were deported to Kazakstan and Kyrgystan, resulting in several deaths from the bitter cold.

"The Russian treatment of the Chechens was probably, a little, possibly worse than it was for other ethnic groups, but certainly the Chechens perceived it as such, particularly after the deportations of World War II," she explained.

According to Dr. Zorros, what can be said about the Chechens is that they are people shaped by long-running hostilities with the Russians and turmoil.

"They've come from a world where there was a great deal of destruction, civil war and very difficult living conditions for many, many years."

Dr. Zorros explained just because someone is from Chechnya, that does not deem them as a terrorist, making it clear it would be a big mistake to label Chechnya as a breeding ground for Al Qaeda.

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