Chechnya found itself at the center of the Boston bombings as soon the quickly transpiring events on Friday morning revealed the two suspects, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, are ethnic Chechens. The president of Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, has already released a statement (via Instagram, by the way) condemning anyone who would blame Chechnya, a war-torn nation whose nationalists have been connected to terrorism in Russia for years, for the Tsarnaevs actions:
Any attempt to draw a connection between Chechnya and Tsarnaevs — if they are guilty — is futile. They were raised in the United States, and their attitudes and beliefs were formed there. It is necessary to seek the roots of this evil in America. The whole world must struggle against terrorism — that we know better than anyone else. We hope for the recovery of all the victims, and we mourn with the Americans.
His point is well-taken, but for those who are just brushing up on Chechnya, here are some facts about the country.
Location: The Chechen Republic is nestled in the North Caucasus Mountains in southeast Europe.
Nicknames: Chechnya; Ichkeria (Land of Minerals)
Population: 1,268,989 per a 2010 census
Predominant Religion: Islam
Chechnya, a federal republic, operates under a constitution drafted in 2003 that recognizes the region as a constituent entity of the Russian Federation, placing it under the rule of Moscow. The highest office of government, called the Head of the Chechen Republic, is currently occupied by Ramzan Kadyrov, a former rebel leader who defected to the Russian side during the Second Chechen War.
Chechnya's culture is dominated by its citizens' widespread adherence to Sunni Islam, a form of Islam that emphasizes strict fidelity to the religious practices taught in the Quran.
Since 1990, residents of Chechnya have settled throughout the world, particularly in the European Union and throughout Russia itself. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, which monitors refugee populations, believes hundreds of thousands of Chechens were displaced by the First and Second Chechen Wars.
First Chechen War
The region attempted to establish (and eventually maintain) independence from Russia, beginning with the First Chechen War, which lasted from 1994 to 1996. () The war ended with a short-lived peace treaty struck between Moscow and Chechen leaders, who demanded reparations for the many lives lost (an estimated 100,000 civilians) during the conflict.
Second Chechen War
In 1999, Russia invaded Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, in an attempt to reclaim power over the country. The ensuing Second Chechen War lasted for nearly a decade, ending only in August 2009, when Russian troops effectively disabled Chechen resistance, once again establishing the region as a federal subject of Moscow. Civilian casualties of the ten-year-long war range between 20,000 and 200,000.
Relationship with Russia
Historically, Chechnya's relationship with Russia has been tense. The origins of the region's conflicts with Russia, a predominantly Russian Orthodox state, stretch back to the 18th century, when Russia annexed Chechnya. Shortly before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Chechnya tried — and failed — to establish official independence from Russia, leading into two major wars over the next twenty years.
Stay informed of the widespread search for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the Wire's live blog.