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Boston Bombing: Tsarnaev Brothers Identify With Islam, Chechnya Independence

Djohar Tsarnaev
Djohar Tsarnaev
Pavel Tarasenko and Elena Chernenko

MOSCOW - As the U.S. woke up to discover that the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing had been identified and one had been killed, the news also came out that the two young men were Russian citizens, Chechen brothers who appear to have grown up in Dagestan. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed in a police chase through the outskirts of Boston, while his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, remains at large.


There was something to be learned about the two brothers from their profiles on vKontacte, the Facebook-like website that is popular in Russia. According to Dzhokhar’s profile, he speaks Chechen, Russian and English, and his birthday is July 22. He went to school in Dagestan from 1999 to 2001, a north-Caucasus republic in Russia that is home to many Chechen refugees, and then went to Massachusetts to attend the Cambridge Ringe and Latin School. He identifies himself as a practicing Muslim.

According to the profile, his most important goals in life are “career and money.” He is a member of groups called “Chechnya” and “Everything for the Chechen Republic.” There aren’t many posts - one photo, one video and one joke. The joke is as follows: There’s a riddle given at school. A Dagestani, Chechen and Ingush are going somewhere in a car. Who is driving? The correct answer: The police. The last time he visited the site was 5:04 a.m. on April 19, Moscow time.

Not A Single American Friend

Tamerlan, the older brother who was killed by police, kept a personal channel on YouTube, and by the selection of videos posted he appeared to be interested in Islam and boxing. His playlists include a Chechen singer who sings about war, Islam and jihad, and "terrorist" videos that are addressed towards fighters. Not long ago Tamerlan posed for a photo-reportage by Johannes Hirn called "Will Box For Passport,” although the link on Hirn’s site appears to be down. In the text that goes along with the photos, Tamerlan says, “I don’t have a single American friend, I don’t understand them.”

It also explains in the text that Tamerlan’s family fled Chechnya at the beginning of the 1990s, first to Kazakhstan, then to the United States. He was studying at the Bunker Hill Community College in Boston and wanted to be an engineer. He was a boxer and dreamed of making the American national team. He said that as long as Chechnya was not independent, he would box for the U.S. not Russia.

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Influencer Union? The Next Labor Rights Battle May Be For Social Media Creators

With the end of the Hollywood writers and actors strikes, the creator economy is the next frontier for organized labor.

​photograph of a smartphone on a selfie stick

Smartphone on a selfie stick

Steve Gale/Unsplash
David Craig and Stuart Cunningham

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For the past decade, we’ve mapped the contours and dimensions of the global social media entertainment industry. Unlike their Hollywood counterparts, these creators struggle to be seen as entertainers worthy of basic labor protections.

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