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RuNet: What Does Boston Mean for Chechen Cause?

In the days since the arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, ethnic Chechen and “Suspect #2″ in the Boston Marathon bombings, there has been surprisingly little cogent analysis of the situation from Chechen bloggers active on the RuNet. Of course, some have commented on the matter, but mostly to link to viral conspiracy theories (some of these were alluded to in RuNet Echo's original article [GV]; a more in-depth look is to follow).

This makes a recent post by one Chechen blogger particularly interesting. Like many others, Zulikhan [ru], “a Chechen, an Ichkerian [wiki], a Muslim, a wife, and a mother” who runs a popular blog on LiveJournal, subscribes to the theory that the Boston bombings were planned by Putin and Russian special forces, using the Tsarnaev brothers as pawns. In her first post on the bombings she wrote [ru] about the potential motivation for such a plot:

Ну вот, что-то уже прояснилось. Путин и Обама, по инициативе российской стороны, договорились по телефону о координации усилий в борьбе с международным терроризмом. Считаю, что за событиями в Бостоне торчат уши российских спецслужб. По принципу “кому выгодно”. [...] Путину выгодно – чтобы Штаты не мешали России творить на Северном Кавказе все, что угодно, под видом борьбы с терроризмом.

Well, some things are clearer now. Putin and Obama, at the initiative of the Russians, have come to an agreement about coordinating efforts in combating international terrorism. I think that the Russian special services are visible behind the events in Boston. Based on the “who profits” principle. [...] Putin profits — so that the States let Russia do what it wants in the North Caucasus under the guise of fighting terrorism.

Regardless of her suspicions (which are rather mild compared to those professed by some of the others), it is worth looking at Zulikhan's later analysis of what Boston means for the Chechen people, the cause of Chechen independence, and for the North Caucasus in general. Her opinions should be viewed through the prism of Chechen nationalism. She is no fan of Putin, and names Dzhokhar Dudayev, ex-Soviet military leader of Chechnya's bid for independence in the early 90s, (and likely the man Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was named for) as a personal hero. (As more conspiracy fodder for the aficionados, Dudayev was born on April 15, 1944, which means that the bombing took place on his birthday. [Update: there seems to be some controversy as to when Dudayev was actually born. Most Russian-language online media (including the Russian version [ru] of the Wikipedia article) cite February 15, however some sources do claim April 15 [ru], and even May 15 (the Chechen version of the Wikipedia article). The controversy can be traced to a 2004 Kavkaz Center forum thread [ru] where April 15 is claimed as the birth date. However, because it looks like the English-language Wikipedia article on Dudayev was edited from February 15 to April 15 following Tsarnaev's arrest, the motivation of the edit is questionable.]

Dzhokhar Dudaev addressing his Chechen troops. YouTube screenshot. April 24, 2013.

Dzhokhar Dudayev addressing his Chechen troops. YouTube screenshot. April 24, 2013.

With that said, here are some excerpts from her most recent post [ru]. First, Zulikhan makes sure to note that the repercussions of the Boston bombings will be felt by all of North Caucasus, including Dagestan and Ingushetia where much of the separatist movement is concentrated at the moment:

Если бы несчастные Тамерлан и Джохар устроили мозговой штурм именно с этой целью – как сильнее навредить своему народу – вряд ли додумались бы до такого. [...] для Запада все кавказцы, которые что-то такое творят – чеченцы. Бренд работает. Как в том анекдоте про ингушей, которые позавидовали чеченцам, что весь мир их знает, решили переплюнуть их достижения и захватили Кремль. После чего все СМИ сообщили: “Группа чеченских террористов захватила Кремль. Непонятно почему они называют себя ингушами”.

If the hapless Tamerlan and Dzhokhar brainstormed with precisely this question in mind — how to greater harm their people — they would have hardly thought of this. [...] for the West everyone from the Caucasus that does something bad is a Chechen. The branding works. It's like that joke about the Ingush [a neighboring, rival culture of mountaineers  similar to the Chechens], who became jealous of the Chechens because the whole world knows them, decided to one up them, and took over the Kremlin. After this mass media reported: “A group of Chechen terrorists hijacked the Kremlin. It's unclear why they keep calling themselves Ingush.”

She predicts, rather astutely, that the days of Chechens being unequivocally accepted as political refugees in the West are over:

Из-за этих двоих чеченцев – всего лишь двоих! – и в Штатах, и в Европе кавказцам перестанут давать убежище. Будут высылать чеченцев прямо в руки Путину и Кадырову – не только каких-нибудь грабителей, но и воинов, т1емлой. Тех, кто будет сидеть тихо-тихо, может, и не вышлют – просто будут мучить и унижать всевозможными проверками.

Because of these two Chechens — only two! — in the States and in Europe they'll stop accepting refugees from the Caucasus. They will extradite Chechens into the hands of Putin and Kadyrov — not just robbers, but warriors, “tlemloi”. Those who will sit there quietly, maybe wont be expelled, but will be tormented and humiliated with all sorts of checks.

She also talks about the difficultly of distinguishing an actual extremist from someone like her, who simply supports the idea of Chechen independence:

Какие-то американские сенаторы или конгрессмены уже возмущаются, почему ФБР не отреагировала должным образом, получив от российских спецслужб сведения, что Тамерлан Царнаев связан с террористами. Значит, теперь ФСБ сможет про любого беженца, любого эмигранта заявить, что он террорист, и ФБР отреагирует. “Доказательства” долго искать не придется – ведь все мы регулярно посещаем “сепаратистские” сайты и форумы. Значит, все связаны с террористами.

Some American Senators or Congressmen are already outraged that FBI did not react properly, having received notice from the Russian special services that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had ties to terrorists. So, now the FSB can say about any refugee, any emigrant, that he is a terrorist, and the FBI will react. It won't be that hard to find “proof” — we all regularly visit “separatist” websites and forums. So, we are all tied to the terrorists.

Finally, she predicts a general crackdown on Chechen organizing in the West:

Чеченцев в Европе и Штатах начнут преследовать за любую политическую и общественную активность. Станут невозможны мероприятия, подобные этому – когда чеченская молодежь из разных стран собралась в Эстонии под ичкерийским флагом для знакомства и обсуждения политических и культурных проблем.

Chechens in Europe and the States will be persecuted for any kind of political and social activity. Eventss like this — when Chechen youth from different countries came together in Estonia under the Ichkerian flag, to meet and discuss political and cultural problems — will become impossible.

According to Zulikhan, such meetings are important if exiled Chechen separatists are to ever organize into a structure that would be able to take over Chechnya once it finally gains its independence (of which she has no doubt).

Are some of her predictions over-the-top? Perhaps. However, even if one does not agree with the analysis in all of its particulars, one thing is certain — life has definitely gotten more difficult for Chechen emigrants.

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