A Primer on Chechnya

The two brothers believed responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings, both ethnic Chechens, immigrated from nearby Dagestan, Russia reportedly immigrated from Chechnya in 2002 and 2003. Dzhokhar and his mother and father arrived in 2002 and Tamerlan arrived a year later. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Chechnya’s population is around 1.2 million.
  • Chechnya is located in the Northern Caucusus region of Southwest Russia, between the Black and Caspian Seas.
  • It’s made up almost entirely of Sunni Muslims, with a small Christian Orthodox population.
  • In 1944, Stalin deported all Chechnens, accusing them of having helped Nazi forces. As much as half of the country’s population is believed to have died of starvation, disease, or cold. They were allowed back in 1956.
  • Osama bin Laden supported Chechen rebels in their fight for independence in the early 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union.
  • Chechnya achieved independence from Russia in 1996 after the First Chechen War. In 2000, Russia re-gained control, after the battle phase of the Second Chechen War, triggering another decade of Chechen insurgency that for the most part ended in 2009.
  • 9/11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui has supported Chechen rebels, some of whom fought alongside Taliban and Al Qaeda against the United States in 2001.
  • There have been around a dozen major terroristic attacks coordinated by Chechens in the past decade. The most infamous occurred in 2004, when Chechnen militants took a Russian school hostage, and 350 were killed.
  • In 2012, Chechen rebels were stopped from an apparent plot to attack the 2014 Winter Olympics, in Sochi, Russia.
  • In March 2013, three Islamist Chechens were arrested on terrorism charges in France.