A massive Russian crackdown on Chechnya's bid for independence in the 1990s and the installation of loyal leaders there pushed the Caucasus Muslim enclave from the headlines years ago. But resentment has festered and at times bled into the global holy war being waged by Islamic militants.
It appears unlikely that oppression of Chechnya's Muslim majority instigated the attack on the Boston Marathon. The suspects were young when they arrived in the United States and weren't known to associate with militants.
But the unhealed wounds of the Chechnya conflict, which raged for five years after a 1994 uprising, serve as a reminder that localized religious and ethnic tensions can spill across borders.
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Two Connecticut professors were among those who don't believe that is the case with the Boston Marathon bombings.
Peter Rutland, a professor of government at Wesleyan University who has studied Russia extensively, said Friday that he believed that the men were not part of an international conspiracy hatched by Chechen rebels, based on the amount of time that they lived in the U.S. and that they hadn't appeared to have gone back for military training.
"It's more of a lone-wolf operation," Rutland said.
Rutland said that he expected the Chechen government to deny any involvement in the bombings and that he also could see the Russian government trying to put the two together.
"It fits (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's narrative. He will say, 'We told you so. You gave them asylum and see what happened,'" said Rutland, an author of three books on Russia and fellow of the Davis Center for Russian Studies at Harvard.
Thousands of Chechen civilians, like the family of Boston suspects Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, fled the southern Russian territory during and after the secessionist wars, which scattered refugees across Europe and the United States.
Emma Gilligan, an assistant professor of Russian history and human rights at the University of Connecticut and an expert on Chechnya, said it's also essential to be aware of the brutality that the family fled. There were two brutal conflicts in Chechnya during the 1990s that included horrific human rights abuses — including a hostage crisis in 2004 in which Chechen rebels took over a school in Beslan, Russia.
More than 380 people died when Russian troops stormed the building, where more than 1,000 people had been held for three days.
"The first thing that comes to mind is why would these young men choose the Boston Marathon to conduct such a horrible act,'' said Gilligan, author of "Terror in Chechnya," an account of Russian war crimes in Chechnya. "The other question is when did they come to the United States and what was their experience prior to this."
"The historical context of what you are dealing with is important here. What was the context in which these boys may have come out of and what had they encountered?"
Los Angeles Times reporting is included in this report.