• Has Putin Heeded Warnings from the History of Urban Warfare?

    by Brian Glyn Williams and Aaron Rawley

    While key to the mythos of Russian patriotism, the pivotal battle of Stalingrad, along with other more recent episodes of urban warfare, show that Russian forces face a difficult and bloody task in capturing Kyiv. As Russian troops now retreat to the east, has this been a lesson learned? 

  • Alexander Nazaryan: Blood and Tragedy -- The Caucasus in the Literary Imagination

    Alexander Nazaryan is on the editorial board of the New York Daily News, where he edits the Page Views book blog.At the beginning of “The Cossacks,” Leo Tolstoy’s early novel about imperial Russia’s military campaign in the Caucasus, the protagonist Olenin muses about the battles to come: “All his dreams about the future were connected with… Circassian maids, mountains, precipices, fearsome torrents and dangers.” He imagines, with predictable vigor, “killing and subduing a countless number of mountaineers.” Much less predictably, he identifies himself with the Central Asian people he is being sent to subjugate: “He was himself one of the mountaineers, helping them to defend their independence against the Russians.”That subjugation of the Caucasus would continue for another two centuries, culminating in the two successive wars waged by Yeltsin and Putin. From somewhere within that region—it is not clear where, exactly—emerged the Tsarnaev family, immigrating (apparently) to the Boston area about a decade ago. On Monday, the two Tsarnaev brothers—Dzhokhar and Tamerlan—allegedly committed the first act of terror on American soil since 9/11.

  • Who Are The Chechens?

    by Brian Glyn Williams

    A Chechen man picks up a loaf of bread in Grozny in 1995. Credit: Wiki Commons.In the aftermath of the killing and arrest of the Tsarnaev brothers, responsible for the Boston marathon bombings, the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11, there has been much speculation and interest in their ethnic origins. The media was quick to report that the brothers had Chechen ancestry, but few Americans know what that means. Having taught what is perhaps the only class in America, if not the world, on this obscure land for nine years at University of Massachusetts -- Dartmouth, I thought I would take advantage of this unique moment to shed some light on the brothers’ little known homeland and its ancient people.  

  • Sarah Kendzior: The Wrong Kind of Caucasian

    Sarah Kendzior is an anthropologist who recently received her PhD from Washington University in St Louis.In 1901, a 28-year-old American named Leon Czolgosz assassinated US President William McKinley. Czolgosz was born in America, but he was of Polish descent. After McKinley died, the American media blamed Polish immigrants. They were outsiders, foreigners, with a suspicious religion - Catholicism - and strange last names.At a time when Eastern European immigrants were treated as inferior, Polish-Americans feared they would be punished as a group for the terrible actions of an individual. "We feel the pain which this sad occurrence caused, not only in America, but throughout the whole world. All people are mourning, and it is caused by a maniac who is of our nationality," a Polish-American newspaper wrote in an anguished editorial.

  • Chechyna: What You Need to Know

    by David R. Stone

    Russian artillery bombarding a Chechen village in 2000, during the Second Chechen War. Credit: Wiki Commons.Editor's Note: With the identification of two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings -- Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, killed by police; and his brother Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19 -- as immigrants of Chechen origin, it's worth taking a look back at Chechnya's bloody history.

  • Elena Milashina: The Roots of Moscow's Chechen Problem

    Ms. Milashina, an investigative journalist for Novaya Gazeta, is a recipient of Human Rights Watch's 2010 Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism. The terrorist attack at Domodedovo airport last week, likely organized by Islamists from the North Caucasus, claimed 35 lives. Less than a year ago, 40 people died in the March 2010 bombing of the Moscow metro, also carried out by Chechen Islamists. Prior to the metro attack there hadn't been a bombing in Moscow for nearly six years. In the summer of 2004, militants acting on orders of Chechen leader Shamil Basayev, organized a series of terrorist attacks in several Russian cities. The culmination of these attacks was the seizure of a school in the small Ossetian city of Beslan in September 2004. When Russian troops stormed the school, 333 hostages died, including 186 children. Anna Politkovskaya, my courageous colleague from Novaya Gazeta, was supposed to be the reporter covering the Beslan hostage story. However, she was poisoned by Russian special services on her way to the region. So I was sent instead. In 2004, Basayev's bargaining chip was Ossetian children: He demanded that the Kremlin release a group of Chechen separatists, and, more importantly, he demanded recognition of Chechnya's independence and a complete cease-fire in exchange for the lives of the hostages.

  • A Brief History of Chechen Terrorism

    by Thomas R. Mockaitis

    Emergency responders at the site of the 2010 Moscow Metro bombing.Editor's Note: This article was originally titled "Female Suicide Bombers are Nothing New." The Moscow Metro bombing detailed in the article was the second most recent Chechen terrorist attack in Moscow -- the most recent was the Domodedovo International Airport bombing in 2011, which killed 37 people.