Cast of characters in Boston Marathon bombing case

The main suspects

— Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Tah-mer-LAN Tsar-NAH-yev). Fatally wounded in a Watertown shootout April 20.

— Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Ja-HAR Tsar-NAH-yev). Tamerlan’s younger brother. Captured in Watertown on April 20 and held in a prison medical facility at Fort Devens, about 40 miles west the city

They moved from Kyrgyzstan (KEER-gyz-stan), a Central Asian nation. They also lived in Dagestan (DAH-guess-stan), a predominantly Muslim, semi-autonomous region of the Russian Federation in the North Caucasus mountain range, historically one of the most restive parts of Russia.

The Tsarnaevs are ethnic Chechens on their father’s side. Chechnya (CHECH-nya) is also a predominantly Muslim semi-autonomous region in the Caucasus. It was the site of two devastating wars between Russian forces and Islamic separatists. Chechens were deported en masse to Central Asia by Josef Stalin in 1944.


Most people in Chechnya and Dagestan speak Russian and are Russian citizens, although they refer to themselves by their ethnicity.

Two UMass Dartmouth classmates of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are charged with obstructing justice after the bombing.

— Dias Kadyrbayev (DeeYAS Ka-deer-BAH-yev)

— Azamat Tazhayakov (Az-a-MAT Taj-aye-yak-OV)

They are ethnic Kazakhs (KAH-zaks). Kazakh is also an adjective. Kazakhstan (KAH–zak-stan)

is an independent country that was a republic within the former Soviet Union. It is oil rich. Azamat’s home city is Atyrau (AH-teer-ow), considered Kazakhstan’s oil capital. Dias’ home city is Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan and its commercial center.

Because the official language of the Soviet Union was Russian, Kazakhs speak Russian.

It stands to reason that Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov would have befriended two Chechens who lived in Central Asia and speak Russian. Kazakhs and Chechens, as citizens of former Soviet republics, share a general distrust of authority and tend not to believe the official version of events.

Getting around government and the law, rather than obeying it, has always been a survival strategy in the former Soviet Union, an approach that continues today.

Many people in Russia and Kazakhstan have said they do not believe that the Tsarnaev brothers are guilty.



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