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After Boston Marathon Bombing, ODU Professor Austin Jersild Shares Chechen Insight on ‘HearSay’

Photo of ODU professor Austin JersildAustin Jersild

In the wake of the deadly Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent violence in Watertown, Mass., related to the police killing of one suspect and eventual capture of a second, much of the American public has been fixated on those events and understanding the motivations of the two Chechen-born brothers at the center of it all.

On Tuesday, Old Dominion University history professor Austin Jersild, an expert on Russian-Chechen relations, joined radio host Cathy Lewis on WHRV's popular lunchtime call-in talk show "HearSay" to provide insight into a region of the world suddenly thrust into our collective consciousness.

The tragic events began to unfold April 15 when two crude bombs were detonated seconds apart near the finish line of the Boston Marathon killing three people - including an 8-year-old child - and injuring nearly 300 others. Several days later, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer was killed and a subsequent firefight involving police led to the death of one of the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. His brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was arrested a day later after a massive police manhunt in nearby Watertown.

During repeated media interviews from their home in Dagestan, a semiautonomous region of Russia, the parents of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have repeatedly claimed their sons were set up by the U.S. government and couldn't have been responsible for the bombing.

That may seem ridiculous, but as Jersild explained, centuries of persecution in the Caucuses region, and Chechnya in particular, has created an environment where these types of conspiracy theories thrive, especially when promoted by Russian media.

"The idea these poor, honest Chechen boys were set up by the American state is a common notion," he said, noting he has no sympathy for the "delusional" concept. "It's often presented as a morality tale - that you shouldn't leave the homeland. If you go to America, it won't work out."

To hear the full interview, visit the HearSay website.