SARASOTA - As events in pursuit of a suspect of Chechen descent in the bombing at Monday's Boston Marathon, Bob Barylski and his family watch with uncommon interest. “We recognize the streets. because I went to Harvard for my graduate work but I also lived Watertown,” he says.
Watertown is where authorities focused their search Friday for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, whom the FBI believes pulled off the bombing with his brother Tamarlan, 26, who died in a shootout with police Thursday night.
The interest is also professional for the former professor of government and dean at USF Sarasota Manatee, who specialized in Russian studies. Chechnya is a small republic in southwest Russia barely bigger than Connecticut. During World War II, when some Chechens cooperated with the Nazis, Josef Stalin, as punishment, deported its entire population.
“So that explains how you hear there are Chechens from the North Caucasus but they were born in Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan,” Barylski says.
It also explains the resentment, and displacement many Chechens feel, especially after two failed wars for independence from Moscow. Bombings like the one in Boston, happen regularly. “Monthly there are incidents,” Barylski says. “But they're a mixture of political events and mafia-like events.”
Even the Tsarnaev brothers athleticism – Tamarlan was a boxer, Dzhokhar a wrestler – fits a typical Chechen. “The men are supposed to be brave warriors, and to take vengeance if anything is ever done against their clan or their family.”
Were they wreaking vengeance for a perceived wrong? For now, we can only guess – if indeed they did the Boston bombing – why. Here Barylski's expertise fails him as he watches. “We thought, 'why are these kids doing this?' There's no message,” he says. “If you're trying to terrorize and deliver a message you usually deliver a message.”