Chechnya to Boston: A family history

Tam­er­lan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, sus­pec­ted in the Bo­ston Mara­thon bomb­ing that killed three people and in­jured more than 260, came from a fam­ily of Chechen refugees. They and their par­ents, An­zor and Zubeidat Tsarnaev, moved to Bo­ston in the early 2000s. In­vest­ig­at­ors are strug­gling to un­der­stand what could have caused a cocky young ath­lete and his skate­board-rid­ing broth­er to al­legedly be­come do-it-your­self ji­hadists.

STORY: Tsarnaev broth­ers’ troubled path to Bo­ston | FULL COVERAGE: Bo­ston Mara­thon at­tack | PHOTOS: Ex­plo­sions at Bo­ston Mara­thon |

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Anzor Tsarnaev’s grandparents are deported to Kyrgyzstan from their native Chechnya by Josef Stalin’s regime, which accused the Caucasian Muslim ethnic group of being Nazi collaborators.


(AFP / Ilkham Katsuyev/AP)

Anzor Tsarnaev, born in Kyrgyzstan, is stationed with the Soviet army in the western Siberian town of Novosibirsk, where he meets Zubeidat, an ethnic Avar from Dagestan who is preparing to study there.


(Julia Malakie/Lowell Sun)

They marry and she gives birth to Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the Russian region of Kalmykia. The new family soon settles in Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan.


Tsarnaev family moves to Chiri-Yurt, Chechnya.



Zubeidat Tsarnaeva gives birth to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Kyrgyzstan, where she travels to get better medical care, and they return to Chechnya.


As first war breaks out in Chechnya, Tsarnaev family flees to Kyrgyzstan.


After second Chechen war breaks out, Anzor Tsarnaev loses his Kyrgyzstan government job in the capital, Bishkek, and goes to work as an auto mechanic. Later, the family moves to Russia’s Dagestan republic and stays for a little more than two years.


Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his parents come to the United States as political refugees. Tamerlan Tsarnaev and two sisters remain behind in Kazakhstan with an uncle.


Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his sisters arrive in the U.S. in July. The family settles in Cambridge, Mass.


Tamerlan Tsarnaev graduates from Cambridge Rindge and Latin high school and begins part-time studies in accounting through 2008 at Bunker Hill Community College.


The Tsarnaev parents and four siblings are granted permanent residence.


(Rick Egan/Salt Lake Tribune)

Tamerlan Tsarnaev qualifies for national Golden Gloves boxing tournament after winning New England regional bouts. He loses in first round of nationals.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev is arrested in July at his home in Cambridge on allegations of hitting his girlfriend. The case is later dismissed.


(Julia Malakie/Lowell Sun)

Several noteworthy events involving Tamerlan Tsarnaev occur:

· He wins the Rocky Marciano Trophy, awarded to the Golden Gloves heavyweight champion of New England.

· He marries Katherine Russell, who converts to his Muslim faith and gives birth to their daughter, Zahara.

· He tells a Boston College student magazine that he does not understand Americans and has no American friends.



· The Tsarnaevs file for divorce in February and Anzor returns to Dagestan.

· Dzhokhar Tsarnaev graduates from Rindge and Latin, where he has been captain of the wrestling team, and wins a $2,500 scholarship. He enters the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where he is a popular student but struggles academically.

· FBI agents interview Tamerlan Tsarnaev in Massachusetts after Russian security services express concern that he has embraced radical Islam and might travel to Russia and join underground fighters. FBI finds no cause for alarm.

· In September, three men are slain in Waltham, Mass., on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Authorities are investigating a possible link to Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was friends with one of the victims.

· In October, the CIA asks federal agencies to place Tamerlan Tsarnaev on a terrorism watch list.


· In January, Tamerlan Tsarnaev returns to Russia and visits his father in Dagestan and regularly visits a conservative Wahabi mosque. He returns to the U.S. in July

· In April, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s image is captured by surveillance cameras in Times Square in Manhattan. He is seen there again in November. Investigators now say he confessed after his arrest that the brothers planned to plant an explosive in Times Square.

· In August, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva reconciles with her husband and joins him in Dagestan.

· On Sept. 5, Tamerlan Tsarnaev applies for U.S. citizenship; Homeland Security officials reject the application because he had been interviewed by the FBI in 2011.

· Dzhokhar Tsarnaev becomes a U.S. citizen on Sept. 11.

· When a mosque speaker says Muslims can celebrate July 4 and Thanksgiving as well as the prophet Muhammad’s birthday, Tamerlan Tsarnaev publicly objects.

January 2013

In January, Tamerlan Tsarnaev interrupts a sermon at a mosque in which Martin Luther King Jr. is praised as a “great person.”

February 2013

Tamerlan Tsarnaev buys fireworks containing about 1.5 pounds of gunpowder at a store in Seabrook, N.H.

April 15, 2013

(John Tlumacki/Boston Globe)

Two bombs explode near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three people are killed, and at least 260 are injured.

April 16, 2013


Investigators say bombs were probably kitchen pressure cookers packed with pellets and nails and hidden in black nylon bags.

April 17, 2013

Authorities say they have photos of two men with backpacks they believe were acting suspiciously at the time of the bombings.

April 18, 2013


Officials release photos of two suspects in the bombing.

April 19, 2013

(Pictometry International)

Tamerlan Tsarnaev is killed in a shootout with police in Watertown, Mass., and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is captured after police find him hiding in a covered boat in a backyard.

April 20, 2013

(Robert Ray/AP)

Suffering from gunshot wounds, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is held under heavy guard at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

April 21, 2013

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick says surveillance video shows Dzhokhar Tsarnaev setting down his backpack, waiting for the first explosion and then moving away before the second explosion.

April 22, 2013

Federal authorities read charges against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to him at his hospital bedside and advise him of his legal rights. He speaks only once after that, when asked if he can afford an attorney.

April 23, 2013

(Ilkham Katsuyev/AP)

In Dagestan, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva begins talking to U.S. and Russian investigators.

April 24, 2013

(Elise Amendola/AP)

Investigators say the two bombs were triggered by remote controls for toy cars.

April 25, 2013

New York officials report Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has told investigators that he and his brother planned to drive to Manhattan and set off more bombs in Times Square.

April 26, 2013

The U.S. Marshals Service announces Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been moved from a Boston hospital to a medical facility run by the federal Bureau of Prisons at Ft. Devens, west of the city.

April 27, 2013

Zubeidat Tsnarnaeva says she is now wary of traveling to Boston and says her husband is hospitalized in Moscow with high blood pressure. Both had said they wanted to visit Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and retrieve the body of his brother.

April 29, 2013

(AP/Warwick Police Department)

The FBI widens its investigations of possible suspects after female DNA is found on at least one of the bombs. Agents visit the home of Katherine Russell, widow of Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

May 1, 2013

Three college classmates of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are arrested. Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev are charged with obstructing justice and Robel Phillipo is charged with lying to federal investigators.

Published: April 24, 2013
Credits: Associated Press, Times research, TimelineSetter

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