Two days after two blasts
rocked the Boston marathon on April 15, the suspects were established as ethnic
Chechens from a region in Russia’s North Caucasus, implicating Russia in the
Lesson 1. No security
In its most common meaning, an
act of terror implies a group of people designing, planning and carrying out an
attack. Possibly even a terrorist network, as was the case with 9/11.
A terrorist network is
something that can be detected, discovered, dealt with and eventually
In this sense, the April 15
blasts have more in common with numerous college shooting incidents. While the
investigation is not over, the whole case looks increasingly like an outrageous
act – the work of two people, not a lone terrorist.
In such a case, no one is
guaranteed security. No existing security system can predict whether an
individual mind will go haywire.
Even continuous improvements in
walk-through metal detectors and increasing the police force out of proportion
can never be the right answer. Public vigilance makes a bigger difference,
coupled with the readiness of both the public and the government to respond
immediately in the event of a terrorist attack, in order to rescue the
survivors and seize the culprits. We must be on alert, everywhere and at all
Lesson 2. Clichés and political
The Boston explosions shattered
the political correctness rules, and, in a broader sense, all clichés which
Russians and Americans alike use to gauge reality.
In Western terms, Chechens are
tacitly categorized as the destitute; they are a priori victims in need of shelter and
legal protection. Before the Boston bombings, the USA had never been confronted
with what Europe has already had to deal with: street shootings or night club
knife fights involving people from the North Caucasus. This breaks the
stereotype: not everyone seen as a victim in need of protection deserves to be
protected because of ethnic affiliation.
No matter how incredible the
motives, the law does not care for whether they are Chechen or Muslim. Law only
sees a breach of contract. In Russia, we should also learn to make our laws
work, without getting bogged down in our own warped stereotypes.
Lesson 3. If no one talks about
problems, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist
As soon as the words the North
Caucasus became part of the Boston incident narrative, reporters flocked into
What did they see in Dagestan?
First, they had to uncover what is going on in the North Caucasus – something
that people there are very skilled at hiding.
Second, they saw a very
populated and up-and-coming region which, despite the illusion widely spread in
Russia, is undergoing a very rapid – and hence, painful – modernization.
They could also perceive two
sores ready to erupt. One of which is the growing economic potential of the
land without any real land ownership regulation anywhere in the North Caucasus.
Second, new trends have gained
prominence in the Muslim community. On the one hand, it is no longer painfully
torn by dogmatic and political contradictions. There’s a growing solidarity in
the younger Muslim generation. Alas, the number of potential Tsarnaevs is
On the other hand, Islam has
been gaining ground as the basis of social norms and guidelines public
institutions should be founded on, superseding the legal framework of Russia.
Boston bombings revealed lack of Russian ‘soft power’ in America
Putin sees closer anti-terror links with U.S., but experts sceptical
FBI and FSB probe Boston bombers’ links in Caucasus
Reassessing the Caucasus after Boston explosion
The two processes go rapidly
hand in hand, changing the region by the day. The journalistic “attack” on
the North Caucasus in the wake of the Boston bombings may actually serve as an
advantage if it paves the way for reasonable strategies to deal with the new
Lesson 4. Together, we can do
At this point, Russia and the
USA are taking critically low interest in each other, with their relations
aggravated by quite a number of irritants. Meanwhile, on April 24, 2013, U.S.
diplomatic staff and an FBI representative met with the parents of the Tsarnaev
brothers in Makhachkala, Dagestan.
Anyone who knows just how
difficult it is for foreigners to get to the North Caucasus can appreciate the
meeting as a result of a very balanced, adequate and pragmatic cooperation.
If this kind of cooperation
were a given, Russians and Americans would find it easier to wage their wars in
which they sometimes have the same foes.
is Politics Editor at the leading Russian-language Moscow News (mn.ru) daily and
holds a PhD in ethnology. He has spent the last decade researching ethnic and
religious conflicts in the former Soviet space and federalism in Russia’s North Caucasus
First published in Russian in Moskovskie novosti.