What We Know About the Tsarnaev Brothers


The New Yorker's David Remnick looks at what we have learned about the Boston bombing suspects and describes Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's Twitter feed as a "bewildering combination of banality and disaffection."

Anzor Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen who lived much of his life in Kyrgyzstan, emigrated a decade ago to the Boston area with his wife, two daughters, and two sons. Despite arthritic fingers, he made his living as an auto mechanic. Members of the family occasionally attended a mosque on Prospect Street in Cambridge, but there seemed nothing fundamentalist about their outlook.

Anzor's elder son, Tamerlan, appeared never to connect fully with American life. "I don't have a single American friend," Tamerlan told a photographer named Johannes Hirn, who asked to take pictures of him training as a boxer. "I don't understand them." He studied, indifferently, at Bunker Hill Community College, for an engineering degree. He described himself as "very religious"; he didn't smoke or drink. Twenty-six and around two hundred pounds, he boxed regularly at Wai Kru Mixed Martial Arts. He loved "Borat" ("even though some of the jokes are a bit too much"). He had a daughter, but scant stability. Three years ago, he was arrested for domestic assault and battery. ("In America, you can't touch a woman," Anzor told the Times.)

David Bernstein, a retired mathematician from Moscow, who emigrated thirty-three years ago, said he knew the family because he used to take his car in regularly to Anzor. He noticed that Tamerlan sometimes worked at the body shop, although he didn't seem happy about it. "I talked with Tamerlan about stupid things," Bernstein recalled. "I asked him if he knew about his name, the great warrior. He talked a little about religion and politics. I said everyone is religious in a certain sense, and he said I should become a Muslim. I put him off, saying everyone invents his own religion." When Bernstein discovered that his acquaintance was believed to be responsible for an act of terror at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, he was mystified. "I feel like Forrest Gump," he said. "Suddenly, he is famous through this terrible act, and I had these conversations with him. But who can say they know him, really?"


Read David Remnick's entire piece at the New Yorker.

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