Speculative but deeply informed on context: Trust Juan Cole to provide a more nuanced analysis of the Chechen/Muslim matrix at the back of the Boston bombings. The novels of Conrad and Turgenev and Dostoevsky tell us more about the psychology of terrorism than a lot of the current media outlets.
The anger and embarrassment visible in the interviews given on Friday by the uncle and the aunt of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the alleged Boston Marathon bombers, are entirely understandable.
But I see clues here to family dynamics that may be important in understanding what happened. In Ivan Turgenev’s 1862, novel, “Fathers and Sons,” the old man’s son, Arkady, comes back home after studies with a friend, Bazarov, after both had adopted the radical philosophy of Nihilism. Their radicalism roiled the family for a while, until Bazarov’s death. (Later, in 1881, Nihilists assassinated Tsar Alexander II).
This is really interesting, because the night right before the bombings, I was reading Crime And Punishment where Raskolnikov is being interviewed by the investigator, who finds his views on criminal justification interesting – that a crime is justified, even if innocent people have to die, if it is done for the great good. I put the book down after that point and went to sleep and the next day was shocked by the news. Then it turns out these guys are of Russian descent and that the Russians government was interested in them. Can’t help wondering how much Russian subversive history and literature has to do with their actions.
Thank you for this response. I was hoping people would respond to this psycho/political/literary approach just the way you do. Lermontov and Tolstoy also were immersed in the conflicted world of the Caucasus and it’s surprising and thought-provoking to see those thematic threads in the Boston case as well. Amazing coincidence that you were reading Dostoevsky just then.