(MAKHACHKALA, Dagestan) — The history of the two Boston bombing suspects’ family is a complex one, woven with the various conflicts that have afflicted their ethnic homeland.
Sitting at her kitchen table in Makhachkala, Dagestan, the suspects’ aunt, Patemat Sulemanova, recounted from memory a family history involving a deportation by Soviet leader Josef Stalin, two Chechen wars, and a severe beating in the United States that ultimately brought the suspects’ father back to this restive region in southern Russia.
The suspects moved frequently when they were younger, bouncing between homes as they dodged conflicts before ultimately settling in the United States as refugees.
The father’s side of the family is ethnic Chechen, but they were among the many Chechen families who were expelled from the region by Stalin in February 1944 when he considered Chechens to be disloyal during World War II. They resettled in Kyrgyzstan, which then was part of the Soviet Union. It was there that the suspects’ father, Anzor Tsarnaev, was born and raised.
He served his mandatory military term in the early 1980s in Novosibirsk, where he met his wife, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva. Her family was from Dagestan but she was in Novosibirsk to visit a relative.
The two married and returned to live in Kyrgyzstan. They had four children, two girls and two sons. The two suspects who were both born in Kyrgyzstan.
The young couple decided to leave Kyrgyzstan after the collapse of the Soviet Union, settling back in Chechnya in 1994, shortly after the younger son, Dzhokhar, was born. That, however, was also just as a bloody war was breaking out in Chechnya and the family soon fled back to Kyrgyzstan.
They moved back to Chechnya again a few years later, but had to leave again when another war broke out there in 1999.
By 2002, they moved to Dagestan, where the mother still had family. They only lived there for about six months before obtaining refugee status and resettling in the United States.
The aunt said the parents would come back to Dagestan to visit from time to time, but the sons stayed in the United States.
Tamerlan, the older son who died in a gun battle with police Friday, visited for the first time last year. His six-month stay has raised eyebrows among investigators looking into how and why he is suspected of becoming radicalized. Dzhokhar, the younger son who was taken alive Friday, was planning to visit Dagestan for the first time in May, the aunt said.
The parents bought an apartment in Makhachkala, the Dagestani capital, with the hopes that their children would stay there whenever they visited.
A few years ago — the aunt did not recall exactly when — the father was severely beaten by what she described as a group of Russian athletes as he tried to defend another person from them. The beating left him with medical problems that did not improve with treatment in the United States.
Eventually, with his health failing and having lost a significant amount of weight, the father decided to come back to Dagestan in May 2012. Tamerlan, his oldest son, had just arrived there a couple months earlier.
Anzor Tsarnaev decided to pursue medical treatment, figuring that if he died, he would at least be buried there. The mother eventually joined him in Dagestan a month later.
During his six-month stay in Dagestan, Tamerlan made several trips to Chechnya to visit relatives, his aunt said. He returned to the United States in September, departing the region from the airport in Grozny, the Chechen capital.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Susan Scutti, CNN
Andreas Preuss, CNN
Lorenzo Ferrigno, CNN