Boston Marathon Bombing Suspects' Twisted Family History

Deportation, wars and resettlement mark Tsarnaev family history.

ByABC News
April 21, 2013, 8:23 PM

MAKHACHKALA, Dagestan, April 22, 2013 — -- The history of the two Boston bombing suspects' family is a twisted one, woven with the various conflicts that have afflicted their ethnic homeland.

Sitting at her kitchen table here, the suspects' aunt, Patemat Sulemanova, recounted from memory a complex 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.

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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 eventually returned to live in Kyrgyzstan. They had four children, two girls and two boys, the two suspects. The elder son Tamerlan was born in the region of Kalmykia and the younger son Dzhokhar was born in Kyrgyzstan.

The young couple decided to leave Kyrgyzstan after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and attempted to settle in Chechnya, but bloody wars there in the 1990s forced them to quickly return to Kyrgyzstan.

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By 2001, they moved to Dagestan, where the mother still had family, when the boys were 14 and 7 years old. 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.

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The mother, in a separate interview with ABC News, revealed that she and her husband divorced in the United States several years ago because the husband did not agree with her stricter embrace of Islamic traditions. The couple reconciled, she said, after they both moved to Dagestan and have been brought closer by their grief this week.

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 here. The mother also moved in Dagestan a few months later because she was feeling homesick.

During his six-month stay in Dagestan, Tamerlan made several trips to Chechnya to visit relatives along with his father, his aunt said. He returned to the United States in July, departing the region from the airport in Grozny, the Chechen capital.