My name is Aslan Doukaev. An ethnic Chechen, I survived the siege of Grozny during the first Chechen war in 1994, but lost many members of my family. Before the war, I was a professor of English at the University of Grozny. I left Chechnya in 1997 after the fighting had temporarily subsided and immigrated to the Netherlands, where I worked as a freelance journalist covering the conflict in my homeland for a variety of English language publications. In 2002, I was appointed as head of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s newly-formed North Caucasus Service.

Since Friday, when the two suspects in the Boston marathon attacks were identified as Chechens, there has been a sudden upwelling of interest in Chechnya and the North Caucasus. Unfortunately, some of this interest has played off of misinformation and stereotypes. I hope to provide a better-informed picture of the region.

EDIT: Thank you so much for your questions and interest in Chechnya. I hope I answered at least some of them. I wish you all the best. Peace.

Comments: 159 • Responses: 22  • Date: 

limbodog24 karma


First, because I appear to be the first post, I have to ask for proof you are who you say you are.

But on the assumption that you are, I'd ask this: As most Americans have no clue where Chechnya is, let alone what its people are like, what do you most want to say to the USA about who and what Chechnya really is?

adoukaev42 karma

Hello, As proof, my organization RFE/RL has just tweeted about this event.

Chechnya is a tiny territory in the south of Russia with a population of slightly over 1 million people. It's been an epicenter of a protracted vicious conflict over the past 19 years. It has seen destruction, mass killings of its population, insurgency and terrorism. What happened in the United States of America is shocking and most of the Chechens I know have condemned this atrocity. We are waiting for a full investigation of this attack and we extend our sympathies to those who suffered in this terrorist bombing.

limbodog10 karma

For my fellow American readers, this is where Chechnya is

What can you tell us about the 19 years of conflict?

adoukaev19 karma

The conflict is usually divided into the first and second Chechen wars. The Russians sent their army to crush the separatist aspirations of the Chechen people in 1994. The first war resulted in the killings of tens of thousands of people and the destruction of the main cities and towns in Chechnya. Probably hundreds of thousands of people were displaced, but in the end, the Chechen guerilla army was able to inflict serious losses on the Russian forces and a peace treaty was signed. However, the Russians never intended to leave Chechnya alone. In 1999 Putin sent the Russian army to bomb Chechnya again. The conflict in Chechnya inevitably spread to the neighboring territories such as Dagestan, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria. These days Chechnya is quieter then some of those territories. The conflict has a profound effect on the mentality and psyche of a lot of young Chechens, and it is possible that the two young me were in some way affected by what they saw on their television screens. And if that was the case, it is quite clear to me that their anger was misplaced.

limbodog5 karma

Did the majority of Chechens want to split off from Russia in 94?

adoukaev11 karma

It is really difficult to say. There were no independent polls. Neither was there a referendum on the issue. However, my observation was that the separatist sentiment was quite strong in those days.

Isthatrite5 karma

Can you explain a little bit about the separatist movement in Chechnya regarding why they wish to be independent from the Russian federation?

Is this a sectarian issue down the Sunni/Shia split, just more of an independence movement, or something else? Also, what is the typical public opinion in Chechnya today with regard to the separatist idea?

adoukaev19 karma

The separatist sentiment in Chechnya intensified in the last years of the Soviet Union and was particularly strong right before the demise of the Soviet state. Chechnya was incorporated into the Russian Empire in the middle of the 19th century after several decades of war. So Chechnya was conquered by force, in effect. The desire to be free never went away. After the Bolshevik revolution, Chechnya suffered another tragedy when in 1944 Joseph Stalin deported the entire Chechen population from the Caucasus to Central Asia and Siberia. This act was designated as an act of genocide by the European Parliament in 2004. The list of grievances which Chechens harbor against Moscow is quite long. The issue has nothing to do with any sectarian divide or anything of the kind. It's just a normal desire of one ethnic group to be free from another.

cpt_merica19 karma

Has popular, Chechen opinion of America shifted dramatically before and after the Boston bombings?

adoukaev60 karma

There is no history of anti-american sentiment in Chechnya. Chechens have no grievances against Americans and that is why people are shocked. One common sentiment is that if those young men have done that then they should be punished.

rstandish17 karma

Other than the fact that the two bombers were ethnic Chechens, in your opinion, does this story really have anything to do with Chechnya? In the wake of the bombings, lots of news sites have clamoured to explain "the Chechen connection" (, . In your view, is there any merit to this?

adoukaev40 karma

Neither of those two men nor their family ever lived in Chechnya, but I cannot rule out that the Chechen tragedy may have affected their world view. I have to emphasize again that if there was some anger or frustration which they experienced, it was totally misplaced, and I do hope a careful investigation will shed some light on this.

whatduck00710 karma

In his comments President Ramzan Kadyrov, seemed as though he was anti-American. Is that the way he wished to come across or is he in fact down on America?

adoukaev29 karma

Yes, he has recently adopted and anti-american stance. It is not exactly clear to me why he has done that. One possible explanation is that there are rumors he was included in the so-called Magnitsky list, meaning he would be denied entry into the USA. Ordinary Chechens, however, never harbored any negative sentiment toward Americans.

iaman00b9 karma


adoukaev17 karma

There is a history of terrorism emanating from Chechnya. Its roots are in the protracted conflict with Russia. But there is no history of Chechens attacking foreigners on foreign soil. So that's why the Boston attack is a shocking and worrying development. It is still not clear to me what motivated these two young men.

JeremyNJ19848 karma

What do you think this bombing means for next winters 2014 Sochi Olympics?

adoukaev20 karma

I think both the Russian authorities and international community should work on ensuring safety and security during the Sochi Olympic games. The North Caucasus insurgency threatened to attack anyone who participates in the games. Considering the fact that those insurgents have attacked targets in Moscow and other places inside Russia, one should take that threat seriously. Sochi is much closer to Grozny than Moscow.

Th3Stranger7 karma


adoukaev19 karma

We don't know how much the fact that the older brother was an observant Muslim influenced this decision to attack innocent people. There is not much information about the extent to which these two young men were radicalized. So far, everything indicates that Tamerlan was more observant than the younger brother and the Islamic center which he attended says that there were no signs he was radicalized in any way. So we need to wait and see if there are any further clues.

fordie19916 karma

How did you feel hearing about the bombers being from Chechnya? Even though two people obviously do not resemble a whole nation/population, but do you feel from now on due to the hype revolving around Chechnya that people will unfavourably judge you?

adoukaev21 karma

As an ethnic Chechen, I am angry and upset. There will of course inevitably be some stereotyping of Chechens, but I do hope people will not judge the whole ethnicity based on the actions of those two individuals.

paplan6 karma


adoukaev6 karma

You must be referring to Dzhokhar Dudayeve, the first separatist president of Chechnya, who commanded a division in the former Estonian Soviet Republic. I'm not aware of any gifts from the Estonian government to General Dudayeve.

teleclem6 karma

Can you identify which information about your homeland is true and not true, in the context of all the information spreading around now?

adoukaev22 karma

One egregious example of ignorance about Chechnya is that some people believe it is in the Czech Republic, which is a Central European country and a member of the European Union. Even some journalist cannot pronounce the name "Chechnya" properly.

6orz6 karma

Asalam Aleykum Aslan, muuh vu ho?

I'm a Chechen myself and I've been living in The Netherlands for a while now, do you still live here? I'm all the way at Noord-Holland (Near Den Helder) and there are hardly any families here. My mother probably also knows you, she was a translator (English <-> Russian) and has worked with a lot of people back in the day and even published some articles for a paper that I'll try to find in my mail. I'm just curious because chance is big you two have met and you probably know me too, great to hear from another that has or lives in The Netherlands!

adoukaev10 karma

Well, goede dag, m'n vriend. Hope all is well. Right now I live and work in Prague, and I miss Holland very much. Please give my best to your mom. I'm sure I know her.

KidCasey5 karma

Hello, thank you for the AMA! I am majoring in journalism and telecommunications in America and am curious as to what you think of our news coverage compared to that of Europe? We talk about it frequently in my classes and many of my peers believe they will most certainly have to switch their study. Also, any pointers on how to get your name out there in the media world? Thanks again!

adoukaev15 karma

Maybe in some news outlets the attach too much importance to things that don't seem important to me. Where these two were born, where they went to school...that doesn't seem too important to me. What really seems more important is the kind of experiences they had in places where they lived, whether or not they were exposed to violence, conflict and war. I'm also more interested in what their friends at school and college know about them. I'd be interested in talking to their close friends. In general it seems to me the coverage in the US media is in-depth, whereas for Europe it is probably not a top story anymore.

Nomad_Shifter425 karma

In Iraq we found large groups of Serbs & Chechens that had come to fight Americans. In fact I would wager that my unit saw more dead Chechens than Iraqis during my deployment. If it is a fact that you come from a nation where people are commonly/easily swayed & paid to kill Americans, what stereotypes & misinformation are you referring to?

I'm not saying all people from one country are terrorizers, just like not everyone from America is a soldier or a fat redneck. But the end of your original posting is kind of like saying: "the Protestants and Catholics in Ireland arent historically violent, that's just a stereo type"

adoukaev12 karma

There may have been Chechens fighting in Iraq, although as a journalist I could never find any evidence in support of that. The stereotypes I am referring to are basically about extrapolating the actions of a small number of people to the whole ethnic group. I am not referring only to Chechens, I am referring to Protestants, Catholics, etc...

consillyence2 karma

Can you tell us a little about life outside of Chechnya? I know from previous comments that you had little family following the wars yourself, but does the emigrant community generally stay close-knit? Earlier you were referring to media coverage and I agree with your sentiments that the bombers' childhood experiences are more important than biographical data, so I was curious if you could give us any light on what a "typical" Chechen family dynamic is like. Thanks for doing the AMA!

EDIT: clarity

adoukaev7 karma

Chechen immigration is a relatively recent phenomenon. In general, Chechens feel very attached to their homeland. After the conflict in Chechnya broke out, Chechens started to immigrate to other countries, mostly in Europe. There are small communities now in France, Austria, Belgium, and Germany. Most of these families have relatives back in Chechnya, so they try to keep in touch. But very few people think of going back, for various reasons, mostly political. A new generation of young Chechens who grew up in the West embrace Western values and way of life and are trying to capitalize on the opportunities that they have in the West. The second generation of those immigrants sees their future outside of Chechnya.

AtTheLeftThere2 karma

How does the general public feel about America in Chechnya?

What are the biggest issues that still remain within the country's borders?

adoukaev10 karma

Chechnya is not exactly a country. It is part of the Russian Federation. The biggest issue which Chechnya faces these days is the un-elected government of Ramzan Kadyrov, which freely resorts to force when dealing with any kind of dissent. Other problems are political and economic disenfranchisement, high unemployment, and lack of opportunities. Police brutality is rampant, and victims of such brutality have no recourse to justice. For the first part of your question, please see this earlier thread.

ymlevine2 karma

A variety of journalists have compiled evidence that the Russian secret services either planned or intentionally worsened the impact of several terrorist attacks within Russia that they then used as a pretext for further military action in Chechnya or for more centralized control in general. The father of the Tsarnaev's also contended that the secret services framed his sons. What do you personally believe about the allegations that Russian security agencies were involved in terrorist attacks in Russia over the last 15 years? What does the average Chechen (or, at this point perhaps more relevant, Muslim Russian living in the North Caucasus) think about the involvement of the Russian secret services in those prior incidents? Is the view that the Boston marathon bombing was a conspiracy widely held?

adoukaev6 karma

There were allegations about Russian involvement in several terrorist attacks, for example the bombings of residential buildings in Russia in 1999, and a number of other terrorist attacks. I'm not in a position now to say if those allegations are true or not. I've also heard some theories about Russian involvement in this attack too. But this remains at this stage just a conspiracy theory. It seems to me that the vast majority of Chechens seem to side with the family of those two men who say that their sons were framed.

pooveyfarms2 karma

Do you broadcast your radio show in English? Do you have a live stream on the internet available?

adoukaev6 karma

We broadcast in Chechen, but also in Avar and Circassian. So if you know anyone who knows these languages, here is our webpage (, and in English (

Xer01 karma

Did you have any chance to work with UN peacekeepers? Specifically Canadian? What were your experiences?

adoukaev5 karma


ServerGeek0 karma

Can you give me the cliffnotes version of what's going on between Russia and Chechnya? Also, is there any sort of problem between America and Chechnya?

adoukaev4 karma

There has never been any problem between America and Chechnya. The USA is the most powerful country in the world, while Chechnya is a tiny part of the Russian Federation. There has never been an American soldier on Chechen soil. For the first part of your question see earlier thread.