University of Pittsburgh
April 19, 2013

Pitt Experts Available to Discuss Chechnya, Terrorism in the Wake of Boston Marathon Bombings

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—According to officials in Massachusetts, the two suspects in the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings originated in Chechnya, a region of Russia with a history of separatist violence. The University of Pittsburgh has faculty experts available to discuss Chechnya and the political dynamics of the largely Islamic region, as well as the methods and aims behind terrorist acts like the Boston Marathon bombings.

Jennifer Murtazashvili, assistant professor in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs who teaches a course on political Islam, is available to discuss the conflict between the Russian government and Chechnya, the broader history of Chechnya and the Chechen independence movement, and the politics of Islam in the region. She wrote her undergraduate thesis on Chechnya, and she has conducted extensive research in Central Asia and Afghanistan, concentrating on, among other things, the impact of the Soviet Union in that region.

“The independence movement in Chechnya takes on an Islamic character because Chechens are Muslim, but it’s also a nationalist movement,” Murtazashvili said. “It’s hard to draw the line between nationalism and Islam. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, some members of the movement became radicalized and joined al Qaeda. It’s an alliance of convenience.

“What the connection is to the United States is hard to say, unless independence movement members think the U.S. is somehow complicit. Their Enemy Number One is [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, and he’s not necessarily an ally of ours. The U.S. hasn’t raised abuses of Chechnya as an issue” when dealing with Russia, Murtazashvili added.

Murtazashvili can be contacted at 412-877-8763 or

Michael Kenney, associate professor in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, is available to discuss the Boston bombings as acts of terrorism and also to speak about terrorist tactics and strategy.

“This is a classic tactic that is often perpetrated by terrorists,” Kenney said of the bombings. “More than that, the target is highly symbolic for terrorists. It’s the Boston Marathon, it’s Patriots Day. This is what terrorists try to do. They know that they’re going to get, literally, more bang for their buck if they can successfully attack this sort of target.”

Kenney has conducted extensive research and taught courses on terrorism, counterterrorism, and homeland security. He is the author of From Pablo to Osama: Trafficking and Terrorist Networks, Government Bureaucracies, and Competitive Adaptation (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2007) as well as numerous scholarly articles concerned with global terrorism. His current research focuses on al-Muhajiroun, a banned Islamist group based in the United Kingdom.

Kenney can be reached at or 412-564-0350.