EUGENE, Ore. -- Many Americans learned about Chechnya for the first time after the FBI revealed the two Boston Marathon bombing suspects were from the war-torn southwestern Russian province.
The Russian-controlled state is about halfway around the world from the west coast, and has a similar 180 degree shift in culture. Chechnya is known for its long and bloodied history of Islamist conflicts and terrorism.
Julie Hessler is the associate professor of history at the University of Oregon. She told KVAL News that she has studied the Chechen people, but still can only guess at the motives behind the Boston Marathon bombings.
"I'd be very surprised if they didn't have a political agenda behind what they were doing," said Hessler.
On Friday, the president of Chechnya released a statement saying any attempt to draw a connection between their country and the suspected bombers is futile. The Chechen president said he believes that because the Tsarnaev brothers were raised in the US, "it is necessary to seek the roots of this evil in America."
"I can see why he's wanting to make that point," Hessler said. "The last thing that somebody who wants to stabilize that area really wants is to see a revival of military operations there."
While Chechnya is primarily Islamic, the population has highly diversified religious practices and many ethnic groups.
Hessler said Chechnya has been a 'caldron of conflict' since the mid 1800's, as well as a growing source of terror since the fall of the Soviet Union.
"It seems the single likeliest political agenda is some sort of Islamist agenda," Hessler said. "But we don't really know. I mean, who's to say."