I suppose, completely gratuitously, I admit, that if two brothers in the deep South coming from a family with known connections to Aryan brotherhood beehives were to commit some racist outrage, no-one would be fooled by their front, if they had the wherewithal to keep one up. Especially no one would be fooled if their names were Siegfried and Adolf. Their names would immediately give them up, and the act itself would provide the clue to their names and vice versa. The media talking heads would not twist themselves into knots in front of cameras agonizing over our lack of understanding of their motives. They would have a simple explanation: these guys were white supremacists. And everyone would understand what that meant instantly. Even those who take cues from Wolf Blitzer (who opined on camera that the 24-hour hunt last week must have been an 'ordeal' to Dzhokar). After all, the brothers were called Siegfried and Adolf.
Of course, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar are not names that most Americans, even the ones with degrees from a genuine university, would be able to connect to anything. History is bunk in America, especially history of people who are not Americans. (‘No history, no bullshit’, as Richard Holbrooke used to say to Milosevic in Dayton when the latter thought that a couple of drinks might soften the US Undersecretary’s view of the origin of ethnic tensions on the Drina). And yet the question persists: why would any Chechen living in exile in Central Asia would want to name his first-born son after the greatest mass murderer that part of the world has ever known ? Evidently, papa Tsarnaev who pretends in front of cameras that his two sons were ‘framed’ for the Boston bombings, had his reasons for giving his son a name which is not really a name. Tamerlane was the man who went from fighting as a mercenary hailing from a minor tribe to becoming a ruler of an empire that stretched from the Volga and the Black Sea to Xinjiang in China. His real name was Timur, which is fairly common among Turkic people. Tamerlane (russified as Тамерлан, or Tamerlan) originated as a nickname for the great ruler, Timur the Lame. Why would anyone want to give his healthy baby son a name that had physical disability in it ? Any ideas ?
Dzhokhar explains it. Anyone in born in Chechnya (or to Chechens abroad) between 1990-1996 named that way can be rightfully suspected of owing his prenom to his mom or dad’s fascination with the self-styled president of the Republic of Ichkeria ( as Chechnya is known locally), the one time Soviet general in the strategic bomber command, Dzhokhar Dudayev. What distinguished him among the ambitious new breed of post-Soviet politicians seeking freedom from Moscow, was not as much his hostile animus to Russia (this was in many places part of the necessary political credentials). It was two things which were relatively unique. Chechnya introduced a pattern of destabilization in the region which alarmed the Kremlin as it threatened its strategic interests, to wit, securing its energy supply routes from the Caspian basin. Far from consolidating his power, Dudayev soon faced implacable internal opposition. Because of the mass exit of technical and managerial resources who were non-Chechen, the economy was fast becoming derelict and was being replaced by large scale criminal enterprise. The decline soon reached catastrophic proportions. On top of this, since the breakoff, Dudayev’s Ichkeria had become the breeding ground for Islamic militancy with open threats to spread jihad to the neighbouring regions in Caucasus and beyond. Dhzokhar Dudayev was a flamboyant figure with a penchant for heated rhetoric, repeatedly threatening the burn Russian cities to the ground. This feature endeared him to the hard core of a traditional warlike culture of Chechen highlander tribes. His fanaticism was reassuring both to many of the locals and to the mujehaddin who started to drift into Chechnya after the Russians pulled out of Afghanistan. Dudayev of course did not burn down any Russian cities. (Though he did have his underlink, by the name of Basayev, bury a dirty nuclear canister in a Moscow park, the only such terrorist attack on the planet to date !) When his Tsarnaev namesake was still in diapers, a Russian missile caught with him as he was barking orders on his cell phone. A fatal mistake in his plan for world domination ? Contempt for his adversaries coupled with lack of understanding of surveillance technology ! Hmmm….