A portrait of life lived in tribes: A few days ago, we read something which almost made us feel sorry for poor Joseph Stalin.
How many different peoples can one man be asked to subjugate? That was our question after reading a detailed Wall Street Journal profile of the Tsarnaev family.
Anzor Tsarnaev is the father of the alleged Boston bombers. As it turns out, he crossed an ethnic line when he married his wife:
CULLISON (4/22/13): Back in the 1940s, Anzor Tsarnaev's parents were deported to Kyrgyzstan from their native Chechnya after Josef Stalin's regime accused the Caucasian Muslim ethnic group of being Nazi collaborators. Anzor was born and raised in Tokmok, a city not far from the capital of Bishkek. He was one of 10 siblings, many of whom went on to become lawyers.Say what? The mother of the accused bombers is “an ethnic Avar?” We’ll admit that we had never heard of the ethnic Avars. As it turns out, their story goes back into the mists of time, according to this authoritative report.
He met his wife, Zubeidat, in Elista, the provincial capital of the Kalmykia region, where they were both students. Zubeidat, an ethnic Avar, came from Dagestan.
It’s no one’s fault that life was lived in tribes dating back into prehistory. But until we teach ourselves not to do so, we humans are very strongly inclined to break ourselves up into tribes.
There is no way to split into Us-and-Them that we humans won’t eagerly cultivate—until we train ourselves to see that this way lies disaster.
This morning, the New York Times presents a fascinating news report about one type of tribal division which is dogging Dagestan, the Tsarnaevs’ home region.
In this case, the tribes aren’t red and blue, the tribes we’re cultivating here. In this case, the tribes are Sufi and Salafist.
We’d never heard of Salafist either. David Herszenhorn takes it from there:
HERSZENHORN (4/25/13): [I]t is clear from interviews with friends and relatives in Dagestan and in the United States that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had firm views about the violent split between moderate Sufi Muslims supported by the Russian government and adherents of Salafism, an orthodox form of Sunni Islam—a tug of war that has driven the religious politics in the North Caucasus for two decades.Apparently, one group celebrates the prophet's birthday. The other tribe will not.
Mr. Tsarnaev sided squarely with the Salafist camp, which includes the jihadist rebels for whom violent revenge and score-settling are a way of life developed through years of anti-Russian insurgency. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, many of the Salafists studied at religious universities in the Middle East, forming a cadre of young ideologues who returned with strong objections to the more tolerant forms of worship they found in their homeland.
At his mosque in Cambridge, Mass., Mr. Tsarnaev had shown a preference for a strict Salafist interpretation of Islam, objecting to a sermon that approved the celebration of Thanksgiving and saying that he would not celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. While those views seemed out of place in the university town of Cambridge, in the wind-swept villages of Dagestan they are a part of the daily discourse, and of a legacy of violence going back decades.
We strongly recommend this report, which documents the endless fights that will be created when tribes agree to despise. Before you’re done, you will read about 39 people being killed in Moscow “in revenge for the deaths, months earlier, of villagers picking wild garlic in a forest.”
Were those villagers killed because they were picking wild garlic? Because they were doing so in a forest? Herszenhorn doesn’t say. But when tribes agree to despise, everything can become a basis for angry and violent division.
People born in Dagestan inherit terrible tribal divisions. Today, in our country, red and blue players are working quite hard to give us a form of this world.