Many classmates, friends, and family members of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have expressed shock in the accusations against the Chechen-born brothers who are suspected to be responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing. This is especially true in the case of Dzhokhar, who appeared to be well integrated in American culture compared to his older brother, Tamerlan. How is it that two brothers from the same origins had such very different experiences of enculturation into the U.S. and how did their trajectories eventually converge to create such mass destruction?

While many of the details of their migration experience have been made public, together they provide us with a significant understanding of how much it was affected by their refugee status. The Tsarnaev family entered the U.S. as refugees or involuntary immigrants who were forced to seek asylum. Hence, the brothers’ age and psychological development at the time of arrival in the U.S., previous experiences in their country of origin, and refugee status provide clues into their varying levels of incorporation in their new home and how their different paths ultimately converged.