“A respected scholar of Islam, Brian Glyn Williams takes us through the history of Russian efforts to incorporate Chechnya into the Russian Empire in the 18th century, its 19th century... [continued in Reviews below]”—Washington Post
The history of the Chechen wars and the origins of terrorism in Russia and beyond
In 2013, the United States suffered its worst terrorist bombing since 9/11 at the annual running of the Boston Marathon. When the culprits turned out to be U.S. residents of Chechen descent, Americans were shocked and confused. Why would members of an obscure Russian minority group consider America their enemy? Inferno in Chechnya is the first book to answer this riddle by tracing the roots of the Boston attack to the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia.
Brian Glyn Williams describes the tragic history of the bombers’ war-devastated homeland—including tsarist conquest and two bloody wars with post-Soviet Russia that would lead to the rise of Vladimir Putin—showing how the conflict there influenced the rise of Europe’s deadliest homegrown terrorist network. He provides a historical account of the Chechens’ terror campaign in Russia, documents their growing links to Al Qaeda and radical Islam, and describes the plight of the Chechen diaspora that ultimately sent two Chechens to Boston.
Inferno in Chechnya delivers a fascinating and deeply tragic story that has much to say about the historical and ethnic roots of modern terrorism.
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Reviews / Endorsements
“A respected scholar of Islam, Brian Glyn Williams takes us through the history of Russian efforts to incorporate Chechnya into the Russian Empire in the 18th century, its 19th century brutal conquest of the region, Stalin’s forced deportation of hundreds of thousands of Chechens to Central Asia in 1944, and two savage wars that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.”—Washington Post
“Boston is Williams’s home city and Inferno in Chechnya his attempt to uncover the true connections between this thriving modern metropolis and the far-off conflict zone where the Tsarnaevs once lived. Inferno really catches light when Williams recounts the fate of the Chechens from the early Soviet era onwards.”—The Times (London)
"Williams, an expert on the Islamic history of the Caucasus and Central Asia, critically examines the status that Chechens have earned as jihadi terrorists, and dismantles it as a modern fiction."—Publishers Weekly
"The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing did not seem to fit the pattern of terrorist attacks and raised the question as to why two brothers of Chechen origin would want to kill Americans. Williams aims to answer the question with a survey of the history of Chechnya from its brutal Czarist conquest in the 19th century through the two Russian wars to prevent Chechen secession in the 1990s and during Putin's presidency. In tracing this history, Williams emphasizes Chechnya’s use of terrorism in its conflict with Russia and the links between Chechens and al Qaeda as well as radical Islam. . . . Williams concludes that the bombing had nothing to do with Chechnya and everything to do with al Qaeda–inspired, anti-American Islamism. . . . Recommended.”—Choice
“A heart-wrenching and engaging read.” —History at War
“A good account of Chechnya’s misery through the generations. . . . The book is . . . unsparing, and often very moving, in its account of the Russo–Chechen wars that followed the collapse of the USSR. By this point, however, Williams is pursuing another agenda as well. He wants to document the realities of Chechnya’s links to radical Islamism and thereby to debunk the myth that Chechen freedom fighters were allies of, or identical to, al-Qaeda. For the most part Williams argues this case persuasively, showing how self-styled jihadis were always a small minority among Chechen forces and how Chechens have travelled abroad to fight, for instance in Afghanistan or Syria, in much smaller numbers than has sometimes been imagined.” —Times Literary Supplement
“Though specialists will be familiar with much of the history about the post-Soviet conflicts in Chechnya, the book is a good study about the conflict that dispels some pervasive popular myths about terrorism in Chechnya, which scholars of the Caucasus and transnational terrorism will find useful.”—Terrorism & Political Violence
“An inspiring account that captures the essence of how the Chechen highlanders have been so wrongly portrayed over the past decade in the Western media by pundits and others pretending to be experts on the Caucasus Mountains whose narratives about Chechnya have often been shaped by the Russian media machine.”—Glen Howard, president, Jamestown Foundation
“Inferno in Chechnya is a bold attempt to provide a balanced narrative about the Chechen people, particularly their tragic history and struggle with Russia and the Soviet Union. The story of the struggle for the soul of a small nation has reverberated across the Middle East and onto the very streets of Boston.”—Dr. Lester W. Grau, senior analyst, Foreign Military Studies Office, U.S. Army
“A must-read for anyone who wishes to understand the Chechens and their involvement in contemporary conflicts, this remarkable book provides the full sweep of the Chechens’ tragic history. The chapters on Chechens in Afghanistan and Syria and on the Boston Marathon bombings are absolutely brilliant.”—Miriam Lanskoy, director, Russia and Eurasia, National Endowment for Democracy
“A sweeping account of warfare, genocide, and conquest in other lands that ultimately led to America’s greatest terror bombing since 9/11.”—Aurélie Campana, Canada Research Chair on Conflicts and Terrorism
“Williams once again demonstrates why he is required reading for anyone serious about understanding the Chechens and their violent struggle against Russia.”—Lieutenant Colonel Robert Schaefer, author of The Insurgency in Chechnya and the North Caucasu
BRIAN GLYN WILLIAMS is professor of Islamic history at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. He has published numerous books related to terrorism and conflict in Eurasia, including The Last Warlord: The Life and Legend of Dostum, the Afghan Warrior Who Led US Special Forces to Topple the Taliban Regime; Predators: The CIA’s Drone War on Al Qaeda; Afghanistan Declassified: A Guide to America’s Longest War; and The Crimean Tatars: From Soviet Genocide to Putin’s Conquest.