Inferno in Chechnya

The Russian-Chechen Wars, the Al Qaeda Myth, and the Boston Marathon Bombings

Brian Glyn Williams

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.

Cloth: $29.95 | E-book: $24.99
ISBN-13: 9781611687378
Pages: 296 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: October 6, 2015


  • 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.

  • A heart-wrenching and engaging read.

    History at War

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