The two are 26-year-old Tamerlan, who died in the shoot-out, and 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, ethnic Chechen immigrants who have been in the United States for about a decade. (To further complicate things,
Media in the Czech Republic have picked up on a string of tweets erroneously linking the "Chechen" suspects with "Czechs." One of the most popular news websites in the Czech Republic laments the confusion in an article titled "America Rages At Czech Republic, Confuses It With Chechnya."
The iDnes.cz website also suggests major Western media made the same mistake:
By the time the story came to our attention, there was no evidence of such mistakes by those media outlets.
[UPDATE: But a YouTube video is now circulating in which an on-air expert clearly confuses Chechnya with the Czech Republic or Czechoslovakia:
All three of the CNN anchors standing next to the man making the statement (who is identified by "tilna65," who posted the video, as a "former CIA agent" but whom we have not identified) appear to visibly shudder at the comment. But whether they actually failed to catch the mistake or simply regarded it as inessential or impolitic to set the record straight, none offers a correction:
The perception proved sufficiently embarrassing to the Czech Republic that the Czech ambassador to Washington felt compelled to issue a public statement confirming that no, the Czech Republic indeed is not Chechnya (hat tip: Foreign Policy's Marya Hannun).
The statement came out within an hour or so of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's dramatic capture, and read in part:
Here are some of the Twitter posts conflating the two or, alternately, taking people to task for the mistake:
Both the guys from the bombing are from Czech Republic wow— courtney abbott (@Courtneyabb0tt9) April 19, 2013
[UPDATE: @Courtneyabb0tt9's tweets were changed to "protected" status after this article was written, presumably after the user's mortification at being the center of so much unexpected attention. Here's an image that was circulating of the thread.]
Czech Republic has a good beer, beautiful women and guys obsessed with killing the athletes. #welcometoChechnya— Agrimonia EUpatoria (@agrimonia_) April 19, 2013
Heh. RT @saosasha How long until the first knucklehead smashes up a Czech restaurant In retaliation for the Boston bombings?— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) April 19, 2013
Dear @errickderrickChechnya is not the same as Czech Republic which is in Europe - continent of your ancestors.— Radek Klepiš (@KlepisRadek) April 19, 2013
@errickderrick You are so stupid.. :D :D :D Czech Republic is located 3,000 kilometers from Chechnya.. :) greetings from Czech republic :)— Marek Leffler (@LefflerMarek) April 19, 2013
While I'm happy we all learned a bit of Soviet history this week, ethnically profiling two murderers is not the best way to do it.— Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) April 20, 2013
@mattyglesias we live in a world where lots of people don't know difference between Czech Republic and Chechnya.Don't assume anything.— Adam Laughton (@ahlduke) April 20, 2013
The satirical website "The Onion" may have been too close for comfort with its item suggesting an appalling American lack of awareness about Chechnya, "Study: Majority Of Americans Not Informed Enough To Stereotype Chechens."
Here's an excerpt from that faux news brief:
Here's our effort, with our North Caucasus Service Director Aslan Doukaev, to help alleviate that real or perceived problem: "Interview: More About Tsarnaev Brothers And Their Ancestral Homeland."
-- Andy Heil