The Childhood Of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Was Pretty Normal, Leaving Questions As To What Changed

He was a Greater Boston League Winter All-Star for wrestling. He played FIFA Soccer and was a fan of parties and soccer. He liked to skateboard and he listened to rap music. His peers liked him and he had a big circle of friends. On the surface Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's childhood portrays him as a seemingly average teenage boy. But as 2013’s events that ended with the 19-year-old convicted on 30 charges connected to the Boston Marathon bombing, either a drastic shift occurred in Tsarnaev, changing him from an easygoing high school student into a terrorist, or there was something lurking beneath the surface in Tsarnaev’s friendly demeanor that went unnoticed until that tragic day in 2013.

At this point, the answer to the question of what exactly went wrong with Tsarnaev or what sparked him to play a role in the bombing remains largely elusive — even to Tsarnaev’s own defense team. The answers likely don’t lay in Tsarnaev’s high school persona or in his college classes and extracurricular activities, both of which seem to hold a facade that does not match the act of terror committed in 2013. Tsarnaev’s story, and thus the answer to the big question still looming over him, likely rests in his childhood. Just what was the now-infamous Boston bomber like as a child?

According to Tsarnaev’s cousin, Raisat Suleimanov, a nurse who lives in Moscow and traveled to the U.S. to testify in Tsarnaev’s child, he was a friendly, cute child.

I can only say good things about Dzhokhar, and that’s not because he’s my cousin. He was a very warm child. And I think his kindness made everyone around him kind.

Tsarnaev was born in July 1993 in Kyrgyzstan. He was the youngest of four children. According to The Washington Post, Tsarnaev and his family were refugees from the wars of the Russian Caucasus. The ethnic Chechen family roamed around Caucasus and Central Asia trying to find a stable home until they finally fled Caucasus and arrived in the U.S. in 2002. Tsarnaev’s father gained asylum in the U.S. by claiming political persecution.

Once the family arrived in America, both Tsarnaev and his brother gradually began to adapt to the new culture, making new friends and adjusting to American schools. According to The New York Times, when Tsarnaev arrived in Massachusetts in 2002 he only spoke broken English. In 2007, Tsarnaev entered Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, a school that both Matt Damon and Ben Affleck attended. At this point, Tsarnaev’s English had progressed so far that he barely had an accent. The Times reported that he blended “seamlessly into a student body that was a mélange of immigrants and American-born students of all colors.”

But at some point, that seemingly seamless integration became less so, at least for Tsarnaev. His social media accounts, particularly his Twitter account, which he opened in October 2011 when he was a freshman at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, provide the biggest clues to Tsarnaev’s shifting insights. According to The New York Times, Tsarnaev’s social media accounts described his violent nightmares and offered up raunchy jokes about girls.

But, more notably, his social media was the strongest evidence that Tsarnaev was distancing himself from the American mindset and life with which he had at first so well assimilated to as a child.

This testimony was all presented during testimony at the trial to decide whether or not Tsarnaev will face the death penalty for his 30 convictions stemming from the Boston Marathon bombing. As The Boston Globe reported, though, there seem to be many holes in how Tsarnaev changed from an seemingly mild child to an average teenager to a convicted terrorist. But Tsarnaev is the only one who can answer those questions, and it appears likely that he will not take the stand.