When the brothers were young, the family lived in Kyrgyzstan, a former republic of the Soviet Union in Central Asia, home to a small Chechen diaspora. Dzhokhar, the younger brother, was reportedly born there, although his older brother was born in Russia, according to some news reports.
The family lived in Tokmok, a town of about 55,000 people in northern Kyrgyzstan, near the border with Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz National State Security Committee said in a statement Friday. Kyrgyz officials said the family left the country about 12 years ago for Dagestan, and after a year there immigrated to the United States.
Anzor Tsarnaev and his wife arrived in the United States in early 2002 after gaining refugee status. Their two sons and two daughters followed a short time later with an aunt.
The father worked as an auto mechanic. Jerry Siegel, owner of Webster’s Auto Body, in Somerville, Mass., said that the elder Tsarnaev worked for him for about 18 months and that he was an excellent mechanic who spoke very little English.
“He was just a hard-working, strong, tough guy,” Siegel said. “He would get under a car in the middle of winter, did whatever I asked.”
Siegel said Anzor left about four years ago for another mechanic’s job. Sometime after that, Anzor got sick and returned to Russia, according to other officials.
His wife is registered as a cosmetologist. If she returns to the United States, she is facing a criminal trial in Natick, Mass., after police said they arrested her last year trying to steal up to nine women’s dresses from a Lord & Taylor store at a local mall.
Tamerlan studied accounting at Bunker Hill Community College for three semesters as a part-time student between the fall of 2006 and the fall of 2008, according to Patricia Brady, a college spokeswoman.
When Tamerlan dropped out of school, his father was “desperate,” according to Anzor’s sister, Maret.
“The father had very high expectations for his son,” she said at a news conference in Toronto.
Tamerlan began boxing shortly after arriving in the United States. He registered with USA Boxing, the governing body for Olympic-style boxing, as early as 2003 and steadily rose through the ranks. By 2009, he reached the national Golden Gloves tournament in Salt Lake City, where he lost in a three-round decision bout with a boxer from Chicago.
Colleagues all described him as athletic and aggressive. “He was tall, taller than most of the guys, and tough,” said Paul Barry, vice president of the New England Boxing Association in Worcester, Mass., who once judged one of Tamerlan’s bouts.