The Tsarnaevs are Chechens, who are a Muslim people who live in the northern Caucasus. This is an area of the world that has been fought over for centuries by Russians, by the Persian Empire, by the Ottoman Empire, and the Chechens in more recent history had suffered a collective trauma when Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator, expelled them from their homeland near the end of World War II.    And many died, and those who survived ended up scattered through Soviet Central Asia, and the Tsarnaev clan ended up 2,000 miles away from home in Kyrgyzstan. Now the - they had some success there, but in the end, they as a group decided to emigrate because of the violence and the rebellion that's been going on between the Chechens and the Russians over the last couple of decades, a very difficult scene there.    And many Chechens are spread around the world in a diaspora that has clusters in places such as Toronto and in various places in Europe.

But this was a family that was really running into trouble. Zubeidat, the mother, was arrested for shoplifting and accused of trying to steal up to nine dresses from a Lord & Taylor store in Massachusetts. Their daughters turned out to be a source of friction, or there was friction between them and the parents. The two daughters moved to New Jersey. One of them was arrested and charged with intent to distribute marijuana. The other had married a non-Muslim, which caused additional friction for the parents.And Aznor was diagnosed with cancer and felt that it was - that he was not long for this world. And so even before we get to the two sons, this is a family in crisis.

I'm Neal Conan. Today Marc Fisher of the Washington Post on his portrait of the Tsarnaev family, the suspected Boston bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, also their parents Anzor and Zubeidat. It ran in the Led High Bay Light over the weekend.