When Anna Kochigina heard about the two bombings that rocked the Boston Marathon last month, she was naturally alarmed.
But days later, when she learned that the two suspects came to the United States from her home country of Russia, she was horrified.
Russia is famous for cultural figures like Fyodor Dostoevski and Anton Chekhov. She hated to see her country associated with violence, she said.
But Kochigina, 23, said she's concerned people were too quick to connect the bombings with suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's ties to the Russian republic of Chechnya.
“I don't believe it does relate to any nationality,” she said.
The Tsarnaev brothers, suspects in the two bombings that killed three people near the finish line of the Boston Marathon last month, were ethnic Chechens, although neither brother lived in Chechnya. Reports have said the family lived for years in Kyrgyzstan and Dagestan, another republic in the North Caucasus, before coming to the United States.
Kochigina, who originally came from near Moscow, graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma in December. Although she grew up more than 1,000 miles from Chechnya and doesn't have personal connections there, Kochigina said much of the country still bears the wounds of Russia's ongoing conflict with Chechen separatists.
Chechnya has been marked by sporadic violence since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Muslim rebels have clashed with Russian troops on a number of occasions, including a 2002 incident in which security officers stormed a rebel-held theater in Moscow, killing the rebel commander. The incident left 130 hostages dead.
Perhaps the most brutal chapter of the violence came in September 2004, when Chechen guerrillas stormed a school in Beslan, a city in neighboring North Ossetia. The ensuing siege left 334 dead, including 186 children.
Kochigina was a teenager at the height of the conflict. Although nearly a decade has passed since the incident in Beslan, many Russians still tend to think of Chechnya as a dangerous region dominated by terrorists.
An October 2012 report from the nonprofit International Crisis Group highlights the violence that has raged in Russia's North Caucasus region, including Chechnya. The report calls it the deadliest conflict in Europe today and points to the lack of rule of law, ethnic identity issues and the growth of fundamentalist Islam as key factors in the conflict.
But Kochigina said she isn't convinced the Boston bombings were related to Islam or conflicts in the North Caucasus, noting that the brothers had been in the United States for more than a decade before the incidents, and that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect, is a U.S. citizen.
No religion or ethnicity has a monopoly on violence, Kochigina said. Adam Lanza, the suspect in last year's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., wasn't a Muslim, she said.
“It's not about religion,” she said. “It's about something that's inside.”