"Misha" Speaks, Denies He Was Tamerlan's Teacher

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 29 2013 10:21 AM

Misha, the "Mysterious Radical," Is No Longer a Mystery, Doesn't Sound that Radical

Ruslan Tsarni, uncle of the suspected Boston Marathon bombing suspects, speaks to reporters in front of his home April 19, 2013 in Montgomery Village, Maryland.
Ruslan Tsarni, uncle of the suspected Boston Marathon bombing suspects, speaks to reporters in front of his home April 19, 2013 in Montgomery Village, Maryland. Tsarni asked the still at large bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to turn himself in.

Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images

Last week, members of the Tsarnaev family—at least those not still denying the brothers' involvement in the bombing—told reporters of a mysterious radical known as "Misha" who they said played a key role in Tamerlan's transformation from someone who was only nominally religious to an extremist capable of the Boston Marathon bombings. "Somehow, he just took his brain," was how Ruslan Tsarni, Tamerlan's uncle, described Misha's influence on the elder Tsarnaev brother. Naturally, that got everyone's attention and sent reporters on their own post-marathon manhunt for someone who was quickly billed as everything from Tamerlan's "mysterious Islamist Svengali" to "the Boston bombings' mystery man."

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

The New York Review of Books' Christian Caryl managed over the weekend to do what no other reporter was able to, and tracked down Misha, whose real name is Mikhail Allakhverdov. The 39-year-old, who is of Armenian-Ukrainian descent, didn't quite live up to all the hype (from either the Tsarnaevs, or the headlines that followed their accusations):

I found Allakverdov at his home in Rhode Island, in a lower middle class neighborhood, where he lives in modest, tidy apartment with his elderly parents. He confirmed he was a convert to Islam and that he had known Tamerlan Tsarnaev, but he flatly denied any part in the bombings. "I wasn’t his teacher. If I had been his teacher, I would have made sure he never did anything like this," Allakhverdov said. ...
Allakhverdov said he had known Tamerlan in Boston, where he lived until about three years ago, and has not had any contact with him since. He declined to describe the nature of his acquaintance with Tamerlan or the Tsarnaev family, but said he had never met the family members who are now accusing him of radicalizing Tamerlan.
Advertisement

Obviously, it's impossible to know if Allakhverdov is telling the complete truth, but parts of his story do line up flush with what others are saying. According to Caryl, a "close friend" of the Tsarnaev family in Boston told him that Misha may have never actually visited Tamerlan at home, despite what Tamerlan's former brother-in-law had told reporters last week when first pointing to the Muslim convert as a key player in Tsarnaev's transformation. The FBI, meanwhile, hasn't officially commented on the record about Allakhverdov, although over the weekend it suggested to the Associated Press that they've found no ties between him and the attack, or terrorism in general.

Allakhverdov, meanwhile, confirmed that he's been interviewed by federal authorities, and said that he has cooperated fully. "I gave them my computer and my phone and everything I wanted to show I haven’t done anything," Allakhverdov said. "And they said they are about to return them to me. And the agents who talked told me they are about to close my case."

You can read the full NYRB piece here. Also be on the lookout for a longer piece on the Tsarnaevs, along with Boston's Chechen and Russian communities, in an upcoming issue of the magazine.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter, and read more on Slate about the Boston Marathon bombing.***

This post has been updated with additonal information.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Global Marches Demand Action on Climate Change

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM Planned Parenthood Is About to Make It a Lot Easier to Get Birth Control
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 5:03 PM White House Chief Information Officer Will Run U.S. Ebola Response
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.