On Jan. 23, 2013, less than three months before the Boston Marathon bombings, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was ready to reinvent himself. He applied that day to change his first name to "Muaz," in honor of a rebel from Russia's Dagestan republic who was killed by Russian forces in 2009. Muaz was also the nickname bestowed upon Tsarnaev when he visited Dagestan in 2012, officials say. The previously unreleased name change application was recently obtained from the Department of Homeland Security by the Los Angeles Times.
The reason Tsarnaev gave for changing his name, according to an official who spoke to the Times: "He said, 'The Russian people have been terrorizing my home country for all these years.' This is why he needed to come back to America and help." This detail, and others that are emerging, paint the elder Tsarnaev as more radical than he was originally believed to be—and defense attorneys for younger brother Dzhokhar are likely to use that picture in court, to argue that Tamerlan was the leader and coerced his brother to participate. Dzhokhar's lawyers have argued that Tamerlan may have become increasingly "distressed" after the FBI interviewed him about the trip to Dagestan, possibly believing the bureau was pressuring him "to be an informant, reporting on the Chechen and Muslim community," the Boston Globe reported last month.