Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 3

Kavkazky Uzel on January 18 reported that many Chechens view acting Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov’s call for the legalization of polygamy in Chechnya as a “bad joke.” Kadyrov said on January 13 during a long telephone interview with Ekho Moskvy radio devoted to the issue of raising children that polygamy was “absolutely necessary” and “important for the Chechen people” because “we have war; we have, according to the statistics, more women than men. According to various data, by 9-18 percent.” Kadyrov said men should be able to have up to four wives if they are able to support them, but that polygamy need not be formally legalized and that it should be up to the individual. Kadyrov himself has one wife, five daughters and a son.

Kadyrov’s statements on polygamy received support from the Supreme Mufti of the Central Spiritual Board of Muslims of Russia, Talgat Tadzhuddin. “It would help us resolve the problem of stabilizing society,” Tadzhuddin told Interfax on January 13. He said polygamy would help make it possible to provide sustenance and paternal love to children conceived outside marriage—”which many Russian men have”—and to abandoned children. Tadzhuddin added, however, that the practice should be legally regulated. “Some oligarchs have altogether 40 wives each,” he said. “They are obligated to take responsibility for those wives.” The mufti said that polygamy would help Russia resolve its demographic crisis and that he saw no problem with the fact that non-Muslims might adopt polygamy. “Some Muslims also adopt certain traditions of other peoples—theY celebrate New Year’s, Easter, eat pork and drink alcohol,” Tadzhuddin said.

Kadyrov’s comments on polygamy were also greeted enthusiastically by Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who has actively campaigned for the legalization of polygamy in Russia (see, for example, his interview with the Moscow Times, February 2, 2001). Newsru.com quoted Zhirinovsky as saying that Kadyrov was “absolutely right and the LDPR has always supported this idea. In the summer I will go to Chechnya for vacation in the village of Tsentoroi, the native village of Ramzan Kadyrov, and I’m ready to take two Chechen girls as wives.” The ultra-nationalist leader said he was ready to introduce legislation legalizing polygamy in the State Duma. Zhirinovsky introduced such legislation in October 2000, but the Duma rejected it by a wide margin.

In the North Caucasus, support for polygamy is by no means unprecedented. Back in 1999, then Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev issued a decree allowing men to have four wives—arguing that it was simply legalizing the de facto situation in the republic—but the federal Justice Ministry rejected it as unconstitutional and said it had to be rescinded. In 2001, Ingushetia’s Supreme Court declared invalid two articles in the law on marriage and family relations that had essentially legalized polygamy.

Yet by no means is everyone in Chechnya is praising Ramzan Kadyrov’s support for the practice. Kavkazky Uzel on January 18 quoted Ali Mashaev, a mullah in one of Grozny’s mosques, as saying: “Islam permits men to have several wives. But, at the same time, it is necessary for the husband to meet a whole series of conditions. For example, all the wives must be provided for identically, there must be equality of rights, each must receive identical attention, and so on. To have four wives at once is a very big responsibility, and then there’s everything else. I personally do not know a single person in the republic who has four legitimate wives. Two wives, but not more. Each man should approach this issue rather cautiously and deliberately. All the more so today, when our republic lies in ruins and it’s very difficult to feed even one or two members of a family. I don’t think Ramzan Kadyrov’s approval of the tradition of polygamy will lead to our men hurling themselves into taking several wives at a time.”

A 33-year-old Grozny resident named Zareta also reacted negatively to Kadyrov’s promotion of polygamy. “Unemployment among the republic’s population, according to just the official figures, is more than 80 percent,” she told Kavkazky Uzel. “A majority of our men are involuntarily unemployed, and in general women deal with the issues of providing for the family. They sell in the markets, transport merchandise, work at private construction sites as plasterers and so on. I believe that the authorities should first solve the problem of unemployment, and then the issue of polygamy can be raised, along with the need to solve other problems.”

Ramzan Kadyrov weighed in on other social issues last week, ordering Chechnya’s law enforcement agencies to put an end to drug trafficking and the illegal alcohol trade. “I give you a one-week time period, and within this period if you have not managed to turn around the situation with the spread and use of drugs and the illegal sale of alcoholic drinks, I will take a decision on staff changes at the top of the relevant departments,” RIA Novosti quoted him as telling a meeting of law enforcement chiefs and other top officials on January 15. Reuters on January 19 reported that Chechen police had confiscated hundreds of thousands of bottles of alcohol from markets and cafes. The news agency quoted the Chechen Interior Ministry as reporting that police had seized 750,000 bottles of alcoholic drinks and shut down an illegal alcohol factory. Traders at markets in Grozny said police did not check their licenses before confiscating the alcohol, and others said police had even smashed legal alcoholic drinks. Some nine kilograms of drugs were also reportedly seized. “Not one of the world religions allows drugs, and especially not Islam,” Reuters quoted Kadyrov as saying on January 18. “We must remember that a drug addict is the main target for terrorist recruitment.”

Meanwhile, Ramzan Kadyrov has been named an honorary member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences. RIA Novosti reported on January 18 that the academy’s vice-president, Aleksandr Lagutkin, had traveled to Gudermes to confer a silver badge and a diploma on the former boxing champion. “The Russian Academy of Natural Sciences calls particular attention to the processes taking place in the Chechen Republic and with satisfaction notes that serious changes connected to the strengthening of state power and the development of the economy have taken place here recently,” Lagutkin was quoted as saying. He added that “following the death of Akhmad Kadyrov, the positive processes in the republic have not decreased, but, on the contrary, have gained momentum, and Ramzan Kadyrov stands at the head of these changes.” Chechen President Alu Alkhanov, for his part, conferred the “Protector of the Chechen Republic” on Ramzan Kadyrov for his services rendered in “the formation of the Chechen Republic,” grani.ru reported on January 18.