Recent comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ombudsman for children’s rights, in which he defended a middle-aged Chechen official’s decision to “forcibly” take on a second, teenaged-bride, gets to the heart of Russia’s rotten core of “tradition” and hypocrisy.
The gist of the most recent scandal, which highlights Moscow’s tenuous power over Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov, involves Nazhud Guchigov, a 46-year-old police commander in Nozhay-Yurt, and a 17-year-old girl named Kheda Goylabiyeva.
According to reports, Guchigov, who is already married with children, has prevented Goylabiyeva from leaving her home and threatened her family with reprisals least they hand her over.
On May 5, Kadyrov refuted those claims on Chechen television, saying a trusted envoy had been sent to the girl. The envoy, unsurprisingly, reported back that the girl and her family were kosher with the arrangement.
Earlier this week, Lifenews, a tabloid media outlet with connections to Russia’s security services (and who’s founder infamously resettled in Brooklyn), ran an interview with the taciturn girl, who looks visibly uncomfortable and rarely makes eye contact.
In it, she claims to have known her husband-to-be for a year, saying he is good because he is “manly” and “dependable.” Goylabiyeva also says she is not bothered by the age difference. It is difficult, based on body language alone, to know if she was coached to give her answers, or if they are genuine.
According to gazeta.ru, the marriage is set to go forth on Saturday, though it is illegal under Russian law. Georgy Bovt, who regularly writes for the Moscow Times, sounds a note of capitulation, responding to all of the marriage’s critics (and there are many) that attempting to enforce Russian law in Chechnya may lead to “new terrorist attacks on the Moscow metro and other Russian cities, or quite possibly “a third Chechen war.”
He could be right. But what’s really telling is that Pavel Astakhov, Russia’s children’s ombudsman for the Russian Federation, is not only all right with the entire affair, but essentially argued that it was okay for Russian men to take on teenage brides because some Russian women age prematurely.
“Let’s not be prudes,” he said. “There are places where women are already shriveled at age 27, and by our standards they look around 50. And, in general, the Constitution forbids interference in citizens’ personal matters.”
This, mind you, is coming from someone who once claimed there was an active pedophile lobby in Russia, adding that children’s advocacy groups were the leading means through which pedophiles battled for legalization.
Following a public backlash, Astakhov would “apologize,” not for essentially promoting the marriage between a 46-year-old man and a 17-year-old-girl, but rather for offending “the fairer sex” with his “awkward comments” by basically calling some of them ugly.
Женщины любого возраста прекрасны и восхитительны. Господь Бог создал Женщин, чтобы мы могли их любить, защищать, беречь, воспевать. Неловкое сравнение, опромотчивое слово, вырванное из контекста рассуждений не могут изменить мое отношение к Прекрасному Полу. Любил, люблю, буду любить и уважать! Приношу свои извинения за допущенную ошибку!
Astakhov, of course, is the quintessential hypocrite so endemic in Russia’s leadership. He says whatever is required of him — he believes in nothing.
The children’s commissioner, who sent his wife to France to give birth to their third child, once complained that he had to go to Cote d’Azure every weekend out of fear that his son would forget him.
When anti-corruption blogger criticized Astakhov for parking his family in an “elite mansion in Nice” and his money “in a “Swiss bank account,” Astakhov claimed Navalny was employing the “longstanding tricks of the enemies of Russia.”
Tradition after all, is often a euphemism for justifying the domination of one group over another. When ‘the woman question’ arose in Russia in the 19th century, a bleak picture, whereby Russian men reportedly beat and raped their wives and daughters en masse, while members of the upper classes could molest peasant women with apparent impunity, emerged. As noted by the academic Marianna Muravyeva, instances of rape between a daughter-in-law and her father-in-law in Russian and Cossack communities were so common, the crime received a special name: ‘snokhachestvo’.
Russian nobles were also known to possess harems of women who existed merely to satisfy their masters’ sexually.
Under the Code of Laws of the Russian Empire in 1866, statutory rape could only be committed against a woman under the age of fourteen. In that light, Astakhov is clearly supporting “traditional values” at a time when Russia is doing its best to drag itself back into the 19th century.
And much like every other Russian official, those who question where he sends his children or his money are the “real enemies of the people”.
Perhaps one of the greatest ironies of all is that Russia wants to protect children from gay propaganda which does not exist. But when it comes to protecting teenage girls from the sexual advances of middle-aged men, tradition rules the roost. After all, there is only one rule that Russia’s leadership ever abides by: never roll back access to sources of pleasure.
In April, when a group of teenage girls caused a scandal (and incited a federal investigation) simply by twerking, the Kremlin’s chief propagandist Dmitry Kiselyov asked if Russia was “for or against early sex.”
Astakhov, it seems, has provided an answer.