Staunton, March 26 – Although they have taken part in Russian beauty contests in the past, no young women from the North Caucasus will participate in the Miss Russia competition this year after leaders of some regional organizations suggested that such beauty contests required those taking part to violate the principles of North Caucasian religion and culture.
The leaders of the campaign against the participation of North Caucasians in the Miss Russia competition are celebrating what they say is the continuing strength of “public censure” in their societies as a means of maintaining social order. They are certainly correct, but there are at least two more implications of what may seem to many as a marginal issue.
On the one hand, this outcome shows just how divided the North Caucasus is from the rest of the Russian Federation and may even be an indication that those divisions are deepening. And on the other, it underscores the fact that even in beauty competitions, the creation of any common civic Russian identity almost certainly is doomed to failure.According to Larisa Tikhonova, the director of the Miss Russia pageant, North Caucasian women, although they participated last year, won’t this year as a result of the negative reaction of their countrymen in social networks (newsru.com/russia/24mar2017/miss.html and kavkazr.com/a/miss-rossii-vs-mnogonatsionalnost/28388282.html).
Sultan Togonidze, president of the Russian Congress of Peoples of the Caucasus, explained the situation by saying that “each chooses how to express and position himself or herself. But this concerns the personal life of the individual.” Women from our regions should not take part where they must dress improperly (onkavkaz.com/blogs/666-rossiiskii-kongress-narodov-kavkaza-osudil-uchastie-kavkazskih-devushek-v-konkurse-miss-rossija.html).
“Today,” he continued, “we can confidently declare that the institution of social shaming has still not disappeared for us as a mechanism for regulating behavior in the traditional and cultural sphere” (nazaccent.ru/content/23558-rknk-o-miss-rossiya-institut-obshestvennogo.html and nazaccent.ru/content/23552-devushki-s-severnogo-kavkaza-ne-budut.html).
He noted that his organization had taken action against participation in last year’s competition by sending letters to the regional culture ministries asking for clarification of whether the women involved were representing themselves or their republic. But this year, he pointed out, the effort had attracted the support of many bloggers and web surfers.
Beauty contests have become political issues in many countries but in none more than Russia. Until 1989, the Miss Russia one took place only among emigres. Then, the event was re-imported to become briefly the Miss USSR competition. Two years later, it became Miss Russia, and as of last year, it was taken over by the Russian culture ministry.
The finals of the competition this year will take place on April 15, with the winner gaining the right to represent the Russian Federation at the Miss World and Miss Universe competitions later this year.