Staunton, August 7 – “Several thousand” Russian women marry Tajik men every year, according to Tilav Rasul-Zade. Most of these marriages are contracted when Tajik men have come to Russia, and most of the couples remain there. But some Russian women go to Tajikistan where they “accept Islam, prepare plov, and do good deeds” (fergana.agency/articles/109419/).
In Soviet times, the communist authorities celebrated inter-ethnic marriages but viewed the in most cases as a phenomenon that led to the assimilation of non-Russians by Russians; but now, there are fewer such marriages. And many Russians view them with hostility because often it is the Russian who is assimilated to a non-Russian culture rather than the other way around.
Except perhaps for marriages between Russian women and Chinese men – see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/08/chinas-new-weapon-against-russia.html -- no such unions are more sensitive among Russians than those between Russian women and Central Asian men given the cultural divide and demographic consequences of such marriages.
They are seldom talked about in the Russian media, perhaps because Russian outlets do not want to encourage them, and they are not much more often discussed in the Central Asian media either, possibly for similar reasons. As a result, such unions remain shrouded in stereotypes, many of them negative.
That makes the portrait of two Russian women who married Tajik men, moved to Tajikistan, and assimilated to Tajik religion, culture, and way of life offered by Fergana journalist Rasul-Zade especially valuable because it shows these unions are often genuine love matches and that the Russian women accept Tajik culture as something valuable for themselves.
Marina was a student in Krasnoyarsk when she met and fell in love with Nekrus, a Tajik immigrant worker. In 2015, he was deported and banned from returning to Russia for five years. Marina followed him to his village in Tajikistan, converted to Islam, married, and has done everything she can to fit into Tajik life so as not to cause problems for her husband.
“When we lived in the kishlak,” she says, she “went about only in Tajik dress. Then, when we moved to Khudzhand, I began to wear European clothes since in the city there is a more liberal atmosphere.” But she has learned Tajik and prepares the Tajik foods her new relatives taught her how to make.
The Russian woman has gotten jobs in advertising, and not long ago, Marina reports, a television producer approached her about making her “”the heroine of a television series about how an urban Russian girl from Russia sought in a rural area of Tajikistan to become a real Tajik wife.”
“Many people in Russia think that Tajikistan is a backward country and that here everything is out of date. Yes, here as in many countries of the world there are many unresolved social problems, especially in the realm of infrastructure. But there are big changes. I see that the country is developing.”
“The most important thing is that the people are unusually kind and hospitable. When Kamilla [her child] was quite little, everyone – acquaintances and others – helped me: they took out the trash and carried the baby carriage up and down the stairs,” Marina says. She likes life in Tajikistan and the couple doesn’t plan to return to Russia when the ban on her husband runs out.
Elina, the other ethnic Russian woman Rasul-Zade interviewed, met her future husband while she was working as a hairdresser in Moscow. They fell in love and returned to his village Tarror where she was accepted as a member of her husband’s large family – he is the 11th of 12 children, she says.
She recounts that many of her Russian family and friends were anything but pleased but the union, but her Tajik relatives were fully welcoming. The two have a daughter and Elina works in cosmetology. At one point, they returned to Moscow in search of better jobs, but then her husband’s mother became ill and they returned to Tajikistan.
Her mother-in-law recovered, but the two decided not to go back to Russia even though Mukhammadzhon has dual citizenship and can live there if he wants to. Elina now operates a massage parlor and makes enough money to be generous. She regularly visits a home for the elderly to help out.
In the home, she says, there are 98 people. “The absolute majority of them are Russians, Germans, Ukrainians, Tatars and other representatives of non-titular nations. These are lonely people, they don’t have any relatives here, and they need attention and interaction. When I see the joy and smiles on their, I am happy in my soul.”
As a Muslim and a human being, she says, wearing the Tajik clothes she has adopted, “we must do savob [the Tajik word for the Muslm requirement for good actions] and help those who need help. She hopes for a large family so that when she and her husband grow old, their children will be able to take them.