Monday, September 9, 2019

Even for Women of Daghestan, the Modern City is Defeating the Traditional Aul, Shishkina Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 5 -- The perceptions Russians have about the status of women in the North Caucasus are defective in at least three ways, Alisa Shishkina of Moscow’s Higher School of Economics says, the result of the fact that the media only covers the most outrageous cases of their abuse (

            First, she writes in NG-Religii, Russians generally fail to recognize the diversity of the status of women in the North Caucasus, where in the western portion of that region, “Circassia and Adygeya always were distinguished by their respect for women while in the East – Ossetia, Chechnya, and Daghestan – their status historically was considered extremely low.”

            Second, Shishkina continues, Russians often fail to recognize that the most flagrant cases of the mistreatment of women in the region come from rural areas, the auls, which are the bastions of traditional culture but whose share of the population is increasingly small in most cases and which are rapidly losing out to the cities with a more modern approach.

            And third, and this is the most important point she makes, urban residents even in heavily Islamic Daghestan typically share the horror many Russians have abut the abuses that the Moscow media likes to talk about. That new reality is seldom reflected in the coverage of central television.  

            To say this, the Moscow scholar acknowledges, is not to claim that everything is fine and that there are n abuses that should be fought.  Rather it is t put them in context and to see the North Caucasus as a modernizing project which is overcoming the worst of the past as it moves toward the future rather than being mired in that past.

            And she makes a final point which is often ignored by Russian coverage: Islam is not a homogeneous and invariably reactionary force but a diverse world – and that there is much in the faith that promotes fair and equal treatment of women and thus helps rather than limits the process of modernization.

            What makes Shishkina’s arguments important is that they challenge the increasingly simplistic image f Islam in the North Caucasus and call upon Russians to recognize that that region is a diverse and modernizing place rather than, as all too many of them appear to believe --- and are encouraged to do so by the media a bastion of backwardness. 

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