Staunton, February 27 – Many people explain what has been taking place in the North Caucasus over the last three decades by suggesting that men there have archaic values and cannot fit into modern society, but a new study conducted by the Heinrich Boll Foundation finds that men there increasingly resemble not this image but their counterparts in Europe.
Irina Kosterina, who oversaw the survey of 1800 men in four republics of the region (Dagehstan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and Chechnya) as well as in-depth interviews with 80 of them, says that she and others taking part were surprised by the willingness of the men to speak about their lives (ru.boell.org/ru/2019/02/25/zhizn-muzhchin-na-severnom-kavkaze, summarized at kavkazr.com/a/29793971.html).
“We feared,” she said, “that they would not begin to share” their views seeing the questions as outside interference. “But the reaction turned out to be calm with respondents pleased that others are interested in their lives.” And the findings of the survey help to explain why this is so.
“The image of the brutal man in the Caucasus is receding into the past with the current generation completely contemporary and resembling its counterparts in Europe,” Kosterina continues. Men in the North Caucasus aren’t satisfied to be simply the primary breadwinners for their families: they want a chance to be creative as well.
Opportunities for both are limited not only by harsh economic conditions but also by the actions of the siloviki and local officials, she continues. As a result, many men in the Caucasus see the present as bad and only hope that the situation will improve in the future. They do not see a return to the past as a good idea.
One indication of how much has changed in the North Caucasus, Kosterina says, is that a large share of the men, from 53 and 55 percent among the Chechens and Ingush to 63 to 75 percent of the Daghestanis and residents of Kabardino-Balkaria are sexually active before marriage. But among the religious young, that is less true, she adds.
Only a small fraction, from seven to 15 percent, support polygamy despite the Koranic permission for it, the survey found. Many even say, Kosterina continues, that traditions in society interfere with their personal lives and that traditional groups like the clan or extended family exercise too much influence.
Evidence of this is that “a very large number of men, despite what many believe, want to live with their immediate family separately from their parents so that there won’t be any conflicts between their wives and their own mothers. When that happens, a man must support his mother as tradition dictates, and the wife is offended.”
Men in the North Caucasus, Kosterina says, recognize that violence within families is a problem but relatively small shares of these communities try to justify it, something that gives hope that over time, such violence will decline – and the men in this region will become even more like their coevals elsewhere.
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