Staunton, April 4 – Relations between fathers and daughters in North Caucasus societies are seldom close and typically daughters deal with their fathers only through their mothers rather than directly. As long as that continues, daughters will be at a disadvantage and at risk of mistreatment. Three Daghestani journalists are trying to change that with a new book.
Maryam Alieva, Svetlana Anokhina, and Aida Mirmaksumova have released a volume entitled Letters to Fathers (in Russian; Makhachkala, 2021) to try to encourage women of all ages to address their fathers in writing and thus overcome cultural patterns that prevented them from talking to them in the past (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/362473/).
Anokhina, widely known and often attacked for her earlier writings about the problems of women in the region and for her Internet portal, daptar.ru, which calls attention to these problems in the lives of individual women and the ways some of them have overcome them, says that these letters not only feature complaints but expressions of love.
All too often, she continues, women in North Caucasus societies can’t even express love directly to their fathers; and that inability casts a dark shadow over their own lives and that of their children thus extending the tragedy for another generation. This book allows women to express themselves positively and negatively and thus gain new confidence in themselves.
“The task of the book is not to destroy stereotypes but to create a format in which people can express themselves,” Anokhina says. Among the most affecting letters are those by elderly women who are writing to their long-dead fathers. They could not tell them in life what they are finally able to put down on paper.
The Daghestani writer says that unfortunately there has not been any significant improvement in the lives of women in the North Caucasus in recent years. In fact, in many respects things have gotten worse. As women have tried to claim their rights, many have responded by acting even more harshly against them.
Judges and other officials often ignore women and their rights, and “a situation when older peole do not listen to younger ones is very typical, especially in Daghestan, Ingushetia, Chechnya and generally in the North Caucasus where older people by definition are always right and where fathers are an indisputable authority.”
Others are somewhat more optimistic. Chechen sociologist Lidiya Kurbanova says things are changing for the better, albeit less quickly than one would like. She welcomes this and other books like it because they help young women and older ones too look at the world in a new way by looking at their fathers in a new way.
And Kurbanova suggests that the Internet is already helping both fathers and daughters to communicate with one another. What they have never been able to say face to face, they are now able to post on social networks. “The world is changing, values are changing, and this is forcing a rethinking of the worldviews and approaches of fathers in their relations with daughters.”
Other experts like historian Ruslan Seferbekov and ethnographer Maysarat Musayeva agree that there has been some change if less than would be desirable, but they suggest that despite the preference of fathers in the North Caucasus for sons, men have a responsibility for raising daughters who can bring up the next generation.
That centuries-old tradition can thus be the basis for change if fathers now can see that their standoffishness as far as daughters is concerned is undermining rather than continuing the national traditions in which they take pride, these two specialists say.