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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: May 18, 2015
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Wedding of Chechen Girl, 17, and Police Chief, 57, Takes Place with Kadyrov's Blessing
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The Russian independent media and social media networks were filled with discussions of what appeared to be a coerced wedding of a 17-year-old Chechen girl to a 57-year-old village chief of police this week.

As we reported last week, the story sparked enormous controversy as first the wedding was denied, then Russian officials seemed to indicative their disapproval of underage marriages, then in the end Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov gave the union his blessing and the marriage went head.

Under Russian law, a person must be 18 years of age to marry, but 16- and 17-year-old minors may obtain permission to marry from local officials. The age differs from region to region and is 17 in Chechnya.

Many commentators asked why the parents of Luisa Goylabiyeva, the bride, known as Khedi, gave their consent and their was concern that the family was under pressure from authorities after Khedi's girlfriends wrote appeals to Novaya Gazeta to draw attention to her plight. Nazhud Guchigov was reportedly married before and it was not clear if he had obtained a divorce.

Many people posted a picture from the wedding of the downcast Chechen bride, who looked exactly like the woman in a famous Russian 19th painting by the Russian artist Vasily Pukirev titled Unequal Marriage.

Translation: There is nothing new under the moon.

The story was emblematic for many of the sense that Chechnya runs under its own laws and doesn't heed the central authorities, as the Daily Beast's Anna Nemtsova reported.

Pavel Astakhov, the children's rights ombudsman made multiple and contradictory sentences and in the end refused to condemn the marriage and said it was a private affair.

Kadyrov posted a clip of himself on Instagram dancing the Lezginka, the traditional Chechen dance. In this clip, he looks very plump, which is unusual given that he constantly works out and posts pictures of himself at the gym looking very fit. It may be that he is wearing a bullet-proof vest at this public event.


The YouTube account Grozny posted an unofficial video of the wedding that shows that Kadyrov's chief of staff, Magomed Daudov, who is known as "Lord," took the bride by the hand and brought her to the table to register the marriage.

Another video showed that he led her out of the marriage bureau.

Yevgeniya Albats, the editor of New Times, has commented that the spectacle of this marriage, which has held the Russian public riveted for weeks, seems to be both emblematic of the failure of the central authorities to achieve the rule of law in Chechnya and also a distraction from issues like the lack of progress on the Nemtsov murder investigation as we reported last week (translation by The Interpreter):

I sincerely do not understand why everyone is so agitated regarding the wedding of a 17-year-old girl and the head of a district police precinct in Chechnya. That the laws of the Russian Federation don't operate in Chechnya? And where do they operate? That the girl was given away in marriage as a second wife, without taking much interest in her own wishes? I'm afraid that there are numerous such stories in the national enclaves. Thankfully she's not 13, but at least a little older. That Chechnya is a Sultanate, whree there is one law - the law of the sultan to punish and pardon? That's also yesterday's news. Or is this a plant, in order to forgot quickly about Geremeyev, the quarrel between Kadyrov and the federal law-enforcers and the investigation of the murder of Boris Nemtsov?

Ruslan Geremeyev, a member of the Sever Battalion of Chechen Interior Troops has been reported as a suspected organizer of the murder of Boris Nemtsov; he refused to be questioned by the Investigative Committee and is believed to have left Chechnya.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick