Something that you didn't know about the Russian culture
The history of polygyny in Russia
August 8, 2021
Russia is a modern country where people keep in step with the times. Undoubtedly, Russia differs from both Western or Eastern countries, and there are pretty many rumors about Russia abroad. Most of them are created by Russia haters or just someone who believe stereotypes. However, sometimes we get to know details about our country that might shock even most Russians. And today we will talk about one phenomenon – polygyny in the Russian society.
Without any doubt, the Russian language is powerful and unique, reach for vocabulary, word forms and grammar. However, it's not the only language that Russia can be proud of. Russia is a multinational state with over 190 ethnic groups living on its territory. Obviously, most of them (if not all!) have their own languages.
According to a map in Wikipedia, Russia is a country where polygyny is illegal, but the practice is not criminalized. Let's figure out how it all works.

The current family legislation of Russia prohibits a citizen from being married to several women at the same time. The new marriage is possible only after the dissolution of the previous one. At the same time, more than 20-25 million Muslims live in the country, and the Koran allows a man to have up to four wives. In addition, polygyny is the norm for followers of a number of religious movements, for example, Mormons, as well as a custom revered in many nations.

Most often they circumvent the law and engage in polygamy in the national republics of the North Caucasus with a predominantly Muslim population. In Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia, many men do not seriously even conceal that they are married to several women at the same time, and all the necessary procedures are carried out by agreement with local registry offices through the loss of a passport with the previous marriage stamp or due to a "technical error."

Even more often, the second and subsequent weddings are not officially registered, but are held according to Nikah - an Islamic custom, which is much more important than a visit to the registry office, including for the bride's relatives, in those regions. The situation is almost the same in the republics of the Volga region - Bashkiria and especially Tatarstan.


But Muslims are not the only group of people who practice polygyny in Russia. There are old believers, Mormons, other religious and social groups as well as extremely patriarchal people whose lifestyle implies polygamy. The communities associated with them often pose as discussion clubs, but at the same time possess all the characteristics of totalitarian sects. Their followers practice polygamy without being officially married to any of the women.

Surprisingly enough, there are some 10-20 communities dedicated to polygamous marriages on Russian social network vk.com (Facebook analog). There, men and women discuss and promote the ideas of group relationships, and also look for second and third wives in their families. Additional wives are sought not only by men themselves, but also by their "first" spouses. Herewith, the main members of such groups are not Muslims, but Orthodox Russians. In their opinion, polygyny is an ancient Slavic custom that should be observed nowadays.
Proposals to introduce polygyny in Russia and its regions, such as the Caucasus, were voiced several times – by the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, by the Mufti of Moscow Ildar Alyautdinov and the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) Vladimir Zhirinovsky. The legalization of the possibility of marriage became one of the main slogans of the LDPR party several times during their victorious campaign in the parliamentary elections in 1993.

Formally, the only Russian politician who signed a decree on the legalization of polygyny was the President of Ingushetia Ruslan Aushev. This decision was made in 1999, but less than a month later, its effect was suspended by a decree of the President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin, and then canceled by the Supreme Court as contrary to the Family Code. According to the Criminal Code of the USSR, polygyny was punishable as a criminal offense, and during the time of the Russian Empire, Muslims had the opportunity to marry several times.

What do you think about this social phenomenon? Can men have several wives or women – multiple husbands in the modern world? How should it be regulated by a state and internationally?




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