Itogi, No. 23, June 12, 2001, pp. 23-27

The Supreme Court of Ingushetia has declared invalid two articles in the law on marriage and family relations, which had essentially legalized polygamy. However, this court ruling cannot halt the tradition itself, which has existed in the Caucasus for centuries.

One reason why some people in Ingushetia requested the republic’s government to legalized polygamy was the fear that the number of blood feuds might increase. According to local tradition, cohabitation with a woman which does not result in marriage brings shame to the woman and her family – so they have to get their revenge on the seducer. A congress of the people of Ingushetia was held to discuss this issue, and this congress proposed that the government should legalize polygamy. Why did the congress make this decision? Delegate Makhmud Evloev says: firstly, “they wished to uphold the traditions and customs of the mountains”. Secondly, “the population of Ingushetia has sharply declined, and the numerical balance between women and men has changed; women are in the majority, and custom has it that marriage to a non-Muslim is extremely shameful, so what are our girls supposed to do if there’s no polygamy?” In other words, “the people of the mountains are stern but fair, which is why we can’t get by without polygamy: our girls must be married, welcoming guests into their homes with bread and salt, not avoiding the eyes of friends and relatives…”

The first part of contemporary Russia to legalize polygamy was Chechnya, when Dzhokhar Dudaev declared Chechnya an Islamic state in 1995. An Islamic state should abide by Shar’iah law, which permits men to have up to four wives. Tatarstan held a broad public debate on this issue, but did not legalize polygamy. But Ingushetia responded: first, President Ruslan Aushev issued the relevant decree, then the Ingushetian parliament passed the appropriate amendments on July 31, 1999. But all this only legalized that which had existed, still exists, and will continue to exist regardless of what the regional or federal authorities say. However, it had some far-reaching consequences. After all, according to the federal Constitution, family law should be handled jointly by the federal government and the regions. The Kremlin had long been aware of “irregularities” in the Caucasus and the Asian parts of the Russian Federation: polygamy, like many other old traditions such as bride-price, continued unofficially in Central Asian republics. The Kremlin knew, but it kept silent. However, once the government of Ingushetia demonstratively legalized this custom, the Kremlin spoke out. Once the institution of presidential envoys in federal districts had been put in place, it was expected that this discrepancy with federal law would be eliminated. Now this has been done: last week, the Supreme Court of Ingushetia declared polygamy illegal.

Now what? Nothing. Nothing has changed for the people of Ingushetia or their Caucasus neighbors who practice polygamy. As they told us, “we’ll keep right on marrying for a second, third, or fourth time if necessary”. The only difference is that from now on these weddings will not take place at the marriage registry. Actually, during the two years that polygamy was legal, few exercised the right: only 15 such marriages were recorded. People preferred to get permission from their mullah, though sometimes they did without it. The most important thing was the consent of the bride, and both families.


Profil, June 11, 2001, p. 2 EV

In the lead-up to the meeting between President Putin and President Bush, the National Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) has done a poll on attitudes to Russian-US relations. When asked whether the West’s opinion ought to be taken into account when making political decisions, only 21% of respondents said it should; the majority (70%) were sure that Russia is free to make decisions without taking the opinion of other countries into consideration, and 9% of respondents were uncertain.

When asked what they think of Russian-US relations in general, 38% of respondents say relations are normal; 13% think relations are currently tense; and 1% of respondents think relations are hostile.

When asked whether Russia has really become an equal member of the G-8 – or if not, why not – only a quarter of respondents said yes, it has. The remainder disagreed, and 22% consider that Russia cannot be called an equal member of the G-8 because it lags behind the world’s leading nations in economic development.

VTsIOM also asked how President Putin’s authority might be affected by the widespread use of his image on portraits, T-shirts, etc. Only 8% of respondents think such “popularization” will increase the president’s authority and popularity, while 42% think this will be treated as a joke, and does not reflect well on Putin. When asked whether they themselves had bought – or would wish to buy – any kind of Putin souvenir, only 1% of respondents said they already own a portrait, bust, T-shirt, button, or matryoshka doll in the form of Putin. A further 10% of respondents said they would like to own such an item.


Profil, June 11, 2001, EV

Lieutenant-General Alexander Skorodumov has been appointed to one of the most important posts in the Russian Armed Forces: head of the main directorate for combat preparation. Skorodumov was previously the deputy troops commander for the Siberian military district.

Skorodumov’s appointment within the Main Command of the Ground Forces (re-formed this year) means that the only remaining top military vacancies are: head of the main staff of the Ground Forces, head of the Rocket Forces and Armed Forces artillery.


Profil, June 11, 2001, EV

The CIS heads of state have decided to appoint Army General Vladimir Yakovlev, former commander of the Strategic Missile Forces (SMF), as chief of the CIS military cooperation coordination staff.

Vladimir Yakovlev was born in 1954 in the city of Kalinin (now Tver). He was educated at the Kharkov Higher Military Command Engineering College, the Dzerzhinsky Military Academy, and the General Staff Military Academy. His previous posts include chief of staff for the Rocket Forces, commander of the Rocket Forces, chief of staff for the SMF, and SMF commander in chief. He was dismissed from the latter post when this branch of the Armed Forces was split in two: the SMF and the Space Forces.

Yakovlev, along with former defense minister Igor Sergeev, lost out to Chief of the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin, whose arguments (to split the SMF) were supported by the president. This defeat was costly for Yakovlev. He was the last of the commanders in chief to be promoted to the rank of army general; and once the SMF was no longer a separate branch of the Armed Forces, his position was simply abolished.


Kompania, June 11, 2001, EV

Russian natural monopolies prefer to remain monopolies, and they are insuring themselves against risks with their own insurance companies. However, it sees the Ministry of Anti-Monopoly Policy and Protection of Enterprises does not like this: recently it charged the Transport Ministry and Russian Joint Energy Systems (RJES) with violating competition on the insurance market – the two companies prefer to use the services of the Leader and ZhASO insurance companies. RJES is charged with ordering its regional branches to use only the Leader insurance company for risk insurance – a company which the electricity monopoly bought early this year, and which is supposed to be the preferred insurance company for RJES.

The Anti-Monopoly Ministry is dissatisfied with the Transport Ministry because here there is another insurance company which insures all passengers – ZhASO; the company was established by the Transport Ministry in the early 1990s.

According to the Anti-Monopoly Ministry, both monopolies created conditions on the market which violate the law on protection of competitive conditions on the financial services market.


Kompania, June 11, 2001, EV

Russian auto industry lobbyists have won a great victory. The results of the meeting with the president last Wednesday exceeded the highest expectations of auto industry executives: they left the Kremlin laden with gifts.

It would be fair to consider a government resolution on protection measures as the real triumph of the lobbyists – it liberates Russia’s auto plants from exhausting competition with imported used cars. The measure for protecting domestic producers has been tested over many years: it is the traditional increase in customs duties. This time the target was imported used cars older than seven years. From now on, it will be rather expensive to import a foreign car produced in 1994 or earlier.

Thus, in supporting the Russian car industry, the authorities are in fact pushing away the most popular segment from the Russian market. Actually, imported cars between five and ten years old are the most popular and most in demand among Russian drivers. According to various estimates, they make up 30% to 40% of all cars in Russia.

At the same time, it is obvious that the auto industry leaders will be unable to achieve their goals: prior experience proves that outright protectionism is far from enough. If domestic producers are given “hot-house” conditions, they do not rush to improve the quality of their products. In fact, there is no need to do so if they have a monopoly: why bother to improve the product, if consumers will have to buy Russian-made cars anyway, since there is nothing else available.


Profil, June 11, 2001, pp. 30-32

Old oil and gas deposits in Russia are close to exhaustion. Vast sums are needed to develop new deposits, which are mostly in inaccessible or remote regions of Russia, including the sea shelf. In order to attract investment for development of new deposits, special terms called Production Sharing Agreements (PSA) are used. Such agreements give investors a number of concessions, including concessions on royalties for the use of natural resources. A bill submitted to the Duma last week will change this.

Does Russia need the PSA system, and how will the amendments to the law affect investment?

Sergei Ivanenko, chair of the Duma commission on PSA legal isues, says: “The point is that by placing investors on equal terms with all others, the government is killing the idea of PSA. In the long run, the question is not how much the investor pays in taxes, but what the guarantees of stability are. Apparently, PSAs would be useless for an investor who operates in Canada, just because the tax system in that country has not changed for over ten years and there are no reasons to believe that it will change in the near future. But in Russia tax regulations are being amended every year, and investors can never be sure that today’s low taxes will not become unbearable tomorrow.”

Mikhail Klubnichkin, a partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers, says: “Fortunately, a tax reform which tries to regulate the Russian taxation system as a whole has started. From this standpoint, the need for PSAs slightly decreases. And if the new taxation system is generally acceptable, apparently we will no longer need PSAs.”

Oleg Kotikov, head of the department for preparation and implementation of PSAs at the Economic Development Ministry, says: “We decided to establish an expert council for amending the law. It will involve a number of international organizations, representatives of ministries and territories with an interest in the bill (those that are already using PSAs or are potentially attractive for such projects), as well as representatives of all major Russian and international oil companies. The council will have to amend the law and find a balance between the interests of the state and the investor. Economic Development Minister Herman Gref, who is to head the council, promised investors that the taxation system will not be worse, while the rules of the game will become clear and transparent. At the same time, it is obvious that guarantees for investors must be balanced with the interests of the state and the budget. The new edition of the Tax Code must meet international standards and correspond to the international practice of taxation for PSAs. In order to do this, the Russian government is negotiating on the possibility of involving KPMG, which is able to use its offices in Indonesia, Malaysia, and other regions where the PSA system is used.”