March 01, 2015

Stealing Brides

Stealing Brides
Marina Mussova

We had been chatting on Skype for about half an hour when my older sister announced, as though in passing, “By the way, tomorrow I’m getting married.” In response to my dismay – “Married!? Why didn’t you tell me? What do you mean, tomorrow?” – she answered, just as calmly, “Tomorrow they’re coming to steal me. Wanted to do it today, but I asked for a one-day extension. I’ve got to do a manicure, and a pedicure, and get some important things taken care of.”

Bride kidnapping comes as no surprise in the Caucasus. In fact, in my family it was a matter of course: grandpa stole grandma, dad stole mom, my brother stole my sister-in-law. Many of my female friends faced the same thing, and they were quite happy with the situation. After all, being married in Kabardino-Balkaria, like elsewhere in the Caucasus, is a privileged position, and gives you a certain status in society.

Because I grew up knowing bride kidnapping as a normal aspect of life, I have been surprised by the consistent pattern of thought among foreigners who find the tradition “barbaric and criminal.” As I scan various articles on the subject, watch YouTube videos, and interact with people of other nationalities, I cannot help being amazed at the widespread opinion that the majority, if not everyone, holds: stealing brides is bad, the grooms are criminals, the brides are unfortunate girls whose relatives could not protect them.

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