The love story of the 23-year-old Arash Latifi and 64-year-old Tatyana Shapovalova one might call the most unusual example of migrant workers assimilation in the post-Soviet area. She is the representative of Russian regional elite in Ulyanovsk Oblast, the chairman of an arbitral tribunal of the administrative center - and he is a migrant builder. However, neither age nor social gap seemed to be the stops this couple couldnt pull out to create a family.
The state Statistics Agency in Tajikistan does not keep accurate records of data on interethnic marriages. However, local labour migration researchers believe that about 12,000 Tajik-Russian couples wed every year. Thats quite a lot, considering that about a million Tajik citizens permanently live in Russia.
The number of interethnic marriages where one spouse is a migrant really increases," Rakhmon Ulmasov, head of the Migration Research Institute in Dushanbe, says. " The situation is very similar to the 1950-60s. At that time Tajiks who left their home for study or army often came back with Russian brides. The only difference is that modern guys prefer to stay in Russia. Now they would bring their wives to Tajikistan provided it is only a short visit.
So, according to researches, this marriage just keeps up with current trends. What makes it specific is a story of Cinderella who met her Prince Charming. Given the high status of judges in Russia and the low position of migrant workers there, one can hardly imagine what kind of a fairy godmother could manage to bring the two together. Nevertheless, Arash Latifi and Tatiana Shapovalova were lucky enough to find each other.
Arash makes no secret of his donjuanesque deed.
The story began when he was engaged in repairing an elite apartment. Shapovalova lived in the same building, and Arash often met her on the street. He was impressed by the politeness and attention of the beautiful, accomplished woman: unlike many her neighbours, she never ignored his greeting and responded to his jokes with a smile. Of course, if I had known from the very beginning that Tatyana Petrovna was a big boss who managed the arbitral tribunal of Ulyanovsk, I would never in my life speak to her, he says.
The decisive meeting took place in a supermarket.
We stood in line to pay our food, - Arash recalls. I accidentaly happened to be next to her. I got quite surprised when I noticed two bottles of vodka in her basket. Told her such a beautiful woman should not drink alcohol, otherwise men would not like her. Tatyana Petrovna asked if I was too young to flirt with older women and, looking at my purchases, said that young people should not eat so much water-soluble noodles, otherwise I'd spoil my stomach. We laughed a little, and I suggested that I helped her to bring her bag home. Generally speaking, migrants in Russia dont face much trust. But Tatyana Petrovna knew where I worked, and she agreed, - he remarks.
Next part of the story was trivial enough. Soon after the acquaintance Shapovalova asked Latifi to refresh her bathroom. That's when it happened. The two became a couple. Friends of Arash believe that he has plastered her heart wounds.
In spite of all the differences, each of the spouses got the benefit from cohabitation. The average male life expectancy in Russia is only 67 years. Poor working conditions, weak medicine and mostly excessive drinking are to blame. To find a life partner is an extremely difficult task for a woman, and high positions only make it worse. Across many countries, ladies cope with similar situation by taking young men under the wing. And Russia is no different here from European democracies.
Such marriages swiftly move a spouse into a different orbit of opportunities.
As soon as a Tajik citizen marries a Russian one, simplified naturalization is open for him as well as a good job in due course," says independent expert Lola Olimova. " He becomes a part of the Russian environment. Such a marriage gives men a stable position and documents for living.
All that is no doubt true. But what gets a woman except a strong and caring shoulder? Arash was a help to researchers: he revealed negative consequences of such marriage to a Russian woman.
His wife occupies a rather high position in society and appears to be one of the ten most influential people of her city. For Tatyana such a misalliance turned out to be quite a problem: primarily because of her husband being a foreigner, and secondly because he is a Muslim. Russia considers itself to be a secular state. However, the main population is Orthodox, except the Caucasian regions, and attitude to people of different faith is somewhat suspicious. For example, according to Arash, his wife was repeatedly asked whether she was going to change her faith. Her rare visits to the temple are also a matter of discussion now, although before marriage she went to church only on the most important holidays as well.
Tatiana is also concerned whether marriage will affect her career. She never told anyone at work that she was married. Her colleagues are not aware of the existence of Arash.
We do not like to walk around the town. We prefer to stay at home, Arash says. " But we dream of moving to Moscow. There, in the big city, no attention would be paid to us. And it will be easier for me to find a decent job there. It is the man who must sustain the family.
Financial issue is a very complicated subject in his family. Arash refuses to discuss his wifes earnings, but proudly demonstrates a brand-new iPhone8 which Tatyana gave him for his birthday. Arash explains that he is in Dushanbe at the moment for two reasons. Firstly, he has brought some money to help his parents. And secondly, he will prepare his parents to the visit of their new daughter-in-law. It will no doubt be a challenge for them: there in Tajikistan men choose brides who are at least 3 years younger than the future husbands. And Arash is going to bring a bride whos old enough to be his grandmother. The birth of a heir also remains an open question.
Most likely, Arash's parents will be happy to go to Ulyanovsk themselves. At least, two of his brothers have already bought tickets and hope that the new relative will somehow arrange their life in Russia.
Latifis plans completely correlate to the national interests of the republic.
According Jovid Ikromov, the representative of the state Center for Strategic Studies in Tajikistan, last year Tajik migrants sent to their families about $ 2 billion. That was equivalent to almost a third of the country's GDP. If there is an opportunity to increase revenues, then no one will interfere with this.