My Big Tajik Wedding

Konstantin Salomatin

Published on 28/05/15

© Kon­stantin Salomatin

Every year nearly one mil­lion of Tajiks leave their homes and come to Rus­sia look­ing for a decent work. The real­ity is tough — most of them end up with the low­est paid jobs due to lan­guage and cul­tural bar­rier, which allows the hir­ing side to go way below the stat­utory pay min­imum. Not only that — In spite of the fact that Tajikistan was the first coun­try to provide Rus­sia right after the USSR’s col­lapse with highly needed then labour migrants, today sur­veys show that close to 70% of Rus­si­ans admit they hate migrants.

Every day an aver­age of three tajiks become vic­tims of racist attacks, police bru­tal­ity, dan­ger­ous work­ing con­di­tions and unsafe hous­ing. Nev­er­the­less they still come to Rus­sia, cop­ing with all hard­ship for the chance to earn four times more than they would have at home. Sur­pris­ingly enough, it’s not always family’s day-to-day liv­ing they save for. For thou­sands it’s a wed­ding ceremony.

In Tajikistan, live swirls around wed­dings. In the coun­try, where 47.2% live below the poverty threshold, and 80% of the employ­able pop­u­la­tion work abroad as labour migrants, the amount of money spent on wed­dings per year equals the country’s budget of $2 bil­lion. People save money for wed­dings for years, put it all in a cere­mony of a life­time leav­ing the new family’s pro­vider with the need to hit the road again, now to earn the liv­ing. Yet des­pite all odds Tajiks all over the coun­try still throw fab­ulous celebrations.

Dazzling col­ours of joy­ful cere­mon­ies are quite a con­trast to the behind-the-scenes real­ity.
The wed­ding industry is prob­ably the only one with stable income, and it’s the country’s major industry encom­passing enter­tain­ers, sing­ers, musi­cians, res­taur­ants, cam­era­men, pho­to­graph­ers, sellers of wed­ding dresses and many more.

In 2013 Tajik author­it­ies have issued a law that lim­its the num­ber of wed­dings’ guests, wed­ding budget and even the hours a recep­tion in the res­taur­ant can last. But noth­ing can change the fact that for Tajiks the wed­ding cel­eb­ra­tion has lit­er­ally become the most import­ant day of their life and wed­dings last at least 3 days any­way.
Brides change up to 20 dresses that have to shine and sparkle, and a 200$ per meter fab­ric straight from Emir­ates is a pre­ferred choice. For Tajiks a wed­ding is some­thing that you have to do prop­erly, by the tra­di­tion. A show that you put up for the neigh­bour­hood and bey­ond, that makes you look good, like you can afford it. You can hardly tell the dif­fer­ence between a rich fam­ily wed­ding or a very poor one. They will do their best to fit in. Even if the whole fam­ily will end up with debts that only sev­eral years of work can cover. Even with the legal lim­its, Tajiks say, to pay for a wed­ding a total of four people from both sides have to work for at least a year abroad to save the money.

With a wed­ding being just a cere­mony that cel­eb­rates mar­riage, mar­riage itself raises many more issues. The major­ity of mar­riages are still arranged. Men usu­ally leave the coun­try from the age of 16. Then they go back once the par­ents has chosen a wife, marry her, make kids and leave again. They either work abroad for an aver­age of 10 years and then go back home with the sav­ings, or some­times just leave forever. Tajikistan has been branded as the coun­try of the miss­ing men.

Share on Twitter

Tags: , , ,

Highslide for Wordpress Plugin
salt images - photo agency