Hands off our women, Russian nationalist MP tells foreigners

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The Independent Online

Scandalised by the fact that some of Russia's most beautiful women are opting to marry foreigners instead of Russians, the ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky is backing a bill that would make them think twice before exchanging vows with a non-Russian.

Scandalised by the fact that some of Russia's most beautiful women are opting to marry foreigners instead of Russians, the ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky is backing a bill that would make them think twice before exchanging vows with a non-Russian.

His party, the incongruously named Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), has drafted a draconian marriage bill that will now be considered by the Duma, the Russian parliament.

It envisages severe penalties for Russian girls or women who "unpatriotically" choose to wed a foreigner, a trend the LDPR believes is robbing the country's gene pool of its greatest resource.

In rhetoric uncomfortably reminiscent of that used by the Nazis, the party believes that the large number of Russian women taking foreign spouses is a threat to national security that risks undermining Russian identity and "the purity of the Russian race". It is proposing punishing such female "traitors" by stripping them of their Russian citizenship, deporting them to the country of their new husband and never allowing them to return. The LDPR also wants them to feel the pain in their pockets and is suggesting that their Russian assets be automatically distributed among their relatives or given to the state.

The bill has formally been proposed by LDPR MP Nikolai Kuryanovich, a member of the parliament's powerful National Security Committee, with the explicit backing of the fiery Mr Zhirinovsky. "Our wonderful women are the best in the world," Mr Kuryanovich told Ekho Moskvy radio. "Wherever I have been, I have rarely seen beautiful girls, only in Russia and some other Slav nations."

Calling Russia's female population a "national treasure", the MP said it must not be "spoilt" by unpatriotic weddings. The bill was being introduced "in order not to squander our gene pool".

If nothing was done, said Mr Kuryanovich, outsiders would acquire worrying levels of influence and territory in Russia through their spouses. The offspring of such ill-advised matches would not grow up to be "genuine" Russians. He saw the biggest threat coming from Chinese men, whose choice of potential spouses at home has been restricted by Beijing's "one child" policy. Many have settled in Russia's far east with Russian brides, who appreciate the fact that their foreign husbands tend to drink far less than local men.

"If we don't react now, in 50 or 100 years the Chinese and other Asian nations will be masters in our house and the Russians will become service staff," claimed the MP.

Though the bill is unlikely to become law, because it does not enjoy the support of President Vladimir Putin's powerful United Russia party, the fact that it has been proposed, and will be seriously considered by the parliament, has alarmed some. Lev Ponomarev, a human rights activist, said it reminded him of the ban on marrying foreigners introduced by Stalin in 1947. "These are attempts to restore the Soviet Union," he said. "This is another step towards the creation of a new Stalinist regime."

Mr Zhirinovsky and his associates seem unlikely to dampen Russian women's desire for a "normal" life in the West with a foreign husband. A poll by Ogonyok magazine last year showed that one in three 17- to 25-year-old women dreamt of marrying a foreigner.

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