Chechnya’s authoritarian leader has long made his stance on polygamy clear — he’s an enthusiastic supporter — but little has been known about whether he practices it himself. OCCRP’s partner, The Project, found that he married a second wife he watched perform in a 2006 beauty pageant when she was 14.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has a second wife in addition to his “official” wife. While polygamy is not uncommon in Chechnya, it is technically against Russian law.
Kadyrov’s second wife, Fatima Khazuyeva, who won second place in a widely publicized 2006 beauty contest at the age of 14, has three Moscow apartments registered in her name, worth about $5 million in total.
Multiple projects connected to Khazuyeva have been paid for by the Akhmat Kadyrov Public Foundation, one of Russia’s largest charitable foundations, which is named after Kadyrov’s father. These include a for-profit rehabilitation center run by her mother’s company, and a school and mosque named after her father.
The value of Kadyrov’s two wives’ real estate, at least $8 million in total, is more than twice his declared salary since 2008.
In 2006, the government of the Chechen Republic organized a
beauty contest for a cause.
“We want Chechnya to stop being associated with bearded men holding machine guns,” an official explained. “Now the symbol of the country will be a beautiful girl. We’ll show that we’re no worse than other states.”
Despite opposition to the pageant from the Chechen Muslim Spiritual Board, some 20 contestants danced, sang, cooked, recited poetry, talked about their piety, confessed their love for their homeland, and thanked the Kadyrov family — Chechnya’s authoritarian ruler Ramzan Kadyrov and his late father, Akhmat — for their leadership.
Afterwards, the contestants feasted at a lavish banquet attended by Kadyrov and his guards. When he learned that one of the young women who had not made it to the finals was crying, he ordered that she be given a diamond-encrusted gold Chopard watch. When the girls danced a traditional
lezginka, rubles and dollars flew into the air. A Kommersant journalist in attendance estimated that about $30,000 was scattered on the floor by the end of the night.
The contest winner eventually received a position in the Chechen government and the title of “leading model” for the Firdaws fashion house, which belongs to the Kadyrov family. But the 14-year-old runner-up, Fatima Khazuyeva, landed an even bigger prize: She is now Ramzan Kadyrov’s second wife, OCCRP partner The Project has learned.
Although polygamy is technically illegal in Russia, it’s not uncommon in this majority-Muslim southern Russian republic. According to Islamic law, a man may have four wives if he is willing to give them equal attention and support, including providing each a separate place to live.
Kadyrov has publicly encouraged the practice. “I’m in favor of a man having several wives if he needs them, and if he’s able to support them, to solve the demographic problem in Russia,” he has said.
Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic, speaks during the opening of the Ramzan Kadyrov mosque.
Yelena Afonina / ITAR-TASS News Agency / Alamy Live News
He has also justified polygamy by reference to strict Chechen traditions. “If a young girl or a divorced woman goes out [with a man], her brother kills both her and that man,” he said. “It’s better for a woman to be a second or third wife than to be killed.”
Even Kadyrov’s official wife, Medni, once said that she wouldn’t mind if her husband married again. Such is Muslim law, she explained.
Fatima Khazuyeva, Ramzan Kadyrov’s future second wife, at another beauty contest in Armenia.
Melik N. Baghdasaryan / PhotoLure
Still, Kadyrov has never publicly indicated whether he himself has other wives. At official events, he appears only with Medni, with whom he has 12 biological and two adopted children. On one occasion, information about the Chechen leader’s unofficial marriage did leak to the press. A local singer and dancer, Aminat Akhmadova, was
reported to be Kadyrov’s third wife.
But where there’s a third, there must be a second. When reporters began to dig into the matter, they learned that Kadyrov’s marriage to the beauty contest runner-up was widely known in her home village of Makhkety, about 40 kilometers south of the Chechen capital of Grozny. Several residents of the village confirmed the marriage.
A Chechen opposition blogger, Tumso Abdurakhmanov, told journalists he had been friends with Khazueva’s brother. He also confirmed that she and Ramzan are married. Soon after they began their relationship, he recalls, her brother began to get rich, upgrading from a cheap Russian Lada to a Porsche Cayenne. (Abdurakhmanov later fled the country after being targeted by Kadyrov’s allies.)
What’s more, reporters found that Kadyrov’s spending on his first two wives far exceeds his official income: The value of their real estate alone, at least $8 million, is more than twice his total declared salary since 2008.
Khazuyeva could not be reached for comment.
Across the Sunzha River
In Grozny there is visible evidence of the relationship: Khazueva’s mansion stands directly opposite Kadyrov’s working residence in the heart of the city. For the convenience and security of the republic’s leader, the course of the river Sunzha was diverted so that Kadyrov’s residence now stands on an island, surrounded by a moat.
Right across from that residence, on the other side of the river, stands the luxurious mansion of almost 1,500 square meters, built in the late 2000s, that land records show now belongs to Khazueva. It sits on nearly a hectare of land and boasts an outdoor swimming pool, a rare amenity in Grozny.
The families of some of Chechnya’s most prominent leaders also own properties in the neighborhood, including the chairman of the republic’s parliament. It’s a restricted area: A novice blogger who videotaped several streets there was recently sentenced to four years in a prison colony.
Kadyrov’s second wife also has a place to stay in Moscow, with three apartments registered in her name. All are located in new apartment buildings in good neighborhoods; their total value is about $5 million.
Khazuyeva also has two parking spaces in an apartment building on Moscow’s Mosfilmovskaya Street. She does not have an apartment there, but his first wife, Medni, does.
🔗One Wife, Two Names
According to the documents, Fatima bought the parking spaces from a certain Medni Musayevna Musayeva, from whom she also acquired one of the Moscow apartments. Musayeva’s name and patronymic are the same as Medni Musayevna Kadyrova, Kadyrov’s official wife. “Musayeva” and “Kadyrova” also have the same date of birth: September 30, 1978. (This is not her publicly known birthday, but it is the one that appears in her documents.)
The intersections don’t end there. A share of a Moscow apartment belonging to the Kadyrov family was registered in the name of Medni Musayeva, and not Medni Kadyrova, as might have been expected.
Musayeva is not Kadyrova’s maiden name, which was Aidamirova. But there’s no doubt that both names refer to the same woman: Reporters found that Musayeva’s passport contains a photograph of Kadyrova.
Kadyrov’s wife appears to use both identities. For example, “Medni Kadyrova” and “Medni Musaeva” own adjacent apartments in an apartment building on Mosfilmovskaya Street in Moscow. The total value of these two apartments is about $3 million. The one registered to Medni Kadyrova is reflected in her husband’s asset declarations, but the one registered to Medni Musaeva is not.
More Less The Kadyrov Foundation
Chechnya is one of the poorest regions of Russia. Yet the Moscow properties registered to Fatima and the two Mednis are worth about $8 million, or more than twice as much as the total income Kadyrov has declared since 2008. There’s also Kadyrov’s luxury private residence in Grozny, Fatima’s nearby mansion, and much more — the value of all of which is difficult even to estimate, since the properties are unique. The Chechen leader is also known for his habit of squandering money in public and for giving lavish gifts. Where does the money come from?
One possible source is the Akhmat Kadyrov Public Foundation, created in 2004 after the death of Ramzan’s father. Ramzan Kadyrov’s mother is the foundation’s president; Ramzan himself was named its chairman.
The Foundation’s stated goal is to help the needy, and it spends money to build and repair houses, medical institutions, schools, and mosques, in addition to aiding the disabled, veterans, and other uses. During the COVID-19 pandemic it supplied Chechens with food packages and money, and reportedly even promised to pay the traditional bride price for 200 women.
The Foundation raised over $90 million in donations in 2019, making it one of the largest charitable foundations in Russia. Kadyrov says that it receives no state funds and earns money on its own, including through business. The organization is listed as the owner of multiple companies, including ones that do construction (mainly on government contracts), produce juice and mineral water, and sell an ice cream brand called “Ramkada” (presumably short for “Ramzan Kadyrov”). Their combined revenues in 2019 exceeded $60 million.
But this is clearly not the Foundation’s only source of income. Contributions to the fund have been made by friendly Chechen businessmen, officials who fell afoul of Kadyrov, and ordinary employees in the Chechen public sector, who were asked to “contribute” about 10 percent of their salaries, according to media reports.
The Foundation’s work sometimes takes the form of fulfilling Kadyrov’s whims. For example, the Chechen leader presented a two-story apartment to French actor Gerard Depardieu, paid for by the Foundation. He also used it to give a white Mercedes to a five-year-old boy who supposedly did 4,000 push-ups without taking a break. (Representatives of the Russian Book of Records declined to certify his achievement — to which Kadyrov retorted that the boy could surely repeat the feat “if only the members of the commission had the patience to count.”)
Sometimes it is difficult to understand where the Foundation ends and the Kadyrov family begins. For example, the organization paid for the construction of a hippodrome that is now home to Kadyrov’s horses. Mosques named after various members of the Kadyrov family have been built across the republic at the Foundation’s expense. In Grozny, there’s a mosque named after Ramzan’s father (which is also called the “Heart of Chechnya”), and in the city of Argun, the “Mother’s Heart” mosque is named for his mother.
The “Heart of Chechnya” mosque in central Grozny.
Matyas Rehak / Alamy Stock Photo
A mosque named after Kadyrov himself is now under construction in Grozny. In a rare show of modesty, Kadyrov declared himself to be “categorically opposed” to the idea — but members of the public and religious leaders all agreed that the city ought to have a shrine named after the leader.
“Ramzan Kadyrov’s boundless love for his religion is producing beneficial results not only in Chechnya and the whole country, but also far beyond its borders,” the anchor reported.
The Foundation has also financed multiple projects connected to Fatima Khazuyeva. Last year it paid for the construction of a rehabilitation center for patients with movement disorders on the outskirts of Fatima Khazuyeva’s home village. The center is run by a company that belongs to her mother, Satsita Khazuyeva.
The business should be a profitable one, since the patients’ treatment will be paid for by the state insurance fund, and they will cover the accommodation themselves.
Recently the Foundation paid for the construction of a school in Khazuyeva’s village and a mosque in Grozny, not far from her mansion. Both are named after Shaikhi Khazuev, her late father.
Kadyrov did not respond to a request for comment on his second wife or her properties. But he has been vocal about other cases of polygamy.
In May 2015, a middle-aged senior Chechen police official
decided to take a 17-year-old girl as a second wife. His planned wedding became a national scandal after journalists reported that neither the girl nor her parents wanted her to marry the policeman — and that the would-be groom had set up checkpoints around their village to prevent his young bride from running away.
But soon, Kadyrov announced on local television that the consent of the girl’s family had been obtained. The wedding was lavish, and Kadyrov himself danced a traditional lezginka at the festivities.
Roman Badanin contributed reporting.