In Dagestan, Life Goes On Despite Violence

In Dagestan, Life Goes On Despite Violence

DAGESTAN, Russia -- The newlyweds sat at the front of the dim banquet hall here looking out at their guests. Three hundred people intermittently gathered around the long food-filled tables or hopped around the dance floor, sweating through their fancy clothes as they swished their arms back and forth doing the region's traditional dance, the lezginka.

After three hours of reveling in the southern Russian heat, the flawlessly coiffed bride descended to the floor in her corseted white dress while her groom danced around her holding a fluffy taffeta baton. As he passed it off to various male relatives and friends, each taking a turn dancing around the doll-like bride, guests gathered on the dance floor to throw 100-ruble bills on the dress's long train. Three little girls scampered around collecting the cash, while some of the guests filed out of the hall into their Russian-made cars.

The celebration was only half over. After speeding in a caravan through dusty Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, about 100 guests from the bridal celebration joined the groom's party, which already boasted 900 attendees. Besides the air-conditioning, however, this second celebration differed little from the first: the guests danced, drank and ate while the couple sat calmly in the front gazing at their friends and family, only joining the party to perform the same baton-and-ruble ritual before going home.

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