Weekly column by Natalia Antonova
“The fact that they had three kids probably drove the father insane, so he killed the mother.” “They were prominent people who couldn’t even afford to buy an apartment. They’re the symbol of everything that’s wrong with the local economy. Of course the father snapped one fine day and killed the mother.” “The father sympathized with the opposition – so what can you expect of people like that?”
These are just some of the sentiments I have come across online since it was revealed that Muscovite Alexei Kabanov has confessed to strangling his wife, Irina, and dismembering her body in an attempt to hide his crime.
Kabanov and I have friends in common, so this one struck close to home. It struck close to home to many other people as well – mainly because, well, it’s not as if the Kabanovs were some sort of couple living on the margins of society. They were well-known socially! They had Facebook accounts! They used to run a cool restaurant business! Once again, these people demonstrated an attitude that domestic violence always happens to “those people over there” – not an unusual point of view in Russia or, indeed, the world.
In a chilling throwback to the March 2012 case of baby Anya Shkaptsova, Kabanov initially claimed that his wife had gone missing. A search effort was swiftly mobilized – including both the police and volunteers, the latter being an ever-growing presence in any missing persons case in Russia. People who knew her and people who could not be apathetic in the face of this “disappearance” desperately hoped that Irina would be found alive – she was a journalist and blogger in addition to working in the restaurant business; she was charming; her children were just six, four and two years old.
When we first heard that she had gone missing, my husband used the case to once again point out that we both had to watch out, that anyone could simply disappear. “See, her husband says they had some sort of argument – and she left the apartment to cool off,” he told me. “Bet he wishes he hadn’t let the door close behind her, bet he wishes he could have talked her out of leaving.”
Well, the truth was a little more banal than that. After writing eloquent posts about missing his wife (no hysterical pathos, of course, just the casual language of a man who is scared for his wife, but is not used to showing fear) and after thanking the volunteers and the people lending him support, Kabanov confessed to strangling Irina and dismembering her body. A lot of people still refuse to believe that he actually did it, of course – and even wondering if the blame is being pinned on him as a means of “discrediting” the opposition (after all, Kabanov had posted funny anti-Putin macros on his Facebook page!) But healthy skepticism of the police aside, it does seem as though he is the killer.
It’s heartbreaking to see how many people have claimed that Irina is to blame for her own murder – because they had too many kids, because she needed a nanny (and nannies are expensive, dontcha know), because she was probably “one of those hysterical women” who “drive men to despair and insanity.” It instantly reminded me of the story of Kasandra Perkins – a young mother shot nine times by her football player boyfriend, Jovan Belcher. Perkins apparently deserved it because she stayed out late at a concert. And had been drinking. Oh my.
The truth is, no one is “driven” to kill their mate when a relationship sours. People always have a choice – the choice to lead separate lives. It is often a painful and inconvenient choice, it involves dividing property, dividing custody, dividing loyalty, but it’s not murder.
We will never know the full truth of what could have possibly possessed Kabanov. Arguments over money might have been the trigger, but the real causes of such violence always lie deeper.
What we can do is start wondering about whether or not this might be a good time for a shelter for victims of domestic violence to be opened in Moscow. Or many shelters, actually, considering the city’s enormous population. By some accounts, Irina’s relationship with her husband was abusive. And it seems as though ultimately, she had no one to turn to and nowhere to go.
The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
Trendwatching in Russia is an extreme sport: if you’re not dodging champagne corks at weddings, you’re busy avoiding getting trampled by spike heels on public transportation. Thankfully, due to an amazing combination of masochism and bravado, I will do it for you while you read all about it from the safety of your living room.
Natalia Antonova is the acting editor-in-chief of The Moscow News. She also works as a playwright – her work has been featured at the Lyubimovka Festival in Moscow and Gogolfest in Kiev, Ukraine. She was born in Ukraine, but spent most of her life in the United States. She graduated from Duke University, where she majored in English and Slavic Literature. Before coming to Moscow, she worked in Dubai, UAE and Amman, Jordan. Her writing has been featured in The Guardian, Foreign Policy, Russia Profile, AlterNet, et al.
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