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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 May 2006, 22:37 GMT 23:37 UK
Chechnya names first beauty queen
Poster of two contestants, including eventual victor Zamira Dzhabrailova (r)
Zamira Dzhabrailova (right) beat 18 rivals to the inaugural title
The southern Russian republic of Chechnya has announced the winner of its controversial first beauty contest.

Fifteen-year-old Zamira Dzhabrailova was named Beauty of Chechnya, and took home a foreign car and a cash prize.

Nineteen contestants, ranging in age from 14 to 23, took part in the final round of the competition.

It generated enormous interest, but many of the contestants said it had been hard to persuade the men in their families to let them take part.

"It took me a long time to talk them into it," one told Russian Channel One TV.

"They wouldn't agree. I told them the contest was sponsored by our government and maintained the customs and traditions of the Chechen nation.

Chechen girl dancing
Contestants had to show ability in Chechen song and dance

"I only just managed to persuade them, but here I am now."

To head off complaints, the organisers had invited Muslim clerics to rehearsals to convince them that nothing untoward was going on, and only when they had given their approval did the contest get the green light.

Girls had to be single to be eligible to take part, and the audience consisted solely of women and male representatives of the authorities.

In another departure from usual practice, there was no swimsuit round.

Instead the girls competed on their learning, their knowledge of Chechen traditions and cuisine, and on their conversational and artistic abilities.

Official backing

The pro-Moscow Chechen government's decision to hold the contest was part of efforts to persuade the local population that life in the war-torn republic is returning to normal, Russian news agencies said.

Another Chechen girl dancing
There was no swimsuit round

The contest "is the best symbol of a qualitatively new stage in the restoration of normal life in the republic," Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov was quoted as saying.

But a news agency representing Chechnya's separatist rebels described the competition as the "podium of disgrace", and claimed that Mr Kadyrov had had difficulty attracting girls to take part.

Fashion sense

In the early stages of the competition, RTR Russia TV asked the prime minister whether he would let his sister take part.

"I would, of course," he responded. "She'd show our traditions and customs, and what a Chechen girl should be like."

And the correspondent was also keen to get his views on fashion issues.

"Long skirts," Mr Kadyrov said. "As if they were going to church."

But then he added a little later: "Well, about skirts, if she's got good legs then a bit shorter. But if she's got bad legs best to have a long skirt."

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

Regions and territories: Chechnya
09 May 06 |  Country profiles

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