Students Shop at Bride Market

MTTheophilus Ankrah, a student from Ghana, taking part in a noisy conga dance Tuesday in southeastern Moscow.
Anna was trying on her third wedding dress, a white, frilly gown with matching long gloves. But the 18-year-old student said she wasn't ready for marriage yet.

"I'm still studying; I'm still a child," she said.

The wedding dress display was one of several attractions at the Bride Market held Tuesday at the State University of Management on Ryazansky Prospekt in southeastern Moscow.

Sentimental for an old matchmaking tradition and inspired by a government directive, Alexei Pashkov, head of the municipal council in Vykhino-Zhulebino, decided to hold the festive event.

"Bride markets used to be held 100 or 150 years ago," Pashkov said. "We simply decided to revive the tradition. I think it's very beautiful."

Traditionally, young peasant women would travel to towns on market days in their best clothes to meet potential suitors.

"Young people today have nowhere to meet each other," Pashkov said as a folk group sang and danced in the university yard. "No one gets married any more."

Tuesday's Bride Market was only a "tribute to folk tradition," Pashkov conceded. But he said he came up with the idea as part of the current Year of the Family campaign, which is aimed at improving Russia's demographic situation. "The family is the basis of a strong state," Pashkov said.

Looking around at the students crowding the yard, Pashkov said, "We have plenty to choose from. Our girls are beautiful."

Female students from three local universities took the stage later Tuesday in light-hearted cooking contests and other games. At the end, officials from the State Registry Office -- better known by its Russian acronym, ZAGS -- handed out invitations to marriage ceremonies for couples, Pashkov said.

Vladimir Filonov / MT
Wedding dresses on display at the State University of Management.

But he stressed that only couples in long-term relationships would receive wedding invitations, not those who met at the market

Female students crowded around a stall where a teacher from a local art club taught them to make dolls -- traditionally given to brides on their wedding day -- from pieces of cloth and twigs. Across the yard, a bear's trainers goaded on their pet.

Watching a noisy conga dance, Andrei Poluektov, an 18-year-old student, said that, though he was single, he wasn't expecting to find a bride at the market. "It's pretty unlikely. These things can't be done quickly," he said.

One of the conga dancers, Theophilus Ankrah, a 20-year-old student from Ghana, agreed that he wasn't ready to settle down. "I'm not looking for a bride," he said, laughing. "I'm just looking out for friends."

But one student, 18-year-old Natalya Cherkova, said she was open to offers. Dressed up in a black dress and pearl pendant, she joked, "If he's got an apartment, I'll marry him tomorrow." More seriously she added, "As long as I like the man."