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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Majority of Marriages Ending in Divorce

Sasha Kutinov was a typical Russian husband: He married young, lived with his wife and mother-in-law and got divorced.


"When I finally moved from my wife's apartment to my own place, my best friend said 'Ah, now you are a man'", said Kutinov, 30. "When you get married it is seen as a first step toward manhood. But it is not until you get divorced that you are a true man".


Last year, the country had its highest divorce rate ever -- 62 percent of marriages ended in divorce. In Moscow alone, 75 percent of unions split up, said Margareta Potstelovkina, head of Moscow's Commission on Women's Affairs, Family and Childhood Protection.


Russia's divorce rate is even higher than in the United States, where roughly one of two marriages ends in divorce, and northern Europe, where about 40 percent of marriages do not last.


"Young people have a very cavalier attitude toward marriage and divorce", Potstelovkina said. "Everyone is expecting with big horror what couple will split up next".


In the first six months of last year, Moscow recorded 28, 831 marriages and 21, 840 divorces. That compares to 60, 806 marriages and 30, 576 divorces for all of 1986.


Simple logistics used to keep married people together. Housing shortages, especially in cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg, and waiting lists for coveted propiski, official residency permits, prevented divorce.


Other couples divorced but continued living under the same roof -- sometimes for years.


Olga, who declined to give her last name, lived with her former spouse in the same three-room apartment for five years after they officially registered for divorce. She said it was only after her husband offered her a 10, 000-ruble bribe in 1987 that she moved out.


With the state loosening its grip over housing, couples can split more easily. Kutinov said he wanted to leave his wife five years ago, but was unable to until the real estate market eased.


With virtually no psychological support systems such as marriage counseling available, fragile marital bonds easily come apart. Potstelovkina said that in one regional marriage hall, an experiment was tried in which workers asked couples to attend a meeting to discuss psychology and sex and urge them to think twice about divorcing.


"We had some good results", she said. "One out of five couples stayed in their marriage". But the program was discontinued because of a lack of money and expertise.


With few logistical barriers to divorce, couples can separate almost as easily as they can come together.


"In principle our state always said marriage is something free", Potstelovkina said. "You are free to get married and free to get divorced. Entrance costs 1 ruble while exit costs two".