Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russians Warm to Matchmaking

For Moscow matchmakers, the words "domestic bliss" have taken on new meaning in recent years, as Russian suitors seeking Russian spouses have changed the international nature of the job.

When matchmaking businesses first appeared in Russia about seven years ago, they focused primarily on matching Russian women with men from abroad, said Larisa Karpova, owner of the Moscow marriage agency "Your Chance." But that began to change about a year ago, as Russians put aside old prejudices against matchmakers in their search for a suitable swain.

"Talking to our customers I realized that 90 percent of the women who apply to us would be happy to marry Russian men if they could," Karpova said. "So we decided to include Russian men into our database. When that happened, the agency started to get twice as many calls from women."

Today, Karpova focuses more on Russian-oriented romance than friendship of the peoples, although she still arranges some international marriages. Some 20 applicants a day typically ask to be included in Your Chance's database, and Karpova tries to help the Russian cause when she can.

"Usually, women willing to marry abroad turn to Western men after they had some negative experience with their compatriots. In such cases, our task is to convince them that there are still good men in this country and they shouldn't lose hope," she said.

Matchmaking hasn't always been such a congenial role. Russians have long labeled it a dirty business and considered successful practitioners to be schemers. In the 19th century, clumsy matchmakers were favorite comic targets for writers like Nikolai Gogol and Nikolai Leskov.

Contemporary matchmakers are seen in a slightly better light, but still suffer from people who mistake their business for more "intimate" arrangements. Today, there are about a dozen matchmaking businesses in Moscow, matchmakers said.

Services vary widely. Your Chance, for example, maintains an extensive database and arranges meetings only after prospective daters exchange photos and background files and agree to meet. This service costs 50,000 rubles (about $9).

Natalya Vladimirovna, of the Vikont agency, who declined to give her last name, provides clients with lists of phone numbers for potential "halves," letting them make arrangements themselves. Vladimirovna charges 40,000 rubles to be on her list for women aged 18 to 35, and 80,000 rubles for women from 36 to 55.

For people who want more help than names and phone numbers in their quest for a suitable mate, Your Chance also offers professional counseling at an additional fee, Karpova said.

However, psychologist Mikhail Shcherbakov, president of the New Generation Foundation and head of the Institute for Personal Development in Moscow, thinks the problem of loneliness is too serious to be solved by a matchmaker.

"Lack of time and friends makes a person turn to a marriage agency where he thinks experts will solve this problem for him. Such a plan works in business but not in personal life. If the person has a problem communicating with people he prefers to pay the matchmaker instead of analyzing the reasons for his solitude and changing something in himself."

Still, some clients are satisfied -- even if marriage is still only in the cards. Yelena, a 32-year-old librarian, used the matchmaking service of Galina Suvorova, advertised in a weekly newspaper.

"I moved to Moscow from Volzhsk 5 years ago, [and] at the age of 27 it's very hard to make new friends, especially in a strange city," she said.

After calling the matchmaking service 8 months ago, Yelena first met four men, but liked none of them. Now she is dating Dima, 31, and likes him, but it's too early to talk about wedding. "I always hope for the best and think that such services should exist, as they give lonely people a hope and inspire confidence," she said.