Install

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

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Expat Wedding No Longer a Russian Dream

For years, the dream of many young Russian women seemed to be to marry a European or American man and move abroad. Not anymore.

Women have grown more sophisticated as they travel the world and pore over Western women’s magazines like Cosmopolitan, sociologists say. In fact, one new poll indicates that only 9 percent of single women want to marry a foreigner nowadays, compared to 46 percent just four years ago.

“The Russian woman has become more emancipated,” said Olga Makhovskaya, a psychologist and author of the book, “The Seduction of Immigration, or To the Women Flying Off to Paris.”

Makhovskaya said women’s values have changed remarkably in the 18 years since the Soviet collapse. The main “prize” in life for a Soviet woman was marriage, but the prize for the modern Russian woman is a good career, she said.

Women interviewed in the recent survey gave a number of reasons for their reluctance to marry a foreigner, including a different mentality, culture, language, laws and concerns about the future of common children in case of a divorce.

The online survey of 1,800 women aged 18 and older was conducted by Superjob.ru, a leading job recruitment web site. It put the margin of error at 2 percentage points. Superjob.ru conducted a similar poll of 2,100 women in 2005.

Sociologist Vladimir Mukomel, head of the Center for Ethnopolitical and Religious Studies, said the online surveys were not scientific, but the trend that they showed is indirectly confirmed by some official figures.

According to official data, 60,000 to 100,000 people moved to live abroad every year in the early 1990s, while the number has dropped to the thousands in recent years, Mukomel told The Moscow Times.

Mukomel and Makhovskaya, the psychologist, said they were unaware of any statistics on how many Russian women had married Europeans or Americans in the 1990s.

A request for comment to the Justice Ministry department responsible for keeping records of marriages nationwide was not immediately answered.

Mukomel suggested that Russian women’s interest in foreign husbands has decreased because they have increasingly traveled abroad since the Soviet collapse and become better acquainted with other ways of life. “Russia has become more open,” he said.

Makhovskaya, who has appeared on several Russian television talk shows to discuss international marriages, said one of the reasons for the change in attitudes toward marriage is the boom in the production of glossy women’s magazines after the collapse of the Soviet Union. (Independent Media Sanoma Magazines, the parent company of The Moscow Times, is a leading publisher of those magazines, including Cosmopolitan.)

The media have published stories about international marriages ending in disaster in recent years, creating the impression that the unions are “a trap that you won’t be able to get out of,” Makhovskaya said.

Part of this concern is linked to uncertainty about the future of common children in case of a divorce, she said.

In addition, “anti-Western moods” cultivated by official political propaganda contribute to Russian women’s decline in interest in foreign men, Makhovskaya said.

Many foreign marriages involve women from Russia’s regions rather than the wealthier cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, matchmaking agencies said.

In Moscow, city statistics for marriages involving foreign nationals show little sign of a trend, said Yevgenia Smirnova, spokeswoman for the Moscow marriage registry office.

The number of marriages involving foreigners that her office registered was 9,304 in 2005, 8,861 in 2006, 12,633 in 2007, 11,803 in 2008, and 8,248 in the first eight months of 2009, Smirnova said. The figures include marriages where one partner is Russian and the other foreign and where both are foreign, she said.

No separate statistics on marriages between Russian and foreign nationals are available, Smirnova said.

But the head of a Moscow-based dating agency said he has seen no drop in demand for foreign husbands since opening in 1997. “The number of women who want to marry a foreigner hasn’t become any fewer,” said Andrei Sokolov, head of the Semeiny Uyut, or Family Comfort, dating agency.

Sokolov said his female Russian clients were looking to find a man who would improve their living conditions and wouldn’t abuse alcohol.

Sokolov also stressed the demographic fact that there are more women than men in Russia and a woman living in a small village finds it next to impossible to meet a husband who would support her and not abuse alcohol.

There are 1,160 women for every 1,000 men in Russia, according to the latest figures available from the Federal Statistics Service.

Alcoholism is a common problem in rural areas.

Two Russian women interviewed for this report — one of whom has been married to a Frenchman for several years and another who was preparing to marry an Australian — said they believed that foreign men were more polite and caring about their families, especially more attentive to their children, than Russian men.

“Foreign men have more responsibility for the family, especially for the children and wives,” said the married woman, a 38-year-old former Muscovite who married the Frenchman five years ago and has lived with him in France since. She spoke on condition of anonymity, saying she did not want to draw attention to her marriage.

She said her French husband had become friends with her 16-year-old son, helping him with his homework and taking him and his friends out to the movies, while the boy’s biological Russian father saw his responsibility only in terms of “sometimes” providing money for the boy’s needs when they lived together.

Zhanna, a 41-year-old resident of the Moscow region town of Balashikha, met her Australian fiance through the Semeiny Uyut dating agency, and she praised her future husband for his attentiveness to both her mother and her 22-year-old son.

“Russian men don’t respect their mothers and often abandon their children,” Zhanna said.

Zhanna also said Russian men drank more alcohol and became “unbridled” when they drank, while her Australian fiance behaved decently even after he drank.