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  • Russian Women & Mail Order Brides

    Thin Russian Girl

    With the spread of different and affordable means of communication through the Internet, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, a new player has arisen in the age old custom of so called mail order brides. Every day, more and more men turn to romance tours, marriage agencies, international dating websites, and introduction services in an effort to meet, date, and even marry women from countries that formed the Soviet Union. A few decades ago the mail order bride phenomenon was heavily concentrated to the South East Asian countries, although the trend always shifts with time. Today however, this trend has grown to include hundreds of marriage agencies that focus on Russia and other Soviet Republics.

    International marriages and romances however do not come without pitfalls. There is an element of risk for either party involved. The woman many times finds herself isolated in a new foreign country, usually unable to speak the language, and may be more vulnerable to abuse due to these facts. For the men, the risk is different but equally as damaging. Men take the risk that once married, his wife will quickly divorce him, in essence just using him as a quick ticket out of her old country. In either case, although risks are present, as with any worth while venture in life, the outcomes of cross cultural marriages are usually positive, and mutually beneficial. The men are usually looking for feminine foreign women, who haven’t lost touch with the essence femininity, and the women are looking for decent men, which many times may be hard to find, where they’re from.

    A Brief History of Mail Order Brides

    The concept of arranged marriages is almost as old as marriage itself. Throughout history various civilizations and cultures have at one time or another advocated the arrangement of a marriage between a man and a woman through the medium of a matchmaker or some form of third party. It’s only within the last century or so that the term “mail order bride” has become part of the American lexicon. The recent past tells us that the process of finding a partner or mate that lives far away, or even abroad is something that is deeply ingrained in the cultures of most developed western nations. If we look at America’s recent past we can find detailed accounts and examples of the pilgrims and settlers corresponding and writing to women who were back in Europe, because there weren’t enough women for the men to marry in the “new world”. When settlers were moving west, due to the conditions, men outnumbered the women in the population. Men would correspond with marriage-minded women “back East,” become engaged and either marry their brides by proxy or marry immediately upon the woman’s arrival in the west. It is only within the past two or three decades that this practice has taken on a negative connotation, but at the same time gained popularity with men, due to many cultural changes taking place in developed western nations.

    Russian Women: An Overview

    Life in the Soviet Union wasn’t easy, and perhaps it may have gotten even harder after the collapse. Economic conditions in Russia and the surrounding nations haven’t improved much since the collapse. The Russian culture is highly patriarchal, and in many cases Russian women are treated as second class citizens. The ideal Russian woman is described as possessing “gentleness, sensitivity, maternal instincts and the capacity to love.” Which is what both and women tend to expect from women within the culture. With the Russian Revolution of 1917, one would think women’s roles would change, as Marx himself called for the integration of women into productive labor in order to emancipate them. However, the main factor that drew women into the workforce was the exceptionally low wages paid by the state. There was no way a single working parent could afford to provide a minimum living standard for a family. Therefore both parents were forced to work in order to make ends meet. However, this did not change the status of women. Even though 90% of women were employed, and made up 52% of the national labor force,7 women still occupied very low places of prominence in Russian life.

    Soviet propagandists have always highlighted the fact that 80% of its teachers and doctors are women. Westerners are ignorant of the fact that in Russia these jobs are among the least prestigious. As a former teacher, the author earned 450,000 rubles a month in 1996 while a street sweeper (another position dominated by women) earned almost 1 million rubles a month. Employment and the government today still favors male workers even though they might be less qualified or reliable. As a result, women earn only 43% of men’s salaries. Due to this favoritism, women are more likely to be laid off; resulting in the fact that 75% of all unemployed in Russia are women. Russian women are forced to work full-time and then face the full-burden of domestic work at home. Is it any wonder that Russian women see mail-order bride agencies as an opportunity to finally have a better life? With an American husband, Russian women not only gain the much-sought after goal of securing a husband but now also have the added bonus of an improved life.

    But economic hardships and unfair treatment aren’t the only things driving Russian women to look abroad for love. It’s a known fact that Russia suffers from a drastic lack of eligible bachelors. First of all Russian men have the lowest life expectancy of any men on Earth. Some estimates put the life expectancy of Russian men as low as 48 years. It is a well known problem for Russian women that there simply aren’t enough men to meed the demand from the overwhelming amounts of single women, and this only leads the Russian men that are left to take full advantage that the ratios are in their favor. The numbers that were taken about fifteen years ago point out that there are 3,361,255 more women than men aged 15-64 in Russia. However this number has probably increased greatly over the past decade making the ratios that much more of an issue for single Russian women.

    Russian women want something better. A large number of Russian women prefer American men. “Our [Russian] men treat women like objects…They drink, they smoke, they have bad hygiene and care only about themselves. These Americans don’t smoke or drink. They really seem to want to settle down and take care of their family.” But what about these “dream men”? What draws successful Western men towards mail-order bride agencies? The majority of men who participate in these services are white, educated, around 37 years old, and are ideologically conservative. These men are tired of “career-obsessed” women and see Russian women as less materialistic and more appreciative of men. Many men are just frustrated by the American dating scene. One potential groom describes his searches through bars, clubs coffee-houses, laundry mats and grocery stores with no success. Russian women are seen as ideal over other nationalities as they “have a European face but the patience of an Asian.” Russian women are seen as more feminine and more traditional; while Russian women see American men as more considerate, more ambitious, and less inclined to drunkenness. Western men see Russian women as more mature and usually more educated than their Asian counterparts. From the author’s own observations, Russian culture puts emphasis in women looking feminine and well-groomed at all times. Is it any wonder then that American men are attracted to the idea of finding an educated, good-looking wife who will appreciate the simpler things in life?

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