Why do women do so many women from Eastern Europe want to marry foreign men?
This is one of the most common questions that men ask about the international dating industry, but the answer is simple. The women signing up for international dating agencies know that they will almost certainly have a better quality of life in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or any other highly developed country than they would if they remained in the old Soviet Bloc.
Some of it is strictly economics. According to the CIA World Factbook, in 2008 after nearly a decade of robust economic growth the estimated average GDP of Russia was $15,800, in the Ukraine in it was $6,900, and in Moldova, for those of you who know where Moldova is, it was a measly $2,500. By comparison, in the United Kingdom the average GDP was estimated at $37,400, at $39,300 in Australia, at $40,200 in Canada, and at $48,000 in the United State.
So, the numbers are pretty clear, but they tell only part of the story because the distribution of wealth is so uneven in most of the old Soviet Bloc that even those numbers are too rosy and poverty, in many areas grinding poverty, is a way of life for most people. So, it’s obvious how attractive a Western husband might be to an ambitious young lady. However, the economic issues are only a part of the equation. Eastern Europe was still largely a feudal society well into the nineteenth century.
The vast majority of the population were peasants with few economic opportunities and virtually no political power, ruled by a Westernized elite that was often out of touch with the needs of the common people and determined to maintain their ancient privileges regardless of the costs, and maintain them they did. For instance, France essentially abolished serfdom in 1318 at about the same time as it faded across most of Western Europe, but the institution continued in Russia until Czar Alexander I freed the serfs, more than 23,000,000 of them, in 1861 – over 500 years later!
These bleak economic and political conditions and the often unforgiving climate led to the development of a culture that was at it’s core more pessimistic and more patriarchal than in Western Europe. For a peasant his only escape from the grinding poverty and hard labor was vodka and the only place his personal authority meant anything was inside of his own home, which he ruled with an iron fist.
Russian folk sayings such as, “A wife is not a pot; she will not break” and “If the thunder is not loud, the peasant will forget to cross himself” give an idea of what life was like for the average peasant woman.
Today the underlying traces of this tough, dark, male dominated peasant culture are still easy to spot in Eastern Europe; it’s often what women are fleeing from when they turn to the internet in search of a Western husband, because in many respects the fate of men and women diverged in the twentieth century.
The twentieth century was an incredibly traumatic period for Eastern Europe. Beginning in 1914 with the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution through forced collectivization, Stalin’s terror, and the Second World War there was over thirty years of continual upheaval that ripped apart the existing social fabric, killing tens of millions of people, and leaving enormous psychological scars on the survivors. Then beginning in 1945 the USSR spent the next forty-six years slowly sinking into a cesspool of corruption and cynicism that eventually led to the economic and political collapse of the Soviet Union and most of its communist allies.
For men this period was an unmitigated disaster. Women also suffered during the wars and revolutions, but for many women the period also presented previously unimaginable educational opportunities, professional advancement, political influence, and personal accomplishment.
The Soviet Union was, at least in theory, fully committed to equality of the sexes and women quickly began to move into many professions that previously had been off limits to them. Women became doctors, engineers, and scientist, and these changes were accelerated by the stupendous number of men that died during the wars, revolution, and purges, perhaps as many as thirty million during the Second World War.
In fact, because of the numbers of men killed by 1945 the Soviet Union had the most unbalanced sex ratio of any nation, a fact that persists in Russia today where there are approximately 86 men for every 100 women.
So, the Soviet Union’s official policy of equality of the sexes dovetailed well with the demographic realities from the end of the Second World War through 1991. It was no paradise for women. Everyone shared in the economic stagnation and collapse during the last twenty years of the Soviet Union, but the social status of women was high, certainly higher than in many Western countries, and their professional opportunities were essentially unlimited.
However, the fall of the Soviet Union threw everything into disarray. Everything communist was denounced. There was a push to embrace traditional peasant culture again and a sense of uncertainty about everything became the order of the day.
For Russian men the economic collapse and breakdown of the existing social order was a catastrophe, but the most damage was done not from hunger, crime, or political corruption, but from vodka. Russia always had a tradition of heavy drinking, but during the time of the czars poverty helped control alcoholism and later the Soviet Union made repeated attempts to keep drinking under control. However, those controls disappeared after 1991 and the damage is amazing.
Russian’s are the heaviest consumers of alcohol in the world. Russian men are estimated to drink the equivalent of more than 15 liters of pure alcohol in a year, but now researchers believe that is low because it does not include colognes and industrial solvents, which are attractive for alcoholics because they are both cheaper and stronger. They are also deadly. According to one recent study the rate of alcohol poisoning in Russia is 120 times, not 120%, but 120 times more common in Russia than in the European Union.
Alcohol also contributes to numerous accidental deaths and violence and, unsurprisingly, the life expectancy of men in the old Soviet Union plunged. In 2008 according to the CIA World Factbook the average life expectancy for a Russian man is only 59 years old compared to 73 for women and the numbers are about the same across the old Soviet Block. Worse, for many women is that alcohol use also corresponds with an increased incidence of domestic violence and a dramatic rise in the numbers of single mothers.
Perhaps, even worse than all of these problems for the most beautiful, talented, and educated young women, has been the rise in a machismo culture that treats women first, last, and only as sex objects.
In a recent study 100% of female Russian businesswomen had experienced sexual harassment. Thirty percent of women surveyed said that they had to have sex to keep their jobs, and yet when a young woman sued her boss in an effort to become only the third Russian woman to win a sexual harassment suit she lost, because the judge ruled that “If we had no sexual harassment we would have no children”.
The anger that many women feel about this attitude is obvious from the statement on the many web sites where Russian women sign up seeking a Western husbands.
So, the economic issues are important, but ultimately women in the old Soviet Bloc realize that they will probably be happier, safer, and more economically secure if they marry a decent guy from the West rather than looking for a guy in their own country.
Really, their thinking is irrefutably logical.