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Moscow doesn’t believe in love

Ulya Fomina’s husband wasn’t a particularly generous or loving man. He exchanged the flowers (Russian) she got on their wedding…

By Lena Smirnova , in Maybe Avos: Inside the Russian State of Mind , on January 18, 2011 Tags: , , ,

Ulya Fomina’s husband wasn’t a particularly generous or loving man. He exchanged the flowers (Russian) she got on their wedding day for money, complained if the tomatoes in his salad were cut the wrong way and forced her to buy him expensive clothes. After they divorced, he stripped their apartment of wallpaper, hauled out the stove, laptop, television – and even the garbage can.

He repented after the divorce, but not for any sentimental reasons.

He was in a financial rut. He didn’t have an apartment and was used to Fomina paying his bills. So he asked her to take him back. When she refused, he attempted to jump from a bridge to convince her.

This is just one of the many romantic stories, sent with love, from Russia.

Marriages in Russia are starting to look more like business operations. The results of a Moscow survey from last week found that 30 per cent of Muscovites get married based on calculation (Russian). Moscow females are slightly more romantic. About 18 per cent of them marry without love.

But even some of the romantics can’t resist hunting for rich spouses.

Many of the country’s 50 billionaires, 120,000 millionaires and numerous wealthy men demonstrated their willingness to divorce to marry younger women. Moscow billboards glow with seductive advertisements for schools that train women to woo these men. Classes cost (Russian) from $200 to $2,000. The less-well off can save money by buying the 2007 manual How to Marry an Oligarch. But Russian women hurry to get married even without a proposal from an oligarch.

Russians are the fastest to get married, according to a recent UNICEF study. There is an economic logic in this. After all, a spouse can be the provider of an apartment, second salary and, sometimes, weekend trips to the family dacha’s vegetable patch.

Russia boasts the world’s highest divorce rate along with its record for fastest marriages. There are five divorces per 1,000 weddings. Each second marriage ends after 10 years.

The richer divorcees can parade out of their former love nest with the artefacts of their failed marriage. Others may have to stay together to share the apartment.

Perhaps I am too pessimistic. Speakers in Russia’s outdoor markets still blast out love songs. People read Akhmatova’s love poems on the subway. Seventy per cent of Muscovites marry for love.

But people do divorce. The oligarchs are among them – and for some that remains the most optimistic statistic.