Tuesday, June 5, 2007

From Russia with Love – Part 3

In my teen years I loved Russian women: Anna Karenina, Natasha Rostova, Catherine the Great, and of course, Julie Christie playing Lara Antipova in Dr. Zhivago. Russian women are more than smart and beautiful. They're extraordinary.

Today Russian women over age 30 outnumber men in the same age range by 3-7 percent. Sociologically, this is related to huge losses of men incurred during the two world wars, during the six to seven decades of Soviet purges, and other factors. Russian women are educated – indeed most are highly educated by American standards. Most Russian doctors are women. But getting married is very challenging, and having children is hard, especially after age 25, when many Russians believe women are too old to get married. Single women, especially in university and getting government funding, cannot visit the United States because they tend to get married to American men and don't come back to Russia.

The competition for men is vicious. The Washington Post reported in 2004 that the battle begins with cosmetics:

Just a generation removed from the time when their mothers and grandmothers resorted to the peasant trick of reddening their cheeks with beets, Russian women today spends twice as much of their income on cosmetics as Western Europeans do -- 12 percent of their entire paychecks on average, according to the research firm Comcon-Pharma.

Since many poor Russian women receive an excellent education, they can at least hope to marry well if they snag the right male. Some give up and succumb to Web-based dating services that promise drooling Western men a 1950s-era housewife complete with pearls and high heels. Even worse, some Russian women get snared by the sex clubs that have sprung up all around Moscow.

The good news is that the gender ratio is slowly balancing out. As far as Russia's women are concerned, it can't come a moment too soon.

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