The most commonly associated subject with Russia, even all the ads you’ve probably seen while searching for information about traveling to Russia, is the concept of the “Russian (mail-order) bride”. The theory is that there are a lot of women in Russia who are desperate to marry rich and/or get out of the country, so they will happily marry anyone who provides them with a cushy lifestyle and a visa. The mail-order part comes from the websites that ostensibly act as dating services that match up these willing brides with their future husbands. And everyone seems to have a story of a “friend” who ordered a Russian bride who divorced him as soon as she got her full citizenship. While that sounds like a ridiculous myth if you replace “Russian” with any Western nationality, I wouldn’t be surprised if many people reading this consider it a matter of fact when it comes to Russia. So let’s try to untangle the story a bit.
Is It Really Possible?
The short answer is no. While there are websites that offer up women that are ready and willing to be shipped out to the highest bidder, these are scams. Also, this is called human trafficking and is illegal.
The only websites that seem to provide “real” Russian women for interested English-speaking men are essentially dating sites. Most of these are free for the women to use, but charge the men a fee to send messages, video chat, and so on. These also do not guarantee that a man will actually get married to a woman on the site, all they provide is the online communication. Once the dating goes offline they are no longer involved in the process. Many of these websites are actually operated by U.S.-based companies, with satellite branches in Eastern Europe.
There are also scam dating websites of course, where “agencies” make fake profiles online and pay women to write messages, which the men have to pay to see and respond to.
How Do Dating Websites Work?
“Russian women,” most of whom are actually in Ukraine, go to physical agencies to “sign up” for the website. These women are usually vetted by agency staff. If a woman is deemed not pretty, young, thin, or educated enough, she will not be able to use the service. This is especially true for websites that charge those looking for a “bride” to communicate with the women, naturally, they want to choose the prettiest ones to maximize interest and profit.
The women who are accepted are (usually) verified, i.e. their ids get scanned and copied into the agency’s database. They are then typically offered a discounted or free glamour shoot, which basically involves suggestive photographs in bed, on the beach and so on. The women can then make a profile using the agency’s computers.
If a woman’s English is not good enough to communicate with men on her own, the agencies offer “translation services” where a staff member writes the messages instead. Many of the messages that get sent to men are highly sexual or at least suggestive. Whether or not that is the woman’s choice is for you to decide.
Why Would They Want to Be a 'Russian Bride?'
Outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg, and also in Ukraine, the economic situation is not great. Many people live below the poverty line, jobs are scarce, it’s expensive to move to the big cities, and yes, one of the easiest ways to “get out” is to get married to a citizen of a Western country.
There is also a gender imbalance in Russia and Ukraine, with more women than men, which makes it both difficult to find a husband and more likely that the husband one does find will be entitled, lazy, and generally unpleasant. Although the same can be said in any country, not just Russia. In general, Russian men tend to be kind and courteous to women. Western men are still seen as likely to be rich and easy to please.
A related issue is that in Russian and Ukrainian society, it is still seen as essential for a woman to get married at a relatively young age (around 25 being the allowed maximum). As such, Russian women are raised to be able to cook, clean, and make babies relatively well (not all of them, of course, but this is the expected standard overall), and they know that these traits are much more appreciated in the West. Similarly, as Russian society is fairly sexist, some (not all!) Russian men expect “their women” to cook, clean and make babies regardless of their other commitments and many Russian women see escaping to the West as a way to have a bit more freedom in their lives.