My recent post about Russia’s declining population led me off on a tangent where I found myself wondering what, if any, impact the ‘mail order’ bride phenomenon had on that decline.
In fact, mail order brides are not new and date back to the 1600’s with Britain and France both using it to populate and stabilise their American colonies but the subsequent obsession with gold on the American frontier in the 1800’s really kicked things off. Men started to write to churches in the east of the country asking for women who may be interested to write back. Advertisements were also placed in newspapers and sometimes, women would place their own advertisement such as this:
“A winsome miss of 22; very beautiful, jolly and entertaining; fond of home and children; from a good family; American; Christian; blue eyes; golden hair; fair complexion; pleasant disposition; play piano. Will inherit $10,000. Also, have means of $1,000. None but men of good education need to write from 20 to 30 years of age.”
So, pre-internet and globalisation, most courtships occurred via letters which is why brides became known as ‘mail order’. Usually, the bride did not see their future husband until shortly before the wedding (but still more dignified that that appalling Channel 9 program, Married at First Sight).
However, and subject to your personal inclination, websites offer women (and some men) from every nation, colour, faith and age. For this post I looked to sites in Russia and the Ukraine given their history and both have suffered severe fertility rate declines since the early 1990’s. What, if any, role did the mail order bride sites play?
The number of women using these services to find an international partner is difficult to ascertain but it appears that 40-60,000 in each nation is a fair assessment (excluding mobile on-line services which are often duplication). One internet site claimed “25,000 hot women” but that appears to be acting partly as an aggregator rather than a sole agency.
The women’s primary target appears to be men in the USA and potentially Australia. Canada is also a desirable destination but the options are more limited as Canada doesn’t offer a specific prospective marriage visa. Perhaps surprisingly, NZ is also in the mix as a destination although they also don’t have a specific fiancée visa. But, as Lionel Ritchie sang, ‘Love will find a way’.
Of course, some brides look for partners in Europe (such as France, Spain and Britain) but the favourite seems to be the USA to the extent that advertisements often refer to ounces and pounds or feet and inches rather than metric units. All sites offer metric conversion.
Allowing for duplication and near certain fraud in some cases, a guesstimate of, say, 80-90,000 women are genuine members of these sites across Russia/Ukraine but more importantly (for them at least), are these sites a pathway to wedded bliss in some far off land? Apparently, yes.
The records I found don’t distil down to the level needed to make a firm judgement but the USA’s K-1 Fiancée visa shows about 1400 arrivals in 2017 from Russia/Ukraine. In Australia, the Prospective Marriage Visa data totals 125 similar visas for 2017/18. There are no published statistics to identify how many men may have married their beloved in Russia/Ukraine and returned to their home country with their new wife (which has other requirements for a spouse visa to be issued).
However, extrapolating the US and Australian data to include other nations suggests that possibly 3-5% of women actually find a partner and emigrate to marry (or marry then emigrate). I did find a report on the internet from the early 2000’s which claimed over 100,000 women were listed on the sites and that “at least” 5% of prospective brides were successful in finding an international partner.
The question remains whether mail order bride sites contributed to population declines in Russia or the Ukraine? The answer must be yes but it is impossible to quantify the extent of that impact. All that can be said is that the loss of, say, 5,000+ young women of childbearing age per year via the mail order bride industry must have contributed, even if only marginally, to Russian fertility rates falling to 1.24 by 1999 whilst the Ukraine’s decline was worse reaching 1.19 by 2003. As discussed in another post, other factors have played a very substantial role in the population decline of either nation and no single cause is responsible.
So Cats, I hope you appreciate my ‘taking one for the team’ by sifting through innumerable websites that offered up some of the most astonishingly beautiful women ever seen. Somebody had to do it.