Guest Post: Speedbox – Love by Mail

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.”      

Bless her.

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.

14 thoughts on “Guest Post: Speedbox – Love by Mail”

  1. 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.

    I somehow suspect that the photos presented do not reflect the actual quality of the merchandise.


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  2. In the early 2000’s, I used to peruse the mail-order Russian sites on behalf of a work-mate. Lots of single Mum and doctors if you believe the pitch. All hot looking babes, no tractor drivers.


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  3. In the mid 1990’s it was the personel columns in the local rags. One of my workmates was a Phillipina lady (married to an aussie). I would cut out the men seeking asian women ads and pin them near her desk. We worked in a lab, the pay was shit so we would do crazy stuff to keep us sane. One day I was reading samples on the AAS and I hear my name called. I turned around and there she was with all the other ladies and she opened her lab coat to flash her undergarments. Fun times. The fun police have since risen to power regrettably.


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  4. Pete of Perthsays:
    February 4, 2022 at 2:35 pm
    In the early 2000’s, I used to peruse the mail-order Russian sites on behalf of a work-mate. Lots of single Mum and doctors if you believe the pitch. All hot looking babes, no tractor drivers.

    I can believe doctors, it’s a high social status, usually a good income and generally transferable overseas. Also makes it hard to find a suitable partner of similar status. I’ve met a few eastern European women in that boat, one I found quite sad as she was heading toward 40 without kids or other half and seemed to be getting desperate. She loved children. Although I think she ended up finding a divorced doctor eventually.


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  5. There was a problem earlier on because a dozen or so of the best kept secret in the Galaxy came to Australia on tourist visas and were not seen again which was very enterprising of them but who can blame them for leaving that joint after perestroika when some young ladies were selling themselves on street corners to scrape a living for themselves or their parents. When I left Russia and came back home our Embassy in Moscow wouldn’t even grant my Russian wife a tourist visa and one suspects that they had been belted across the knuckles for their previous indiscretion. The reason given for the non visa issue was that my wife might not return to Russia thus leaving one to believe that their collective IQ was about the same as their shoe size for generally husband and wives live together. My wife had further problems in that she was an English speaking white Christian with several excellent Uni degrees and had a job to start immediately. Legal battles were fought and won including some about opening bank accounts, a tax file number, the medical insurance rebate, and stuff like that. That person has paid almost a million dollars in income tax in over twenty years of residency and citizenship here now. We decided to bring old Mum out for a visit, a renowned physician ere retiring, but our wonderful government insisted we post a bond of over 150K in case Mum also decided not to return when her tourist visa expired. The above is but one illustration of how Government works in this country.
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  6. I believe the death rate for Russian blokes is pretty darn high.

    Which might indicate various types of self abuse which would also make them poor partners.
    https://www.who.int/bulletin/archives/80(11)876.pdf
    A striking feature of previously collected data was the high
    proportion of widows (8). Russian population data also show a
    large deficit of men at middle and older ages (9). Between 1970–
    93, for example, the sex differential in life expectancy at birth
    was approximately 11 years in Russia, compared with an average
    of about six years in European countries



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  7. My wife is rather exotic looking.

    People sometimes ask me how I met her…with a bit too much curiosity.

    If I’m feeling mischievous I’ll say, “Oh, I found her in a catalogue.”

    (Needless to say she is not amused.)

    We know a Russian lady who married a NZer and subsequently moved here. She couldn’t be happier.


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  8. but who can blame them for leaving that joint after perestroika when some young ladies were selling themselves on street corners to scrape a living for themselves or their parents.

    Not just Russia, but all over Eastern Europe.

    My parents went on a driving holiday through Eastern Europe in the 1980s. They said that everywhere they went, there were young women standing on the side of the road soliciting. They were obviously desperate for money – the folks said it was profoundly saddening to see them reduced to such measures.

    On the upside, if Russian and Eastern European women come here to marry and have children, the total beauty quotient in the population is greatly enhanced. We can certainly do with it. 🙂


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  9. Times have changed. During the communist era when I guess cosmetics and other crap wasn’t much available on the Soviet Union, females from that part of the woods were never mentioned as attractive. In fact I recall a hilarious Playboy front cover pretending to be Russian Playboy. It had the image of a tractor on the front page. That was the good looking Russian sheila then.


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  10. In the early to mid-1990s there were entire tour groups of late-20’s to 40-ish farm blokes from the Canadian prairies going on agency arranged try-to-meet-a-wife tours to Poland/Ukraine.
    They were all fair dinkum about landing one.

    This degree of pre-internet agency catalogue East-West matchmaking will not have been restricted to the Canadian prairies.


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