On the face of it, the story of Andrei Chistiakov, a young Russian from Nizhny Novgorod, is nothing unusual: his girlfriend dumped him. Olga spent their last months together at her computer. While he secretly hoped she was hunting around for a flat where they could shack up together, she was actually scouring the web for an eligible foreigner to marry. Olga was fed up with the pathetic one-bedroom place she shared with Andrei, his mother, his kid brother and a permanently inebriated stepfather. So one day she announced to him, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, “I’m going to Canada.” Andrei was knocked for six. “For how long?” he asked. “Forever,” she replied, adding almost proudly, “I’m getting married over there.” Unable to control himself, Andrei slapped her. And that night he got dead drunk on adulterated vodka with a couple of friends.

So Andrei promptly found his pigeonhole in the statistics as the prototypical Russian male: an unemployed university graduate who is inclined to domestic violence, exempted from military service for health reasons, likes his drink and lives alone. Olga, for her part, also joined a statistical category: working-class and always immaculately-dressed Russian woman married to a foreigner through the good offices of a dating service. Once the first effects of his wrath had subsided, Andrei saw the light and posted an ad of his own on the Web. He received replies from all over the world. For the time being, he’s leaning towards a Bulgarian bachelorette. Andrei’s tale is the same as thousands of other Russians’. While their women see them as nothing but “brutes and spendthrift drunks”, in the eyes of foreign women they are “real men, at once romantic, kind-hearted and mouth-wateringly manly”.

Drunken layabouts and filthy primates

According to the experts, the market in eligible Russian women is showing signs of saturation, while the advent of Russian men on the market is something new. Any emancipated European woman can only be thrilled at the prospect of bringing home a brawny Russian who commands respect and doesn’t bother reading tomes in bed before nodding off to sleep. Russian women may try as they like to warn them, it won’t help. For Western women, explains psychotherapist Pavel Ponomariov, “the Russian male is an exotic species”. A little like Tarzan of the East. In our day, few and far between are the European single women who’d actually like to be with one of those bespectacled intellectuals or those bland, boring bankers without even a hint of biceps. Women have already got the intellect and the education. What they need now is a man, a “he-man”, one of those real guys with a rugged complexion weather-beaten by the Siberian winds.

Russians now come in third among the most attractive men on the planet, right after Italians and Americans. So they can take their pick of eligible ladies abroad. In order of preference, most Russians go for English and German women, followed by Luxembourgians and Italians, then Czech and Polish women. But the initial spell of the Russian male’s “feral nature” is not guaranteed to last. “Drunken layabouts and filthy primates, tasteless thugs who dress like mobsters, alcoholics, drug addicts, inveterate egocentrics….” These are just a few of the more endearing character traits ascribed to them by their foreign partners! Western males are not exempt from these epithets. But women seem to deem buttoned-up, humourless Ebenezer Scrooge a far greater calamity than your garden-variety Russian drunk. The woman from the East, for her part, is bound to be the 21st-century feminine ideal.