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13 Jan, 2009 07:18

Economic crisis to freeze baby boom?

Family values in Russia are being affected by the credit crunch, but it is not yet clear whether the economic meltdown will lead to more divorces or, on the contrary, pull families closer together.

In a country where women outnumber men by ten million, finding a partner has always been something of a challenge.

And now with unemployment rising, salaries stagnating and banks refusing to give out credit, the chances of talking a man into marriage seem to be very low.

Lawyer Aleksandr Dobrovinsky, who has made his name divorcing Russia’s super-rich and winning back assets from errant husbands, says there are now more customers knocking on his door than before the credit crunch.

“New marriages will be much more interesting to see because now we are doing, I would say, three times more prenuptial agreements than earlier, because people and mainly their parents want to preserve their belongings,” Dobrovinsky says.

Irina Solovyova who lives and works in Moscow, does not frighten her male friends with such phrases as ‘prenuptial agreement’. All she expects from a man is love, care – and probably a bottle of perfume for Christmas. Nowadays even those small fortunes are now quite hard to find, she says.

“Certain things have changed in figures. Some time ago I could go to a nightclub without even considering paying for myself. Men would buy drinks for me. They do pay at the bar now too, but the number of cocktails has dropped from ten to two,” Irina says.

Russia’s demography is not likely to suffer greatly if men ply women with fewer drinks, but if the crisis leads to men deciding to have fewer children, or not to have them at all, the government’s attempts to pull through a demographic crisis might prove useless.

With Moscow leading the way in a massive promotion of family values, Russia is now dramatically reversing a decade-long drop in its birthrate. The number of children born last year was the highest since 1991.

However, if young couples face a challenge of making the ends meet as a result, the demographic crisis will again become the government’s main headache.

Psychiatrist Artyom Tolokonin runs an enterprise which is known as a ‘clinic for millionaires’. He charges his clients $US 10,000 for a 40-minute-long session. A year-long membership starts from $US 50,000 and he says it’s a good deal, especially now, that many of the country's richest people could become his potential clients.

“On the one hand the number of divorces will grow. Marriages which were based solely on money – and it's a great pity, there are a lot of those here – will crash. At the same time marriages built on solid foundations will only get stronger. The crisis will make partners closer,” Tolokonin says.

Meanwhile, Dobrovinsky also suggests that the crisis is good for newborns:

“People stay at home. The family is more protected. The guy doesn’t have a lot of money to go out. To have a mistress is a very costly operation, so he will stay at home and make love from time to time. And then we’ll face another baby boom probably,” he says.

If indeed the country sees a baby boom in nine months time, it would mean that Russia’s number one national project has been accomplished.