to The Economist, Belarus occupies the fourth highest place in the world
for divorce, behind South Korea, Russia and Aruba.
The Belarus statistics
agency has recently published fresh data on marriages and divorces in
Belarus. It also suggests the growing unpopularity of traditional family
lifestyles among Belarus people.
At the same time,
marriages to foreigners are becoming increasingly commonplace. Many
Belarus women, deliberately look for foreigners who can marry them and
take them away from Belarus. Weddings with Russians and Ukrainians happen
most often. Germans, Israelis, Turks and Balts also feature highly among
Belarusians' preferred partners. Of course, not many of them know Belarus'
ranking on divorce.
Is Marriage Becoming
In the last decade, the
number of marriages in Belarus has fluctuated. But as the table below
shows, since independence Belarusians have become less inclined to marry.
The marriage statistics in 2010 basically returned to the post-World War
II level, when the population suffered a huge demographic blow.
The year 2012 once
again saw a decrease. Between January and October the number of newly
established families dropped by 10 per cent. 66,000 marriages were
registered in this period. This equals about 7.5 marriages per 1,000
In the Eastern European
context, Belarus places somewhere between its CIS and EU neighbours. For
example, the Russians and Ukrainians have higher marriage rates: 8.5 per
1,000 and 7.8 per 1,000 respectively.
And the Poles (6.0
marriages per 1,000 citizens), Latvians (4.2) and Lithuanians (5.7) stay
out of wedlock more often than the Belarusians.
The declining trend is
similar across the whole of Eastern Europe. However, in the CIS countries
marriage numbers still remain higher.
World Leader in Divorce
Marriage is just one
step which couples take in the direction of a happy family life. But the
really big thing has to do with sustaining the relationship. Here the
Belarusians seem to have serious difficulties.
Belarus is a world
leader in terms of the divorce rate. According to the World in Figures
2013, published by the Economist, the country ranks number 4 worldwide.
Unlike the marriage
rate, the divorce rate has stayed generally even throughout the years of
sovereignty. Around 35,000 families break apart every year. In
January-October of this year the Belarusian Statistics Agency reports 4.2
divorces per 1,000 citizens. It is higher than in all neighbouring states
numbers of divorces were also registered in Belarus back in the 1980s and
1990s. But because of the falling marriage statistics of the recent decade
the ratio of marriages to divorces is growing. Today it is roughly 2 to 1.
It’s the Economy,
The marriage and
divorce trends in Belarus generally correspond to global trends. A 2008
study by the University of Pennsylvania found a worldwide increase in the
divorce rate and a decrease in the marriage rate after World War II.
The US scholars explain the findings by the fact that the technological
progress of the last 60 years makes it easier for singles to maintain
their own home.
Marrying at a later age
is another worldwide trend which is also typical of present day Belarus.
However, Belarusians still enter into family relations at a younger age
than, for example, Western Europeans and Americans. On average, women in
Belarus get married at the age of 24.5 years and men at the age of 26.6
years. The table below puts this into the international context.
A number of factors can
explain these statistics. Traditions and societal pressure on women to get
married early is definitely a reason in Belarus. Another lies in the
Several studies have
shown that couples in poor countries tend to marry earlier than in
countries with high level of wellbeing. It simply makes financial sense,
as combining life expenses with someone else saves money.
And that’s often the case in Belarus. Young couples first move in together
and later many of them upgrade their relationships to a formal level.
rate can also have an economic dimension. According to the Economist,
economic downturns normally cause an increase in separations, especially
in better-off families. Crises undermine income and make families cut down
on their consumption. Quite often partners tend to blame falling living
standards not on governments but rather on each other.
This could well be the
case in many families in Belarus, because in recent years income
instability has become a widespread phenomenon in the Belarusian economy.
Belarusian families divorce out of pragmatic calculations. This helps them
to secure benefits from legislation. For instance, in certain cases
separated singles who have children have the right to better housing
conditions. Or if one of the former spouses is a pensioner, his or her son
can escape mandatory military service.
Welcome to Belarus: the
Brides are Waiting
The unstable economy
affects the marital choices of Belarusians in one more way. It is
reflected in the increase of marriages with foreigners. Belarusians simply
seek to leave their motherland by marrying nationals of other countries.
Since 2000, the annual number of such marriages has more than doubled.
Today, it makes up to 6-7 per cent of all the registered marriages in the
This looks quite high
given the fact that Belarus has high visa and language barriers. The
majority of marriages are with citizens of Russia and Ukraine who have no
visa or language problems in Belarus. Russians alone account for 25-30 per
cent of all cases.
Other countries that
feature highly among the marital preferences of the Belarusians include
the Baltic States, Israel, Germany and Turkey.
Marriages with aliens
are more widespread among Belarusian women. For some, marrying a foreigner
is a life-long ambition. They dream of a rich alien who can take them away
from Belarus and provide a high standard of living.
No surprise that foreigners enjoy particular popularity among local women
at pubs and night clubs in Belarus. And no surprise, therefore, that
inbound sex tourism has been on the rise in the country in recent years.
Thus, the statistics on
marriages and divorces give us a telling picture of Belarusian society and
economy. In the regional context, this picture is not the gloomiest one.
But it still looks alarming.