The matrimonial ‘landscape’ in Russia looks non-uniform, with men and women beginning to marry at ‘different’ ages. Former social clichés about the ‘correct’ age at first marriage no longer apply. One thing is clear: Russians have begun to marry later in life. This trend began to emerge in the mid-1990s and grew noticeably in the 2000s. Marriage registrations for men and women older than 25 years grew in number; in contrast, the number of weddings among young people of college age or recent university graduates fell.
This trend of ‘maturation’ of marriage replaced an opposite trend – the more than 30 years of ‘rejuvenation’ of marriage – say the researchers. In the 1960s and 1970s, sexual relations began earlier, which meant that marriages also shifted to earlier ages to legitimize these relations. This ‘rejuvenation’ was preceded by an ‘aging’ of marriages, which was a consequence of the Second World War, which forced people to postpone weddings.
Sergei Zakharov in his article ‘Marriage and divorce in modern Russia, in Demoscope Weekly, a journal published by HSE.‘to respond adequately to political and social changes, large numbers of Russians sharply rejected the previous model with respect to early marriage’, says
Source: article by Sergei Zakharov
In 2001, the marriage rate for the 25-34 age group, which had continuously risen in the preceding years, exceeded the rather solid level of the late 1980s. Thus, the age-specific marriage rate (number of marriages per 1,000 people of the corresponding sex and age) for men of that age at the beginning of the 21st century was 35.23 vs. 31.23 in 1990, while for their contemporaries it was 25.14 (2001) vs. 22.37 (1990).
Similar processes took place in the 2000s and in later ages. In 2007, the marriage rate for men over 35 years became higher than at the fall of the Soviet Union: in 1990, it stood at 8.24, while in 2007 it reached 9.53.
When comparing matrimonial activity at different ages, among men older than 25 years, the intensity of marriages in 2009 significantly exceeded that of the younger age group.
Whereas the marriage rate for young people was 45.12, it reached 48.10 among the older people.
In parallel with the increase in marital activity at older ages, the 2000s saw a slow decline or stagnation of the marriage rate among people under 25 years of age (Figure 2, blue curves), said Zakharov. In the previous decade, a period of intense political and economic reforms (late 1980s through the first half of the 1990s), the marriage rate among the youngest men and women also declined sharply – by more than half.
The increase in age-specific marriage rates among the older generation and the reduction of these indicators at younger ages have led to a ‘maturing’ of marriage, i.e., growth of the average age of entry into marriage.
Whereas in the second half of the 1990s the average age of spouses increased primarily due to a reduced ‘concentration’ of early marriages, since the beginning of the last decade the ‘aging’ of marriages has continued to rise due to a clear increase in rates among higher ages.
Figure 2. Age-specific marriage rates for men and women, 1979-2013
Source: article by Sergei Zakharov
The age of registering a first marriage in 2013 compared to 1990 had increased by more than three years for both sexes (males from 23.9 to 27.6 years, and for women from 21.9 to 25.2), calculated Zakharov. For remarriage, the average age also increased, albeit by less; for men it increased from 34.9 to 36.9 years, and for women from 33.3 to 34.6 years.
The difference in the average age of men and women at the time of marriage is also increasing, notes Zakharov. Whereas in the 1980s it was slightly less than two years in favour of men, in recent years it is 2.5 years. The ‘aging’ of marriage is therefore seen more in men, concludes Zakharov.