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Marriage in Russia. A Complex Phenomenon Poorly Understood - article ; n°1 ; vol.12, pg 7-49

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Population - Année 2000 - Volume 12 - Numéro 1 - Pages 7-49
Avdeev Alexandre, Monnier Alain.- Marriage in Russia: A complex phenomenon poorly understood The first part of this article takes the form of a presentation of the fundamental characteristics of Russian nuptiality over the last three decades. Russia was for long characterised by an early and high nuptiality, in contrast to what was observed in the West. Up to the end of the 1980s, getting married at the end of education or national service marked an essential step in the passage to adulthood. However, the rising level of divorce throughout the period under review suggests that marriage in Russia is also a fragile institution. In the second part of the article survey data is used to re-interpret the less well-known aspects of union formation and the family in Russia. The high levels of prénuptial conceptions, extra-marital births and cohabitation indicate that Russian nuptiality is less monolithic than might be thought. Finally, attention focuses on the recent decline in nuptiality, in the context of the current political, social and economic changes. It is too early to say whether this decline of marriage is purely circumstantial or symptomatic of a far-reaching transformation, though whatever the reason it is not being compensated for by an increase in cohabitation.
Avdeev Alexandre, Monnier Alain.- La nuptialité russe : une complexité méconnue La première partie de cet article est consacrée à une présentation des caractéristiques fondamentales de la nuptialité russe, au cours des trois dernières décennies. La nuptialité russe s'est longtemps caractérisée par une précocité et une intensité qui contrastaient avec ce que l'on observait à l'Ouest. Jusqu'à la fin des années quatre-vingt, se marier, dès la fin des études ou du service militaire, constitue une étape obligatoire du passage à l'âge adulte. Mais l'augmentation du divorce, tout au long de la période étudiée, suggère que le mariage est, en Russie aussi, une institution fragile. Des données d'enquêtes apportent, in une seconde partie, un éclairage nouveau sur des aspects moins connus de la constitution des unions et de la famille en Russie. La fréquence des conceptions prénuptiales, des naissances hors mariage et de la cohabitation montre ainsi que la nuptialité russe est moins monolithique qu'on ne pouvait le croire. Enfin, la chute récente de la nuptialité, in le contexte des transformations politiques, sociales et économiques en cours, est évoquée. On ne peut encore dire si ce recul du mariage est seulement conjoncturel ou s'il révèle une transformation profonde mais, en tout état de cause, il n'est pas compensé par une augmentation de la cohabitation.
Avdeev Alexandre, Monnier Alain.- La nupcialidad en Rusia: una complejidad poco conocida En la primera parte de este articulo se presentan las caracteristicas principales de la nupcialidad en Rusia durante las très ultimas décadas. Tradicionalmente, la nupcialidad rusa se ha caracterizado por una precocidad e intensidad que contrastan con las observadas en Occidente. Hasta finales de los anos ochenta, casarse al finalizar los estudios o el servicio militar constituía una etapa obligatoria de la transición a la edad adulta. Pero el aumento del divorcio a lo largo del periodo analizado también sugiere que, en Rusia, el matrimonio es una institución frágil. En la segunda parte del articulo, los datos de varias encuestas permiten examinar as- pectos menos conocidos de la formación de uniones y de la familia en Rusia. La elevada frecuencia de concepciones pre-nupciales, de nacimientos fuera del matrimonio y de la co- habitación muestran que la nupcialidad rusa es menos monolitica de lo que aparenta. Para finalizar, se analiza la disminución reciente de la nupcialidad en el contexto de las transformaciones politicas, sociales y económicas en curso. Séria prematuro determinar si esta disminución es únicamente coyuntural o si révéla una transformación profunda, pero, en cualquier caso, no queda compensada por un aumento de la cohabitación.
43 pages
Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.

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A. Avdeev
Alain Monnier
Marriage in Russia. A Complex Phenomenon Poorly Understood
In: Population, 12e année, n°1, 2000 pp. 7-49.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Avdeev A., Monnier Alain. Marriage in Russia. A Complex Phenomenon Poorly Understood. In: Population, 12e année, n°1,
2000 pp. 7-49.
http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/pop_0032-4663_2000_hos_12_1_7082Abstract
Avdeev Alexandre, Monnier Alain.- Marriage in Russia: A complex phenomenon poorly understood The
first part of this article takes the form of a presentation of the fundamental characteristics of Russian
nuptiality over the last three decades. Russia was for long characterised by an early and high nuptiality,
in contrast to what was observed in the West. Up to the end of the 1980s, getting married at the end of
education or national service marked an essential step in the passage to adulthood. However, the rising
level of divorce throughout the period under review suggests that marriage in Russia is also a fragile
institution. In the second part of the article survey data is used to re-interpret the less well-known
aspects of union formation and the family in Russia. The high levels of prénuptial conceptions, extra-
marital births and cohabitation indicate that Russian nuptiality is less monolithic than might be thought.
Finally, attention focuses on the recent decline in nuptiality, in the context of the current political, social
and economic changes. It is too early to say whether this decline of marriage is purely circumstantial or
symptomatic of a far-reaching transformation, though whatever the reason it is not being compensated
for by an increase in cohabitation.
Résumé
Avdeev Alexandre, Monnier Alain.- La nuptialité russe : une complexité méconnue La première partie
de cet article est consacrée à une présentation des caractéristiques fondamentales de la nuptialité
russe, au cours des trois dernières décennies. La nuptialité russe s'est longtemps caractérisée par une
précocité et une intensité qui contrastaient avec ce que l'on observait à l'Ouest. Jusqu'à la fin des
années quatre-vingt, se marier, dès la fin des études ou du service militaire, constitue une étape
obligatoire du passage à l'âge adulte. Mais l'augmentation du divorce, tout au long de la période
étudiée, suggère que le mariage est, en Russie aussi, une institution fragile. Des données d'enquêtes
apportent, in une seconde partie, un éclairage nouveau sur des aspects moins connus de la constitution
des unions et de la famille en Russie. La fréquence des conceptions prénuptiales, des naissances hors
mariage et de la cohabitation montre ainsi que la nuptialité russe est moins monolithique qu'on ne
pouvait le croire. Enfin, la chute récente de la nuptialité, in le contexte des transformations politiques,
sociales et économiques en cours, est évoquée. On ne peut encore dire si ce recul du mariage est
seulement conjoncturel ou s'il révèle une transformation profonde mais, en tout état de cause, il n'est
pas compensé par une augmentation de la cohabitation.
Resumen
Avdeev Alexandre, Monnier Alain.- La nupcialidad en Rusia: una complejidad poco conocida En la
primera parte de este articulo se presentan las caracteristicas principales de la nupcialidad en Rusia
durante las très ultimas décadas. Tradicionalmente, la nupcialidad rusa se ha caracterizado por una
precocidad e intensidad que contrastan con las observadas en Occidente. Hasta finales de los anos
ochenta, casarse al finalizar los estudios o el servicio militar constituía una etapa obligatoria de la
transición a la edad adulta. Pero el aumento del divorcio a lo largo del periodo analizado también
sugiere que, en Rusia, el matrimonio es una institución frágil. En la segunda parte del articulo, los datos
de varias encuestas permiten examinar as- pectos menos conocidos de la formación de uniones y de la
familia en Rusia. La elevada frecuencia de concepciones pre-nupciales, de nacimientos fuera del
matrimonio y de la co- habitación muestran que la nupcialidad rusa es menos monolitica de lo que
aparenta. Para finalizar, se analiza la disminución reciente de la nupcialidad en el contexto de las
transformaciones politicas, sociales y económicas en curso. Séria prematuro determinar si esta
disminución es únicamente coyuntural o si révéla una transformación profunda, pero, en cualquier
caso, no queda compensada por un aumento de la cohabitación.Marriage in Russia
A complex phenomenon poorly understood
Alexandre AVDEEV*, Alain MONNIER**
In very many European countries, marriage has been evol
ving considerably for a number of decades. One often observes i
ncreasingly late first marriage, a rise in celibacy, a strong increase
in the frequency of divorce (when permitted by law), the develop
ment of cohabitation outside marriage and an increase in births
outside marriage. In Russia, the age on first marriage fell conti
nuously from I960 to 1990; only over the last few years has the
trend reversed and most of the changes just mentioned are now
present, with the exception of just one: cohabitation outside marr
iage, which housing problems prevent from developing as a subst
itute for marriage. Alexandre Avdeev* and Alain Monnier**
here analyse the various aspects of marriage in Russia over the
past forty years.
In recent decades, marriage in Russia has largely remained true to
the picture painted of it by HajnaK1): until the end of the 1980s, marriage
was still very frequent and early by contrast with what was observed in
Western Europe, where it was becoming rarer and later. This persistence of
two of the characteristics of marriage, whereas marriage in Western Euro
pe was simultaneously undergoing profound changes, should not make one
lose sight of the fact that, in Russia as elsewhere, marriage is a complex
phenomenon in a constant state of flux and one which is not limited to le
gal marriage. Contrary to what could be observed at the time Hajnal was
describing, a couple is not only created by marriage but also by cohabitat
ion or even more by the conception of a child or its birth outside marria
ge; and a union is not dissolved solely by the death of one of the partners
but also by divorce or separation. Taking these different facets of marriage
into consideration, marriage proves to be a more contrasted phenomenon
* Moscow State University.
** National Institute for Demographic Studies, Paris.
Translated by Harold L. Sutcliffe.
") Hajnal J., 1965, "European marriage patterns in perspective", in Population in History.
Essays in Historical Demography, in D.V. Glass, D.E.D. Eversley (éd.), London, Edvard Arnold,
pp. 101-143; 1983, "Two kinds of pre-industrial household formation system", in Family Forms
in Historical Europe, R. Wall (ed.) Cambridge, New York, London, Cambridge University Press,
pp. 65-104.
Population: An English Selection, 12, 2000, 7-50 8 A. AVDEEV, A. MONNIER
than first appeared. Although marriage is exceptionally popular in Russia,
more than one marriage in three is dissolved by divorce. Even though Rus
sians marry very young, this does not mean that marriage is the only con
text for sexuality: premarital sexual relations have long since become part
of the moral landscape, as shown by the frequency of premarital concept
ion. Hence, marriage in Russia has perhaps remained less out of step with
a general trend towards change than might have been thought.
We will first present the "visible face" of marriage, in other words,
marriage, divorce and remarriage, all events which are subject to exhausti
ve official recording, then we will turn our attention to phenomena that are
less well known, but which are all associated with the forming of couples,
the context of sexual relations and procreation: premarital conception, i
llegitimate births and cohabitation. In conclusion, we will consider the re
cent development of marriage in the context of the changes in Russian
society.
This work is essentially based on unpublished data. Although many
works have been published in Russian on the problems of marriage, until
the late 1980s, independent researchers, who had only limited access to
demographic data, were forced to confine themselves to the theoretical as
pects, or else use data from local surveys (Bélova, 1970; Darsky, 1968,
1972; Tolts, 1974; H'ina, 1976a and 1976b). Also, marriage, like other de
mographic topics, was analysed with respect to the USSR as a whole
(Bondarskaya and Darsky, 1990; Darsky and Il'ina 1990; Il'ina, 1984,
1994; Kuznetsov, 1988, 1990; Sifman, 1976; Sinel'nikov, 1989; Vishnevs-
ky and Tolts, 1989; Willekens and Scherbov, 1994). Studies of marriage in
the Republics or particular ethnic groups remained an exception (Volkov,
1979; Coale, 1994). Since the collapse of the USSR, there have been only
five publications on marriage in Russia (Darsky and Il'ina, 1992; S
inel'nikov, 1992; Borisov and Sinel'nikov, 1995; Avdeev, 1998; Scherbov
and van Vianen, 1999 - the last-mentioned work, published when we were
completing this article, is of particular interest since it processes the data
of the 1994 micro-census), which suggests that marriage is not a priority
topic among demographic studies in Russia. This is also evinced by the
very small number of studies by foreign researchers, which stands no com
parison with the profusion of works on mortality. To avoid overburdening
this article essentially devoted to the interpretation of original data, the
authors have not attempted to survey the demographic research on marria
ge in Russia. For this, the reader is referred to the bibliography. For the
same reason, they have included in an appendix an outline of the develop
ment of the legislation and statistics. I
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Marriage in Russia
I. The visible face of marriage
1. The annual marriage trend
After the Second World War there was a strong increase in marriage
in Russia. Owing to the lack of detailed data prior to 1959, this wave of
marriages cannot be analysed with any precision; however, an examination
of the absolute numbers and crude rates is revealing in itself (Figure 1).
Rate per 1 ,000 inhabitants Absolute number (in thousands)
1 600
INED 23399 12 1 500
- 11 1 400
- 10 1 300
- 9 1 200 f^ Crude marriage rate \. Number \
8 marriages \*^ \ 1 100 of
- 7 1 000
- 6 900 \
5 800
1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995
Figure 1 .- Number of marriages and crude marriage rate
Even in 1945 the number of marriages exceeds that in 1940, the last
year before the outbreak of hostilities; in 1946 it reaches 1.3 million, or
twice that in 1940. This very strong increase probably results from demob
ilisation, but also from the change in legislation relating to cohabitation:
in 1944, recognition of cohabitation was withdrawn (cf. Appendix 1); for
many couples, marriage was merely the régularisation of unions which
already existed. Overall, it may be estimated that the sharp rise in marria
ge in the immediate post-war period until roughly the end of the forties
was making up for marriages postponed during the conflict, on a par with
what was observed in Western Europe.
This first wave of marriages did not fall off once the marriages post
poned by the war were concluded. From the beginning of the fifties, a se
cond wave may be observed, which would last for about a decade, when
the large 1935-1940 birth cohorts reached marrying age. From 1961, the
number of marriages drops very sharply and the crude marriage rate falls 4
points, from 12 to 9 per thousand, between 1960 and 1964. However, from
1965, the birth cohorts of the post-war years and the "baby-boom" of the
fifties emerge onto the "marriage market", which entails a very apprécia- 10 A. AVDEEV, A. MONNIER
ble upturn in marriages (Darsky and H'ina, 1990; Gorshkova, 1978; Il'ina
1976a, 1976b; Kiseleva and Sinel'nikov, 1984).
From 1959 onwards, detailed data on the age of partners and the or
der of marriage are gathered. These data had not been published until re
cently, though research carried out in the archives of Goskomstat made it
possible to reconstitute almost complete series of statistics; 1961 and 1963
are the only years missing. These data make it possible to calculate the
age-specific rates, to combine them by calendar year or birth cohort and to
calculate the classic indices attached to the distribution of these rates; they
are available for the whole of Russia as well as for towns and country
areas separately.
Table 1 presents the development of various annual indices: total
number of marriages, crude marriage rate, proportion of first marriages,
total first marriage rate and average age at first marriage.
Table 1.- Annual marriage indices in Russia (1959-1995)
Proportion Crude Average age at first Total first marriage rate Total of first marriage marriage Year number of marriages rate marriages Women Men Women Men (%o) (%)
1960 1499580 92 12.5 1.17 1.19 24.67 26.48
1965 1097585 87 8.7 1.09 0.95 23.98 25.92
1970 1319227 86 10.1 1.06 1.14 23.24 24.90
84 11.1 1.04 1975 1495787 1.03 22.66 24.30
1980 1464579 82 10.6 0.96 0.92 22.39 24.19
1 389426 75 9.7 0.97 0.88 22.24 1985 24.16
1990 1319928 75 8.9 1.00 0.95 21.90 23.97
1991 1277232 75 8.6 0.96 0.92 21.84 23.99
0.74 1992 1053717 74 7.1 0.78 21.77 23.90
1993 1 106723 75 7.4 0.81 0.78 21.76 23.87
1994 1 080600 73 0.75 24.01 7.3 0.77 21.88
1995 1075219 73 7.3 0.75 0.73 22.04 24.20
1996 866651 72 0.60 0.58 24.40 5.9 22.19
n.a.* n.a.* n.a.* n.a.* 1997 928411 71 6.3
Source: A. Avdeev, A. Monnier, 1996, Mouvement de la population de la Russie 1959-1994. Tableaux
démographiques, in Données statistiques, No. 1, Institut national d'études démographiques, Paris (Updat
ed).
* Since 1997 direct calculation of the total first marriage rate and average age at marriage has been imposs
ible owing to reduced statistics on marriages (cf. Appendix 3).
In the first place, these observations confirm the popularity of mar
riage until recent years (Vishnevsky and Il'ina, 1989). Until 1992, the pe
riod indicator (Figure 2) has virtually always been above 0.90 in men and
0.95 in women; it is even above unity until about 1980 in men and most of
the time in women under the effect of a strong trend towards early marria
ge. During the eighties there is a slight increase, which ceases in 1990.
Thereafter, the index fell sharply in 1992, in 1996 reaching a value of the I
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Marriage in Russia 1 1
order of 0.60. Another variation, to which we will revert, is noteworthy:
the male rate alone experienced strong swings during the sixties.
First marriages per person
INED 23499
1.10
. Women
- 1.00
- 0.90 v
- - 0.80
w
- 0.70
- - 0.60
\ 0.50
1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000
Year
Figure 2.- Total first marriage rate (1959-1996)
Average age at first marriage, calculated each year, fell sharply: from
25 to 22 years for women and from 27 to 24 years for men; most of this r
eduction in age took place in the sixties (Figure 3); this trend has more or
less stabilised in men since the end of the seventies, whereas in women it
has continued, at a more moderate rate, until recently.
An examination of the trend in the marriage rates for single persons
at the ages when marriage is most significant provides further details.
Where men are concerned (Figure 4a), three periods can be distinguished:
a collapse in the rates at the beginning of the sixties, followed by a rally,
which might be termed "the crisis of the sixties"; a long period of stability
from the mid-seventies to the end of the eighties and, lastly, a marked fall
at the beginning of the nineties. This figure clearly illustrates the dual
trend which was at work in the second half of the sixties: a return to the le
vel was observed before the trough at the start of that decade a
ccompanied by a very marked fall in age. This declining age phase, the only
one in the entire period, took the form, among other things, of a drop in
the modal age: 23 years until 1968, 22 years until 1972, 21 years from then
onwards; it will also be noted, as an illustration of the extent and speed of
the fall in age, that the male first marriage rate at 21 years tripled between
1965 and 1974. In fact, this very contrasted male marriage trend reflects i
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12 A. AVDEEV, A. MONNIER
Average age
INED 23599
- 26
- 25 Men ^\__^
^- \-^ \ \^ 24
\
- - 23 Women
4
- 22 4.
- - 21
i ,,,,,,,, 20
1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000
Year
Figure 3.- Average age at first marriage (1959-1996)
the imbalances in the marriage market linked with the succession of deple
ted cohorts and full cohorts.
The trend in female first marriage rates (Figure 4b) proves to be very
"crisis" different, in particular owing to the absence of any during the six
ties; the more gradual fall in age revealed itself over a thirty-year period
starting from the end of the sixties: the modal age, which was 20 years unt
il the end of the seventies, rose from 19 to 20 until the middle of the eight
ies, then from 18 to 19 years. Ultimately, the trend of female first
marriage is quite clear: the rates of the youngest, from 17 to 20 years, i
ncreased until the beginning of the nineties, while the rates for women aged
21 years and over consistently declined throughout this period.
Lastly, the fall of recent years bears all the hallmarks of a cyclical phe
nomenon: a synchronous trend at all ages, in men as well as in women.
Whether this fall reflects a wait-and-see phenomenon or whether it marks a
deeper disaffection with marriage, it very clearly seems to have been trigge
red by the political and social changes which have occurred in Russia^2).
(2) Strong differences in demographic behaviour are known to exist between town and
country in Russia. However, no differential study can be made of the marriage of single per
sons on the basis of place of residence owing to observation bias making it virtually impossible
to interpret these indices, particularly where the countryside is concerned. '
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Marriage in Russia 13
Per 1 ,000
— r- 250 —
22
a- Men — 25 -- 21
24 20 - 200 23 _____ rg
150 -\ \
100
1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995
Year
Figure 4a.- Age-specific first marriage rate (men)
Per 1,000
Г 250
23 20 b - Women 22 19
200 - .... 18 --21
150 -
loo *«■■•..,
1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995
Year
Figure 4b.- Age-specific first marriage rate (women) i
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A. AVDEEV, A. MONNIER 14
2. Marriage by birth cohorts
Over and above the annual variations in marriage already described,
a longitudinal analysis reveals the fundamental trends of this phenomenon.
It is not possible, on the basis of the available data, to chart the mar
riage profile in the oldest birth cohorts. In view of the gaps in information,
it is only starting with the birth cohort which reached the minimum legal
age for marriage in 1959 that the series of first marriage rates in the birth
cohorts can be reconstituted from the beginning^).
The data in Table 2, which are illustrated by Figures 5a and 5b, re
veal the falling age of marriage in the post-war birth cohorts. In women,
this trend was based on an increase in marriage in the youngest (under 20
years of age), as the gradual leftward shift of the curves shows. It is, in
particular, at 18 years of age that this increase has been most marked: from
the 1950 to the 1971 birth cohorts, the first marriage rates increased by
55% (from 110 first marriages for every 1,000 women to 165); in the 1971
birth cohort, 18 years is, moreover, the modal age of women's marriage.
180 — lili 'iNED 23899 - Women b л s 160
140 s.
120 -li M
- 100
i - 80 \ 1950
I \\ 60
40
20
197(П 1960*
f
17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29
Age Age
Figure 5a and 5b.- Age-specific first marriage rates in three birth cohorts,
per 1 ,000
'3) And even then only by virtue of a number of approximations: failing any distribution
of marriage by age in 1960 and 1962, the rates of these two years were estimated by linear
interpolation.