Monday, October 05, 2009

A tourist in Moscow: The brides of Red Square

If you live in Moscow, Red Square is the traditional place to go after your wedding. Brides come from all over Russia to have their photos taken in their wedding dresses on Red Square. "If you can count seven brides here in one day, you will have good luck," a Russian friend told me. No problem. I counted eight different brides in the first 20 minutes I was here.

Russia is delightful. I came here with Grand Circle Travel in order to take a cruise up the Volga, figuring that this would be a cheap and easy way to see one of the world's top superpowers. After all, Russia did try to stop Bush from making a fool of himself in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now, hopefully, Russia will also put the brakes on Obama and help to keep him from making a fool of himself in Iran. So with all this in mind, I wanted to see one of the most powerful countries in the world today -- up close and personal. And it turned out that Grand Circle Travel offers a really good tour -- even if I am, at age 67, one of the youngest people along. But I'm here to tell you -- us old people are fierce!

And now I'm over here in Red Square, counting brides. And I have the video to prove it:

"Speaking of Russian brides," I asked one of the various Russians I met in Moscow, "are Russian women all still as eager to marry American men as they used to be?"

"Back in the 1990s," my Russian friend answered, "when my country was going through extremely hard times economically, Gorbachev was very popular in the West but here at home he was hated because he was in charge when the economy collapsed. And during those hard times, many Russian women tried to escape this new poverty by marrying American men. However, now that the Russian economy has picked up again, there is not that pressing an economic imperative to go off to America to seek a better life."

I can believe that. From what I have seen so far, Russia is now doing very well economically. Even out in one of the small towns that I visited, there was a late-model Chevrolet parked in the driveway of one of the farmhouses. And on Red Square, GUM department store now looks more like Saks Fifth Avenue than the old grim GUM from the days of Stalin. The change is incredible.

"However," added my Russian friend, "women still want to go to America." I'll bet! America is a lot warmer! It's getting really cold here already. I can't even imagine what it will be like here in February. "However, not that many Russian women are marrying American men in order to get over to America."

"Why is that?"

"The U.S. immigration laws are much tighter now. First of all, Americans are now required to come over to Russia to get married. There are no more picture brides. And even then, the new wives still have to wait from two months to two years to get approved for immigration. It's not as easy now as it was in the past."

PS: I just came across a cat who was happily strolling across Red Square. And then he went on a window-shopping tour of the newly-refurbished GUM department store. So I just HAD to video-tape this cat's strange odyssey through the world of Russia's most famous tourist destination. Here's my video of the cat: