Chekhov’s Russian Brides
Russian brides. Ukrainian brides. Asian and Latin brides. One of these ads has probably made it past your email’s spam filter. If you check your spam box to make sure it’s not blocking an important email, you’ll no doubt find dozens of “bride” ads, along with the usual miracle cures, surveys and get-rich-quick schemes. The ads tend to look and read the same, a grid of photos of attractive young women in skimpy clothes with plunging necklines and some messaging hinting at their matrimonial desperation. Occasionally, as in the ad below, an actual graphic artist seems to have been hired to put together the ad.
I’m sure there are legitimate services offering international online dating but most of these ads are clearly just a scheme to separate lonely men from their money. This kind of scam inspired one of the subplots in my upcoming Rolly Waters novel, Gillespie Field Groove (pub date TBA, early 2023). Further inspiration came from a story I heard about a more nefarious Russian bride grift dating back to the pre-internet era. I heard this story second-hand so I can’t vouch for its complete veracity (and I’m certainly not going to give you names), but here it is.
Sometime during the Glasnost era, a prominent San Diego attorney made a business trip to Moscow. While there he was wined and dined by the local businessmen, going to restaurants and clubs. At one of the clubs he meets a beautiful young woman. They hit it off and agree to stay in touch after he leaves. Back in the USA, he writes her letters and talks to her on the phone. He falls in love and arranges for her to come to the United States. They get married. So far, so good.
After a few months’ of wedded bliss, things start to change. His new wife seems to have relatives, both here and in Russia, who need her husband’s help. Sometimes it’s legal work. Sometimes it’s money. More and more relatives crawl out of the woodwork. Some would like to set up a business and partner with him. Strange and intimidating men show up at his home and his office, suggesting less than legal ways they might make money together.
Our lawyer friend realizes he’s screwed, the sucker in a long con. The lovely young woman he’s married is just a front for a criminal organization. He starts to fear for his professional reputation and his own well-being. To protect himself, he starts taking notes. He’s a lawyer, after all, and he comes up with a plan to extricate himself from the situation.
He doesn’t take any of this to the police. He doesn’t have enough evidence to win a criminal case and fears reprisals from the crooks. He hasn’t been married for long so he’s able to present his case in court and get an annulment (based on fraud). Quick and easy, before any of the bad guys (and girl) know what he’s up to. And it works.
His wife returns to Russia. He waits, fearing some sort of reprisal, but there is none. The criminals dry up, disappear, and move on to their next mark. And he moves on in life, a chastened and wiser man.
That’s my Russian brides story. And that’s why I have girl in a bikini on my website today. As for the title of this post? Well, I have to admit that in my geeky literature major way one of the first things I thought of when I first saw the above ad (okay not the first, first thing) was Chekhov. Not Star Trek’s Chekov but the writer and playwright Anton Chekhov. He was Russian. He wrote a play called The Seagull. He wrote another play called The Cherry Orchard. Both feature young women who are seen as good marriage potential. Chekhov often wrote about the difficulty of bringing two worlds together. Look at the ad again. You see where I’m going with this? Nah, I don’t really either, but that’s how I think sometimes and that’s how I came up with the title for this post.
Which brings me to one other question that came up in my mind as I was writing this. Why do you never see any of these ads for Canadian brides?