Divorce has existed in Russia for as long as marriage has.  In medieval Russia the registration of births, deaths, marriages and divorces were exclusively controlled by the Orthodox Church.  You’d think that would be a recipe for disaster but in fact the Orthodox Church was surprisingly open-minded for the times, and gave a wide range of justifications for divorce.

A husband was not only permitted but obligated to divorce his wife if she ate, drank or slept with an outsider.  These were considered adulterous acts at the time, at least for a woman.  On the other hand, a man could eat, sleep and drink with whomever he wished.  His poor wife could, however, console herself with the fact that her cheating husband had to pay a fine.  Not to her of course, but to the church.  A wife was allowed to divorce her husband only in rare cases when he unjustly accused her of being a witch or a murderer, which is fair enough.  Yet, despite this apparent leniency towards divorce, there were many hoops to jump through before it would be granted.  Thus, many couples separated without bothering to get a church sanctioned split.

At the end of the Russian Revolution the Bolsheviks introduced the Decree of Divorce which required the couple to simply fill out some paperwork, no justifications needed, and that was that.  The husband was not required to send child support payments or financial help to his ex-wife if he did not wish to.  Presumably many did not.

Since those times a lot has changed.  In an effort to stop a decline in population Vladamir Putin, the champion of traditional values has led the charge in calling for wide ranging reforms.  These include the recent ban on “gay propaganda” to minors.  Another of these reforms is a proposed divorce tax.  In Russia, one in every two marriages ends in Divorce.  Elena Mizulina, the head of Duma’s Family Committee stated “the question arises: how to hold on?  One of the measures being suggested is to introduce a levy from separating partners, not fathers.”  This “levy” will be between 500 and 1000 rubles (£10-20) and the money raised will be put in a fund to help broken families.  It is unlikely this small fine will have much impact on the Russian divorce rate but at least the Government stands to make quite a lot.

Ironically, Mr Putin has recently filed for divorce which begs the question, will he have to pay the fine as well?

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