Increase in marriages has a downside

Mass wedding ceremonie in Minsk. Photo AFP, Viktor Drachev

For the last two years, the number of marriages has increased in Belarus, journalist Nasta Zakharevich notices. However, this trend also has a darker side.

Recent statistics show that 57,900 couples got married in 2022. The Belarusian authorities, which have been worried about the declining population, have been satisfied with these findings, Zakharevich writes in an opinion article in Svaboda. The number of marriages seems to have improved in the post-covid years, from 50,000 in 2020 to almost 60,000 last year.

According to the Belarusian government, more weddings are a good sign, and a decrease in marriages is terrible. However, Zakharevich questions that reading.

Simplified lives

Mass repressions, economic and political crises, and state terror are not the ideal conditions in which people want to start a family, she acknowledges. Yet, these hardships may lead to more marriages, as people want to simplify their lives in case things go wrong, Zakharevich notices.

Currently, there are about one and a half thousand people in police detention. And there are likely many more, according to the journalist. And it seems that it is not uncommon for them to become closer to their loved ones. Some of them exchange letters with their loved ones to receive messages from them, or they have long meetings with their spouse. In some cases, both spouses are detained, and they use their relationship as an opportunity to talk together.

Therefore, some Belarusians even get married in prison, Zakharevich writes. She refers to Andrey Aleksandrov and Iryna Zlobina, who married right before their trial last year. And they are one of several.

Official couple

According to Zakharevich, there are no statistics on how many people use marriage as a precaution in times of hardship. Yet, she thinks it “would be logical to assume that there are people who have been together, who decide to get married when they realise that in case of arrest, it would help them in some way.”

Marriage leads to several benefits. For example, it is easier to evacuate the country as an official couple than as an informal couple. In addition, husbands and wives have an official right to family unification. And last but not least, married couples have more property rights in case one of them dies.

Thus, while officials will claim that an increased number of marriages is a positive sign, there is definitely an “uncomfortable nuance” to this trend, Zakharevich concludes. “And, of course, people will keep silent. I just wonder, are they also lying to themselves?”

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