Russia marked the Day of Married Love and Family Happiness on Friday amid a deepening demographic crisis and a record divorce rate.
The annual celebration was established in 2008 and coincides with a Russian Orthodox Christianity religious holiday devoted to the patron saints of married couples.
Touted as an alternative to Valentine’s Day, which was imported from the West after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Family Day has yet to establish itself in Russia.
Russia had the world’s highest divorce rates in 2010, according to UN figures, and there have been proposals this year that the day be used to stem the tide of separations.
A number of registry offices (which also formalize break-ups in Russia) across the central part of the country proposed on the eve of Family Day that divorces should not be registered on July 8.
This would, the organizers of the proposal said, give unhappy couples an extra day “to think things over.”
Both central and regional authorities have attempted to promote family stability in recent years in an effort to counter both a demographic crisis and shockingly high child abuse rates.
Russia’s population has shrunk from around 150 million in 1991 to just under 142 million today, with no sign of an upturn. Birthrates declined drastically after the Soviet collapse, and show no genuine signs of the kind of improvement needed to – at the very least – maintain current population figures.
The years since perestroika have also seen a startling rise in child violence statistics. Some 2,000 children are killed by adults every year in Russia, many at the hands of parents or relatives.
A social campaign in parts of Siberia this year urged parents to “reject violence for your children’s sake.”
Alcohol abuse has been cited as a major cause of the partial disintegration of the family unit. According to official statistics, over 23,000 Russians die as a result of alcohol abuse every year.