Dreaming of a Mail-Order Husband

Russian-American Internet Romance

Dreaming of a Mail-Order Husband

Book Pages: 208 Illustrations: Published: July 2007

Author: Ericka Johnson

European Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Sociology

In the American media, Russian mail-order brides are often portrayed either as docile victims or as gold diggers in search of money and green cards. Rarely are they allowed to speak for themselves. Until now. In Dreaming of a Mail-Order Husband, six Russian women who are in search of or have already found U.S. husbands via listings on the Internet tell their stories. Ericka Johnson, an American researcher of gender and technology, interviewed these women and others. The women, in their twenties and thirties, describe how they placed listings on the Internet and what they think about their contacts with Western men. They discuss their expectations about marriage in the United States and their reasons for wishing to emigrate. Their differing backgrounds, economic situations, and educational levels belie homogeneous characterizations of Russian mail-order brides.

Each chapter presents one woman’s story and then links it to a discussion of gender roles, the mail-order bride industry, and the severe economic and social constraints of life in Russia. The transitional economy has often left people, after a month’s work, either unpaid or paid unexpectedly with a supply of sunflower oil or toilet paper. Women over twenty-three are considered virtually unmarriageable in Russian society. Russia has a large population of women who are single, divorced, or widowed, who would like to be married yet feel that they have no chance finding a Russian husband. Grim realities such as these motivate women to seek better lives abroad. For many of those seeking a mail-order husband, children or parents play significant roles in the search for better lives, and they play a role in Johnson’s account as well. In addition to her research in the former Soviet Union, Johnson conducted interviews in the United States, and she shares the insights—about dating, marriage, and cross-cultural communication—of a Russian-American married couple who met via the Internet.


Dreaming of a Mail Order Husband is an engaging, highly readable tour into the lived experience of the so-called transition period of the nineties. As such, it would work well in undergraduate courses on Russian area studies on postsocialism or on gender studies.” — Julie Hemment, H-Net Reviews

“[A] fascinating look at the social and economic problems in present day Russia and the choice of that many women make to escape those problems by offering themselves as mail-order brides. . . [A] compelling and emotional read.” — Victoria Kroeger, feminist review blog

“Well-written, well documented . . . and a pleasure to read. It can be enjoyed by the lay person as it vividly portrays the cultural phenomenon of the Russian mail order husband. It is also appropriate as a text in a college-level course, one in which the themes and issues raised in the book can be expanded, discussed and analysed more thoroughly through use of the extensive bibliography.” — Linda S. Fair, Population, Space and Place

“It is amazing how the author manages to embody theoretical detail in the narrative of the book. Indeed, it is impressive that the author manages to address so many issues in one book and to characterize the phenomenon from different perspectives. . . . [E]njoyable for both scientists and a broader audience.” — Ekaterina Timofeeva, Sociology

“The book, vividly placed within the specific socio-economic and political context of the former Soviet Union, fills a gap in our understanding of these women’s motivations. It challenges underlying presumptions on the international matchmaking industry and the stereotypical images of Russian women (and men) and American men (and women).” — Lorena D. Arocha, Social Anthropology

“The stereotype of the mail-order bride. . . is one where a woman is silent and submissive. . . . Dreaming of a Mail-Order Husband offers a corrective to this traditional image. . . . Johnson’s work is an interesting look into the world of mail-order brides and should be read by anyone interested in women’s studies, transnational feminism, marriage, and cross-cultural communication.” — Sam Rivetza, Women's Studies

“What Johnson is arguing in this carefully researched and beautifully written volume is that the notion of Russian women as victims in the mail-order bride business tells only part of the story. What her own experience has shown is that the women she interviewed were ‘active driven individuals with agency’ (p. 158) who wanted the stability of home and family denied them in their own country. Therein lies the wisdom of the title Dreaming of a Mail-Order Husband. Clearly, the internet works both ways.” — Adele Barker, Russian Review

"[T]he volume is an easy read and will no doubt spark lively discussion, particularly among readers well-acquainted with contemporary Russian culture and society." — Olga Mesropova, Slavic and East European Journal

Dreaming of a Mail-Order Husband provides a rich and well-researched account of Russian brides, who, because of the lackluster economic conditions in Russia, hope for a better marriage and life by marrying foreign, mostly U. S., men.” — Felicity Schaeffer-Grabiel, University of California, Santa Cruz

Dreaming of a Mail-Order Husband is a pioneering work of broad interest and significance. It fills an important gap in information about the burgeoning ‘traffic’ in mail-order brides from Russia.” — Jehanne M. Gheith, coeditor of A History of Women’s Writing in Russia


Availability: In stock
Price: $24.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Ericka Johnson is a researcher in the Department of Technology and Social Change at Linköping University in Sweden. She is the author of Situating Simulators: The Integration of Simulations in Medical Practice.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1. A Catalogue of Women 7

2. Olga: Feminism or Femininity 22

3. Vera: A Catalogue of Men 49

4. Valentina: Searching for Companionship 66

5. Tanya: Trafficking in Dreams 88

6. Marina: Culture Shock 107

7. Anastasia and John: Making a Marriage Work 128

8. A Catalogue of Hope 146

Notes 163

Bibliography 183

Index 191
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4029-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4010-2
Publicity material