So tell me, Svetlana, what was it that first attracted you to this old, fat, bald millionaire?

Stefanie Marsh reports on how Russian women are being trained to bag a rich husband

Some advice from Russia for the materially deprived women of Britain: if you’re wondering where it all went wrong and why you ended up not marrying a millionaire, let alone a billionaire, first take a look in the mirror. Chances are that some, if not most, of the following attributes apply to you . . .

You wear flat shoes. If you do wear earrings, they’ll be plain old studs, not the dangly, sparkly sort favoured by men of taste. Your hands and feet are unmanicured, your eyebrows unplucked. Your hair is blow-dried only for weddings. Your favourite words and phrases are: “No”, “Not tonight”, or “Do we have to?” (as opposed to: “Yes,” and “I can be whatever you want me to be”). You favour tights over stockings and if you have ever taken them off in front of a man, you haven’t done so in pigtails while sucking a lollipop and in time to George Michael’s Father Figure. You haven’t done so because decades of feminist thought have conned you into thinking that it is demeaning to be subservient, and that the brain is the most attractive part of the female anatomy. From Moscow comes the news that the most attractive part of a woman’s body is “irrefutably still the arse”. This is Vladimir Rakovsky’s view, and he thinks he should know. Over the past ten years Rakovsky has become the leading authority on how to marry a millionaire.

Not just a millionaire, claims Rakovsky. His oversubscribed courses in Moscow, Kiev, St Petersburg and select resort hotels in Egypt instruct women how to find, and hold on to, a Real Man. I tell him that many people in Britain think a Real Man is the kind of person who knows how to change a nappy or cry. Rakovsky digests this with a grimace, for him it is more proof of the corrupting influence of the West, which he also holds partly responsible for the recent defeminisation of Russian women and the invention of the detested “metrosexual”. No, a Real Man in Russia is only three things: he is good in bed, he has emotion and he has money. As long as he is these three things he doesn’t even have to be attractive or sober.

Rakovsky is sober but less attractive in real life than he is on his website, which does a good job of obscuring his striking paunch. Sign up for one of his $200 (£100) six-part “Stervologiya” courses (the word derives from the Russian for “bitch”), says the website, and you can become “a strong, successful self-confident woman; a player who can skilfully manipulate a man; a woman who makes a man do what she wants but makes him feel that he’s in charge”. She gets what she wants by “creating a whole system with which to play with a man” and making comments such as: “I have a big bum, do you want to touch it?” Even at work “a short skirt and bright red lipstick never hurt anyone”, says Rakovsky, “a boss is not interested in a robot”. In many parts of Russia sexual harassment is still considered a compliment.

 Want to marry a millionaire?

We are in a back room in an empty Moscow theatre where Stervologiya classes take place three times a week. Everything that you need to know about postcommunist Russian sexual politics is here. Twelve women in short skirts and heels are taking rapt, meticulous notes from Rakovsky. The women are sitting, he is standing. Thewomen are attractive, but single, divorced or desperate. Rakovsky is flabby but married (several times over): “You already know how to be independent and strong, but who is teaching you to be a real woman, to be mild?” he muses rhetorically. “You should be light and fluffy. Sometimes it is hard for you to bring a cup of coffee to your man, to show him respect. It is hard for you to be quiet, to be patient, to resist the urge to take control.”

A hefty blonde in her late thirties is taken aback by this insight: “I always want to take control of my man. I can’t fight it. But as soon as I take control, I lose interest in him.”

Rakovsky is sympathetic but firm: “Russian women are psychologically repressed because of their history. The traditional Soviet understanding of a woman’s role is that she should take the lead. Women have been told that to get something they have to try a lot. After perestroika many women lost their jobs or the husbands lost their jobs and they felt unneeded. What I teach is a little bit different. What you can do well, you do yourself. Of course you can change the car tyres yourself, but why do you have to show your strength?”

He asks the women to draw up on paper a plan on how to attract a man, to begin a relationship and make it serious. This involves not only careful budgeting but ingenuity. Where are all the rich men? One woman suggests joining a deep-sea diving club. Another suggests her local bar.

Rakovsky is unimpressed by their lack of vision: “If you want a real man you have to have a real strategy. I’ll give you an example of a genius plan,” he says. “A woman decides to open a VIP club and sends invitations to only rich, attractive men. On opening night she is the sole woman there. This is a plan with strategic realisation.”

How rich is rich enough? The consensus from the women here to-day is that a real man doesn’t necessarily have to be a millionaire as long as “he can afford everything”. “A man must have money to make you happy,” says Anna, a pretty and robust-looking 27-year-old HR manager who signed up for the course after her marriage fell apart. Anna says that the miniskirt she is wearing is new and it seems to be attracting “more of a reaction” than the backless top she experimented with last week.

“It’s up to a man to be good at business and women to be beautiful. A man without money is not a man,” sighs Anna. “He is a boy.”

Irina, a 28-year-old, turned to Stervologiya after she was dumped for the first time in her life. It has, she says, given her confidence and, in Rakovsky’s words, helped her to “identify her prey”. Tonight her enormous cleavage threatens at any moment to break loose from her low-cut frilly top. Do other women mind? “If a woman is not happy that way it’s fine for me. There are fewer competitors.”

Irina’s mission when she started was to become the mistress of a millionaire she’d met. “Recently he’s called me,” she says airily. “But the problem is that the better a woman becomes, the less men deserve her. I’m too good for that millionaire now.” She has no problem “with being subservient to a man in private; if I behaved at home as I do at work, I’d never get anywhere”.

One of the cornerstones of Stervologiya is Rakovsky’s theory that men come in only three varieties. Once a woman has identified whether deep down a man is a little boy, a mature man or a carefree bachelor type, she can realign her behaviour accordingly. The little boy craves a self-confident, mature woman who will take him in hand. Meanwhile, a woman who behaves like a timid, often shy and occasionally ignorant five-year-old child will bring out the protective instincts of the mature man. Even if you are an overweight fiftysomething woman, the eternal bachelor will be more susceptible to your advances if you move (and occasionally skip) like a carefree teenager.

Apart from the influence of the evil West, two other factors make it particularly difficult for any woman to find a Real Man in Russia. First, men in general are in short supply – male life expectancy here is 58. Secondly, huge losses of men in the Second World War and the Soviet labour camps have contributed to the myth that men are special.

“Russian men are really quite weak,” says Rakovsky. “They are frightened of career women, as they are frightened of their mothers.” What they are not frightened of is a woman who is selfless, physically attractive, fit, interested in sex, educated and indispensable. A woman “who always smiles, flirts erotically but isn’t vulgar, has good manners and is rather shy”.

In the corner, Ivgenia, 23, to whom Vladimir is married at the moment, stands in a short black dress and heels, casting her connoisseur’s gaze over the assembled stragglers. In a moment, once her husband has set this week’s homework (return next week with the business cards of at least three interesting men), she will take the women next door for Part Four of the Art of Seduction, in which her charges learn to permanently walk as if on a catwalk and take off what few clothes they have on in an alluring yet sophisticated manner and in time to Britney Spears’s I’m a Slave 4 U.

They will learn how to wiggle their hips, kneel in a posture of mock subjugation and eat a banana suggestively by practising in front of a mirror – all with a view to some day applying those techniques to the anatomy of a very successful man. They are successful themselves, these women – they earn high wages, they even run their own companies thanks to Russia’s booming economy – but they take their cues from Ivgenia, a former model. Why? Because in one crucial aspect she outclasses them all. Besides Stervologiya, her husband owns several other thriving businesses. He is middle-aged and overweight. But he is rich.

From The Times

July 19, 2007

 Have your say

OK, this is a fascinating piece of information. Does this anyhow help to understand the Russian society, or women, in particular? Just reading the latest scoop on the UK-Russian relations here, and you know, am rather fascinated by the tone and choice of topic, to put it bluntly. It is already bad enough that the situation is what it is, but this aricle is just slightly too much to bear. Being a Russian woman from Siberia, of which I'm rather proud, I only wish that the media would do a better job at discerning facts and writing their stories.

Anna, Cambridge,

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Превращение в стерву похоже на игру в шахматы. Ты — пешка, фигура незаметная, одна из многих. Ты стоишь в первом ряду, и поэтому из тебя хотят сделать. пушечное мясо (например, твои же коллеги по работе). Твоя задача — пройти весь путь до последней линии и стать «королевой», пройти по всем клеточкам не спеша, создавая себе сложную защиту из более значительных фигур. Чем дальше ты будешь продвигаться, тем больше вероятность того, что противник пожертвует конем или даже своим ферзем, лишь бы не дать хебе прорваться к последней клеточке. У «ключевых фигур» свои, более жестокие законы. Продвигаясь по клеточкам, ты узнаешь правила игры, научишься просчитывать другие фигуры сначала на несколько ходов, а потом, как гроссмейстеры, всю партию от начала до конца. Вполне может быть, что в одной партии тебе не повезет, а значит, придется начинать все с самого начала, и даже не один раз. Но победа стоит этого — ты станешь «королевой»!