More than Half of Russians Consider Extra-Marital Sex and Divorce Morally Acceptable, Levada Center Poll Finds

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

(Paul Goble – Window On Eurasia – Staunton, April 19, 2021)

Despite Vladimir Putin’s promotion of traditional family values, a majority of Russians consider extra-marital sex, divorce and couples living together without benefit of official registration morally acceptable, according to the results of a new poll conducted by the Levada Center.

As one would expect, younger people are more inclined to support these alternatives than their elders and in most cases men are more supportive of them than women; but the overwhelming message from this survey is that the Kremlin leader is increasingly out of step with all but the oldest Russians (

Kesniya Agapeyeva and Oksana Greben of the Levada Center report that 43 percent of Russians still believe that only a registered marriage constitutes a family, with older people and women holding that view more often than younger people and men. Those who are or have been married are more inclined to support that view than those who haven’t.

But 60 percent of those who are married or have been married agree that it is possible to live together, while among those who have never been married, “almost eighty percent” have that view, the two Levada Center analysts say. Most agree that a couple without children is not a complete family, although older people feel that way far more than younger ones.

“Almost 90 percent” of Russians consider polygamy morally unacceptable, and an equally large share condemn betrayal by one or the other partner in a marriage. Interestingly, there is no significant difference in the assessments of men and women of that phenomenon. But 55 percent consider sexual relations between unmarried people morally all right.

Even among older people, there is significant acceptance of extra-marital sex, with 44 percent of those over 55 saying it is acceptable, only three percentage points less than the 47 percent who say it isn’t. As far as divorce is concerned, the attitudes of most groups is the same, but those in villages are more likely to condemn it than those in urban areas regardless of age.

Agapeyeva and Greben say that Russia is rapidly catching up to where the US is on pre-marital sex, with 57 percent of Russians now suggesting that it is acceptable, only slightly lower than the 72 percent of Americans who say the same. But Americans are still more inclined to accept divorce than Russians are. Only 36 percent of Russians consider it morally acceptable.

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