Russian newlyweds celebrate Family Day. Pcture: AFP
Russian authorities are showing some creativity about arresting population decline. On July 7 the country celebrated its first Day of Family, Love and Fidelity as a national holiday. In a Moscow park a Bench of Reconciliation was inaugurated — a romantic device with a back shaped like angel wings and a curved seat that encourages couples to slide closer together and work out their differences. The intention is that parents not only have children but provide those children with two-parent, stable family lives. Financial incentives to procreate have also been offered.

Last year, as president, Vladimir Putin declared 2008 the Year of the Family. However, a good idea was taken too far when a new holiday called Family Contact Day, on September 12, encouraged Russians to stay home and engage in marital intimacy in the hope of producing children on Russia Day — June 12. One report also notes some resulting abuses, such as induced births and caesareans to meet the target date. 

This month’s new holiday coincides with the Russian Orthodox saints’ day of Fevronia and Pytor. According to tradition, Fevronia saved Pytor from disease in exchange for the promise of marriage, and they stayed together until they died on the same day. In Orthodoxy they are viewed as the prime example of a happy marriage. By contrast, Russia today has very high divorce rates, which, together with lowered life expectancy among men, leaves many children without fathers at home. The country’s population of 141 million is expected to fall by 667,000 people this year as deaths outnumber births. ~ New York Times, July 9