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15 February

On February 15, 1947, the USSR prohibited marriages between Soviet and foreign citizens.

During World War II, the Germans transferred many Soviet women from the occupied regions to Germany to work there. When the war was over, many of those women decided not to return to the USSR. Some of them did not appreciate the Soviet ideology, and some of them were frightened by the possibility of being accused of high treason. Marrying a foreigner, a Soviet woman got an opportunity to stay abroad. The demographic situation in post-war Europe was hard, so the governments of European countries supported the immigration.

The prohibition was not only a way to improve the demographic situation in the USSR, but also a part of the isolation policy implemented by Stalin those times. In 1947, the government had been carrying out patriotic propaganda campaign against “kowtowing to the West”, so the people accepted the new law readily.

Stalin not only prohibited marrying foreigners, but also repealed the already-contracted marriages. Such a marriage was equated with high treason. The case of the Chilean ambassador’s son, Alvaro Kruse, became known in connection with this. In 1946, he had married Lydia Lesina, a Soviet citizen, and in October 1947, the USSR and Chile severed diplomatic relations. The ambassador was forced to leave Moscow, while his son and Lydia had to stay behind. Lydia tried to change her citizenship, but was refused. Soon the government charged her with slanderously talking about Soviet realities and arrested her as a “socially dangerous person”. Alvaro was forced to return to Chile.

However, it was rather hard for common people to violate this law. The Iron Curtain did not let many foreigners into the USSR.

After Stalin’s death in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev came to power and annulled this prohibition, but in fact, the persecution of Soviet citizens marrying foreigners was not over. Those who had affairs with foreigners were accused of immorality and fired from their jobs. When they tried to find another job, they faced many complications and ended up unemployed. It was dangerous to be unemployed in the USSR – unemployment without an obvious reason, known as parasitism, was a crime, and all the parasites were sent to the far districts of the country, Siberia or the Far East, to work as construction workers.

After Leonid Brezhnev replaced Khrushchev, such persecutions stopped, but new problems emerged. They say that all the registry offices received secret – “for official use only” – letters with the renewed rules of intermarriages in them. Those rules were not published anywhere, and common people had no idea about them, so the registry office could always refuse the marriage registration due to the informality. It is hard to tell if these rules really existed – most probably, the usual red tape caused all the problems.

However, in 1970, the government allowed emigration. Everyone who wanted to leave the Soviet Union could register a real or fictitious marriage with a foreigner and have it approved.

In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed, and intermarriages became a common thing. Nevertheless, nowadays some Russian public officials want to prohibit such marriages again.