Beat him with birch twigs and never, ever, laugh at him. An insider’s guide to snaring your very own Russian billionaire…
The prospect of getting hitched to a rich Russian has never looked so good. Where once they were seen as surly-faced, poverty-stricken vodka drinkers, Russian men are now a real catch.
With more cash than you have ever seen, a gas pipeline, an oil well and perhaps a bank to their name, an eligible oligarch could be your way out – no, not out to Siberia, but to the best resorts in the South of France, the casinos of Las Vegas or exclusive areas near Moscow where Prada and Chopard boutiques are the local corner shops.
Better still, and unlike most British billionaires, they are young! It is not uncommon in Russia to meet a head of a bank in his 30s and most big business owners are just a decade older.
The collapse of the Soviet Union 15 years ago made it possible for the young and ambitious to make their fortunes.
Chelsea boss Roman Abramovich is just 41 – a baby!
So when he gets bored with Daria Zhukova, the model and socialite he took up with after dumping his second wife, you could be next in line.
But oligarchs are fussy and to get one you will need to compete with a Russian woman like me. We are well prepared for the cat-and-mouse game of catch-anoligarch and we have our mothers to thank for that.
They don’t let us out of the house until they are satisfied we are well dressed, our nails are in perfect shape and we have brushed our hair.
How else are you going to get a man, they reason. They encourage us to wear heels (good for posture), buy feminine clothes and learn to cook a mean cabbage soup.
Most rich Russian men come from Moscow, where young, beautiful women outnumber them off the scale. A single friend complains that a highly eligible woman can go around Moscow naked with a mattress strapped to her back and no one will take the bait.
Russian women have no trouble getting British men: they like our sense of adventure, appearance and knowledge of art and literature. But British women have to try a lot harder to land one of our men.
The good news is there are a lot of eligible Russians in London. So where to find them? Get the Chelsea football team’s schedule as lots of young, well-to-do Muscovites fly in for major games. Arsenal is a good bet, too, now Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov has bought a stake.
Get to know the staff of Sotheby’s and Christie’s Russian art departments. Art sales attract collectors with lots of cash.
Alternatively, eavesdrop on conversations between Slavic businessmen and sales assistants in Harrods, Selfridges and those frightfully expensive boutiques in Bond Street – and then offer your advice on buying a suit.
Russian businessmen dropped the uniform of badly cut Soviet suits a long time ago – they like Italian designers and women with an eye for style.
And don’t forget all the usual places to meet men, such as nightclubs and bars, and top private members’ clubs, such as Annabel’s (at least two Russian millionaires have lifetime memberships) and Russian-owned Sumosan.
Hang out in Mayfair, where Russian investment banks have offices. If you get past the first hurdle and begin dating a rich Muscovite, remember that modesty is key.
Many Russian men live with their mothers until they are married, and all these women want their sons to find a girl to take care of them just like she does. This means a lot of tasty, home-made food in the fridge.
It is likely that late one night, some friends of your Russian beau will come bearing gifts, like the Magi, of extra-strong vodka.
It’s a friendly gesture, and you will be expected to rustle up a few zakuski – or snacks – while making polite conversation. By zakuski I mean lots of pickles – gherkins, cabbage, tomatoes. If you learn how to make your own, like his mother does, even better.
A married Russian man doesn’t live on takeaways, but on hearty grub: soup, potatoes, lots and lots of meat, bread and a steaming cup of tea (no milk!) with a slice of lemon. And don’t forget, he won’t be made fun of, especially in front of his friends.
Never say his hands are growing out of the wrong place, the Russian phrase for being helpless around the house. His ego will suffer and so will your relationship.
Russian men like their women to be well-educated and know their Tolstoy from their Dostoevsky. A soap-opera-watching housewife is a big nyet; a theatre-loving, museum-going and book-reading wife will earn bonus points.
And if, from time to time, he wants to get naked with other men in a steam bath called a banya, don’t object.
Russian guys like nothing better than being beaten mercilessly with birch twigs – it improves the circulation – and then wrapped in sheets, downing litres of beer and snacking on shreds of hard salted fish.
If you want to keep your Ivan, you need to be good in bed. Russian men cheat and feel little remorse about the fact.
Caller after caller to a Russian radio talk show on infidelity said: “If my wife doesn’t give me what I need, I will go to someone else. Having no sex is bad for my health.”
The Russian expression is khodit nalevo, or “go to the left”. So if you hear him utter this phrase, you know he is not talking about directions to his favourite restaurant.
Some Muscovite women are so desperate to keep their man that they take lessons in the art of love that involve flexing their intimate muscles into shape.
A smart woman realises that a successful, rich man has many takers – often younger, thinner, prettier – but if you can keep him satisfied sexually, he will not change his Mercedes for a Lada. Other things to remember: His motherland spans 11 time zones – he likes scale and vast, sweeping gestures.
At times he will go through bouts of nostalgia or soul searching, so that is when he will want to speak with you po dusham (soul to soul).
He will offer to carry your bags, open the door for you, help you on with your coat and won’t expect you to pay in restaurants.
But he will also complain if service is bad and can get into fights. One Russian businessman I know (admittedly, he’d been drinking) had a punch-up with the security guards of the Sanderson Hotel in London because they wouldn’t let his friends inside.
It was one of the more exciting evenings in my life: I was glad to see a man stand up for his friends. Russians look out for each other. I would recommend giving a Slavic man a try (contrary to a persistent rumour, undoubtedly spread by the Russian women who want to keep their Ivans to themselves, they do shower regularly and wear deodorant).
In the end, all men are the same in their basic instincts but – and I may be biased here – with an oligarch you will be guaranteed a life that is far from boring. And yes, there will be plenty of diamonds and designer frocks.