January 01, 2016

Dating Games

Meet Zhenya: she’s 29, tall, blonde, earns over $5,000 a month, has a flat in the center of Moscow, a house in the suburbs, a prestigious car, and she owns a law firm. She doesn’t have kids; she’s never been married. Like her? If you’re an uspeshny muzhchina (successful man) you can date her, maybe marry her. She’s single and looking for a husband.

That’s Zhenya’s online dating profile on Privet, Russia’s glitchy version of the popular mobile matchmaking app, Tinder. But if you want to talk to Zhenya, you have to first get through Andrei – a representative of a dating agency paid to post her profile, sort through the neuspeshny, and get her paired up with the best men. Andrei and his agency are not alone. Since Privet emerged in 2014, small Moscow-based operations have been taking advantage of the free app, representing busy men and women in the market for serious relationships, family creation, and even sponsorship. These services have something in common: they’re making money on free acquaintance platforms like Privet, and some of their clients are willing to pay good money – some upwards of $3,000.

If you’re matched with Zhenya, here’s what happens next.

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