Cyber Prince

Hope dies last in Russian cyberspace, where an out-of-time, over-the-top prince can search for his ideal princess.
The crisis is killing off a movement that never really got going in the first place: a nascent "modern, independent single Russian woman, enjoying a 72 percent disposable income" market segment. Today, Russian COSMO looks positively anorexic, and, as companies part with their long-legged receptionists, only one industry seems to be experiencing an uptick: online matchmaking.

If you have ever innocently wandered off the beaten cyber track, you know the Internet is awash with potential "happily ever after" material from Russia. But is this abundant supply currently at odds with dwindling demand? Are mini-garchs shelving high maintenance women until the oil prices get back up to $200 per barrel?

Rest assured that there is at least one Prince Charming left in Russia. I found him enjoying his 15 seconds of fame in the Russian blogosphere: 39-year old Igor hails from St. Petersburg, as all good Russian princes should, and reigns over what he describes as "an expanding kingdom," which "lacks only Cinderella to make it complete." Igor has a glass slipper going spare, and he's ready to bestow it on someone he describes as: "Aged 16-20, with no bad habits...a good appearance...able to develop a capacity for intelligence...dedication, loyalty and love." Igor also insists that his Cinderella have no "intimate past."

You might think Igor's criteria a tad stringent for this day and age, but that is until you clock the visuals. Prince Igor added ten high-resolution photos to his online profile, which have to be among the most impressive in the history of Internet dating. Igor, a silver-haired stocky Slav, appears in outfits which include a cream colored, three-piece suit, red tie, red hanky in the breast pocket and red suede shoes; a pair of snazzy blue silk pajamas, which he teams with black alligator wing tips; and no less than three full-length, high-collared fur coats, designed for someone taller than Igor. In one photo, Igor hunches in front of a large frosted cake, holding a long Cossack sword on his knees. This might strike a discordant note on an average eharmony.com profile, except for the fact that Igor's photos are all shot in sumptuous eat-your-heart-out-Marie Antoinette Baroque interiors, smothered in gold leaf, brocade furniture, bad copies of worse 18th century oil paintings of Roman Centurions; and a palatial marble bathroom featuring a large six-person Turkish plastic Jacuzzi, flanked by hand-painted panels of either Bible scenes or contented Soviet peasants of the 1930s.

There is a little Cinderella in each of us - even if we recently turned 43, and our "nice appearance" is visible only in the rearview mirror together with our modest CV of "intimate experiences." Don't we all secretly pine for Prince Charming even as we approach the zenith of our intellectual capacity and begin to slide into forgetful middle age? And although we substituted the lyrics to Snow White's hit single: "Some day, I'll get my de-greeeee, Some day, I'll be Pee, H Dee," to lull our daughters to sleep, don't our palms just tingle to see a man, dripping in sable pelts, down on bended knee on an exact copy of a 1st century Byzantine mosaic floor made yesterday?

Igor clearly hopes so.

And, because this is Russia, and hope dies last here, I'm going to ignore the frankly very cynical comments posted by bloggers, claiming the interiors were movie sets, or a Presidential Administration Guest House, and that Igor was someone's bodyguard or driver killing time. I prefer to think that there is at least one expanding kingdom left, and only needs its Cinderella.

Jennifer Eremeeva, a longtime resident of Moscow, is currently at work on her first book.

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