For many Russians, the coronavirus pandemic and self-isolated lifestyle was a nightmare that put life upside down. Yet, others managed to utilize the new reality to their advantage.
Perhaps most significantly, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the social life of Russians. Since the beginning of the lockdown in Moscow and other Russian cities at the end of March 2020, people have drastically cut their social interactions with friends, relatives, colleagues and acquaintances.
According to a national poll (link in Russian), in spring 2020, when the virus was spreading in the country, 84 percent of Russians abstained from meeting with friends, 80 percent stopped taking short walks and 69 percent — no longer visited elder relatives.
Although the so-called self-isolation imposed by authorities in some cities has since been lifted, many find it hard to overcome the psychological fear of getting infected and continue to apply social distancing and self-isolation, regardless.
“Most likely, I will try to observe social distancing for a long time to come, because I don’t yet feel comfortable being among other people in places of their large concentration,” said Anastasia, a student in Moscow.
This changing social dynamic could well affect the sex life of Russians, too.
Social psychologist Alexei Roschin believes the spread of coronavirus could trigger asexuality in many Russians who did not suffer from it before.
“People had already been complaining [before the spread of the virus] that their relationships were either going online or completely disappeared. Before this [the coronavirus], HIV [and other sexual diseases] had already affected the sexual habits of society, had frightened many people. And now, during the coronavirus, any types of relationships of an intimate nature, in principle, have become a huge risk,” said (link in Russian) Roschin.
Advocates of open relationships have been affected the most, says(link in Russian) Sergei Lang, another psychologist. For them, it’s become much more difficult to find a new partner.
Some married couples, on the other hand, have experienced a renaissance in their sex life. “Before, when a husband and a wife came back from work exhausted and had to wake up early the next day, sex could turn into an obligation for them. Now, they have more time for [erotic] games and romance,” said (link in Russian) Lang.
A common fear many Russians had before the start of the social isolation period was that they would gain unnecessary weight during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Indeed, the fear was not groundless. According to director of the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (one of Russia's leading sociological and market research companies) Kirill Rodin, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Russians increased (link in Russian) consumption of fast food and allowed themselves to consume more harmful food products.
The expert thinks that this new habit is a way for many Russians to compensate for the negative emotions they experienced during the self-isolation period.
At the same time, additional free time and the fear of the COVID-19 motivated some Russians to do sports more regularly and intensively than before.
“I now have 3.5 extra hours of free time every day because I used to spend this time on commuting before I started working from home. My family and I invest this free time in a healthy lifestyle and sports. Before [the COVID-19 pandemic] we used to go to a swimming pool for some 40-60 minutes. Today, we do sports for 1.5 hours every day at home,” said Maria from Moscow.
Since all shopping centers in Moscow, St. Petersburg and some other cities were temporarily closed for a few months, many Russians discovered the benefits of online shopping and are sticking to the new habit even as the malls started reopening.
“I have never used to order clothes online before. The pandemic helped me to discover this super convenient service. Even now, with malls being reopened, I keep shopping for clothes online, because it is so much more convenient,” said Julia from Moscow.
The woman also said she was able to cut her expenses significantly as she spent less money on commuting, beauty and food in restaurants.
Russians who saved money for a summer vacation abroad had to come up with plan B. For many, domestic resorts — such as Sochi and Crimea and the more exotic Baikal and Altai — became the most natural alternative.
Even at the beginning of the COVID-19 spread in the country, 67 percent of Russians did not plan (link in Russian) to cancel their planned summer trips, although some had to change their destination.
Tourists in Sochi, one of most popular summer destinations in Russia.Artur Lebedev/Sputnik
According to one national poll, 23 percent of respondents who usually do not spend a summer vacation in Russia planned (link in Russian) to do so in 2020, as most of the popular foreign destinations remained inaccessible for tourists, due to the closed borders.
Surprisingly, a poll (link in Russian) by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center showed that only 4 percent of Russians actually had planned to go abroad for summer vacation. The majority of Russians said they would stay home (61 percent), while 31 percent admitted they would only travel as far as to their country houses (dachas).
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