The Kremlin is getting into the matchmaking business. The Soviet birthrate has been steadily falling and the government hopes to pair off compatible couples who will stay together long enough to produce a new batch of little workers.
Soviet authorities are in the process of creating a nationwide dating service.
Where several measures have failed -- such as taxation of bachelors and childless couples, increased living space for couples, and medals for ``hero mothers,'' i.e., those who have 10 children -- it was hoped that dating agencies would succeed. Since 1950 the Soviet birthrate has dropped from 1.7 percent to 0.8 percent a year.
But although a main feature of this service -- marriage advertisements in local newspapers -- was at first overwhelmingly popular, interest in the 11/2-year-old service has gradually dropped off.
The reason, it seems, is that women seek spiritual qualities in their partners -- while men look for physical ones.
Valentina, a slim 38-year-old divorc'ee, complained in a national women's magazine that some of the 100 men who answered the modest advertisment she placed in an Omsk newspaper were frankly expecting ``a different kind of `friendship' '' than what she was hoping for. Others would come to the meeting place, look her up and down, and walk off again without a word.
The problem of loneliness in Russia appears to be part of the price women here have paid for what emancipation they have achieved.
``I am attractive, well educated, and valued at work . . . yet I cry into my pillow at night,'' laments Natalya, a 27-year-old businesswoman in a letter to a Komsomol (Young Communist League) newspaper. She describes herself as one of a growing number of intelligent Soviet women unable to meet their match in a country of 150 million men.
According to official statistics, women make up almost 60 percent of all Soviets with a college education, 75 percent of the nation's doctors, and more than 50 percent of the work force. Yet they are still expected to do all the housework.
A new generation of women is seeking out enlightened husbands and divorcing chauvinistic ones.
The editor of a lonely-hearts column in a northern newspaper admitted in a recent commentary that a Siberian man who advertised for ``a 37-year-old woman who loves housework and has a good figure'' typified male ads.
The Soviet divorce rate is one of the highest in the world, with one in three marriages ending in divorce. Eighty percent of the divorce cases here are filed by wives who go on to fill the ranks of single women looking for Comrade Right.
Young Soviets have few places to get together -- apart from formal Palaces of Culture (featuring fox trots in place of rock music), Komsomol gatherings, or city caf'es.
When word got round last month that Border Guards Day was to be celebrated in Moscow's Gorky Park by a reunion of discharged soldiers, teen-aged Russian girls came swarming through the gates by the thousands, hoping for romance.