Tatiana Kalchuk wants a husband. But the 26-year-old Odessa resident despairs of finding a suitable man in her home country. She’s hunting for a Western man.

“Some women are just looking for a man from the West because they want to move abroad,” explains Kalchuk. “But I’m looking for the perfect husband. Men from the West are more gentleman-like and romantic. They’ll call you and ask how your day was.”

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, thousands of ex-Soviet women have marketed themselves through “mail-order bride” agencies.

“There are more women than men in former Soviet republics,” explains Dr. Olga Nikitina-den Besten, a Russian sociologist teaching in Paris. “Alcoholism and illness is a huge problem among the men, and the men who aren’t sick or dead are often already taken. A woman who doesn’t marry in her 20s is likely to date a married man, which is obviously not a good prospect. So women look abroad.”

But today, an increasing number of highly educated, young ex-Soviet women resemble Kalchuk, who has a master’s degree and speaks five languages. They favor pursuit on their own terms.

“Russian women in particular have a high level of initiative,” notes Nikitina-den Besten. “And now their computer and language skills have increased so they can try to find men on their own. Meeting a man is a good motivation for learning a foreign language.”

When the dating company Anastasia launched in 1993, it arranged “romance tours” for Western men to Moscow and St. Petersburg. Today the romance tours go to 13 ex-Soviet cities, with Odessa as the undisputed hot spot.

The company also runs dating giant Anastasiadate.com, which has 100 million visitors per year.

A better life abroad, yes; but women insist their fervent mate-searching isn’t just about money. “I could find a man with money and status here, but I want a man who cares about me,” says Margarita Pisnya, who is looking for relationships with Western men aged 23-55 on Anastasiadate.

“Ex-Soviet women are very interested in relationships, but men have to understand that these women want to get married,” explains Anastasia’s managing editor, Larry Cervantes. “They’ve been brought up to expect to be a wife and mother. But they’ve also been brought up to please men.”