Ageism in RussiaLast month Russians found themselves in a heated debate about ageism in Russia. No one expected that a regular post about a recent American movie would provoke such a sharp dispute.

Russian commissioner for human rights: “Not all passengers would feel pleased looking at old ladies serving coffee”

The scandal broke when lawyer Alexei Dulenko published a post on his Facebook page about the popular movie Sully, featuring Tom Hanks. The Hollywood blockbuster depicts the miracle plane landing by Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger on Hudson in January 2009.

In his writing about the movie Dulenko was outraged that the film’s director Clint Eastwood picked young girls for the roles of flight attendants, while in reality they were aged 51 to 58.

For some reason the Russian commissioner for human rights in Kaluga oblast Yuri Zelnikov decided to join the discussion. Most likely, people expected him to protect workers’ rights to be treated fairly regardless of their age.

But the ombudsman’s comment just added fuel to the fire. Russian commissioner for human rights “Not all passengers would like to look at old ladies serving coffee.”

  • Yuri Zelnikov: Do they really have aged flight attendants in America? What for?
  • Anastasia Karimova: Why not?
  • Maxim Burmitsky: Austrians and Germans also have quite mature aged [flight attendants], but what’s the difference if the health permits to work?
  • Yuri Zelnikov: Not all passengers would feel pleased looking at old ladies serving coffee.

Naturally, the human rights commissioner’s remark drew outrage from the public. Some ladies asked Zelnikov to resign from his position and get instead someone younger and better looking.

For instance, Elena Kostyuchenko suggested that Zelnikov should choose a less public position. “Being a young girl, I do not like looking at you. Please, give your position to someone younger.”

Zelnikov tried to talk his way out by suggesting he was misunderstood. The ombudsman said that he was talking about a likely airline management’s opinion as an employer of the cabin crew. “It doesn’t mean that I agree with that,” he explained.

At the end, the commissioner added, “probably it was a bad choice of words on my part. I apologize, I didn’t want to hurt anyone.” 

“Ageism in Russia is more than ageism”

Snezhana Gribatskaya states in her article for “Ageism in Russia is more than ageism: Discrimination by age is simply a continuation of sexual discrimination. Are you a female? Are you older than 35? That’s it, GAME OVER.”

Women on Elena’s Models also complain about the same things: Once they turn 30+, they are no longer viewed as worthy or desirable on the local dating scene. “GAME OVER” sentiment describes it perfectly.

In fact, Russian women usually become grandmothers by mid or late thirties: Girls are often giving birth to kids at the age of 18-19. A 29-year-old Russian woman recently became a grandmother, as we reported earlier. At this age, a woman is expected to dedicate herself to helping her daughters raise their children. Bringing up kids is a woman’s mission in life, as well as taking care of the husband. This is what is supposed to make a woman happy.

Understanding this social standard is important in getting some true insight to the phenomenon of “Russian brides“.

It is customary in Russia to marry early. If a girl is unmarried in her late 20s, she is viewed as a spinster. Her parents and friends would keep saying that’s she needs to urgently get married, otherwise it will be too late. She will become too old and have fewer chances to give birth to healthy kids.

On the whole, Russian society is highly patriarchal.

Many girls (not everybody, of course) are taught that their main purpose in life is to “be a delight to a man’s eye.”

This is one of the reasons why Russian women want to marry Americans (Europeans, Australians, etc). They feel an enormous pressure from the society to “fulfil their true purpose in life”, which is to be a Wife and a Mother.


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Unfortunately, there is the same problem in Ukraine. Legally, an employer should not limit the age of the employees. And the only limit for the workers must be their competence. But, alas… Dura lex sed lex – is not a rule here in Ukraine meanwhile.