Over the past few years, there has been a significant decrease in the cost of calling Russia and other CIS nations. You can call St. Petersburg or Moscow. American Petersburg for a little more than you would pay to make an out of state long distance call.

The following are a sampling of the rates per minute in US dollars to some CIS countries using MCI’s Anytime Worldwide Plan:

Russian Federation .23

Ukraine .29

Belarus .35

Kazakhstan .23

Uzbekistan .45

Kyrgyzstan .45

Before you call, confirm that you are using a reliable international calling plan.

My regular AT&T long distance plan cost me $20.00 to send a two-page fax to Russia. They assessed me a $10.00 international access fee, $2.00 per minute, and tax.

There are also a ton of pre-paid phone cards with great rates that can be found online.

To obtain an international line when making an international call, dial 011 first. After that, you dial the country code. The following is a list of country codes for CIS countries:

Russia 7

Belarus 375

Ukraine 380

Uzbekistan 998

Kazakhstan 7

Kyrgyzstan 996

The local number is then dialed, followed by the area or city code.

Although you may have a good plan in place, you shouldn’t just pick up the phone and let your fingers do the walking.

First of all, if you haven’t been introduced, a call from a foreigner out of the blue is probably going to result in a very chilly reception. That is, if the person on the other end of the line can even comprehend you when you speak.

Think about sitting at home, for instance. You pick up your phone when it rings. You are suddenly bombarded with a stream of unfamiliar words from a strange voice speaking a foreign language.

In a state of shock, you repeatedly ask them in English, “Who are you, sir?” For a brief period, there is silence on the other end before the torrent of unfamiliar words resumes. You simply hang up, exasperated.

That is exactly how a phone call to a Russian woman who is not expecting your call is likely to go. She might be at work, out with friends or family, or both. Perhaps babushka (grandma) is taking calls right now.

My advice is to get to know a woman before calling her.

Send her a letter or ask the nearby marriage bureau to introduce you. Before calling her directly, find out if she speaks English.

Make a time to call her. She will be home and ready for your call if you do it that way. She is anticipating hearing English. She may still respond with “Allo” or just “Da,” but she will be ready for your call. She might already have made plans to put an English-speaking person on the call with you.

She had been learning English for a few months when I first called my wife. We completed “Hello” and “How are You?”‘ and a few other sentences before we had run through the entire dialog in She had worked on her English in class.

After a lengthy period of silence during which she was unable to communicate with me, she began to cry. She apologised and bid farewell after a brief pause. She hung up the phone furious.

I immediately sent her a letter. She responded by writing that she was embarrassed by her poor command of the English language. She claimed that she sobbed for days over this.

How’s Your Russian?

What ought to have been a happy occasion brought her great sorrow. We survived that storm. A few months later, we actually met in person, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I can speak roughly as many Russian dialogue sentences as my wife did when I first called her family’s home two years later, when her mother answers the phone. Good morning, or dobre din. “How are you?” asked Kak de la. Ya horosho, I’m doing well. That’s all I can do; I’m a one-trick pony.

Many of the women listed on the websites can be reached by phone, but not all of them do. For telephones, the CIS nations have a long waiting list. For instance, there are 2.5 million phones for every 10 million people in Belarus.

Both my wife and I have cell phones, and our home has two phone lines. One phone in the house is used for regular calls, and the other is a dedicated FAX/DSL line for the computer. In our home, there are typically two phones per person, compared to one phone for every four people in the nation she is from.

I believe that our family is fairly typical of an American modern family. In a matter of days, if not even hours, we can install a phone line. In CIS nations, the length of the telephone line wait list is expressed in months and years.

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