Whether it's some premeditated strategy by Russian leaders, or a product of history,
Russians do seem to struggle to unify behind a vision, to share a sense of hope for
I think about Stalin dividing Central Asia, fomenting chaos and division, forcing ethnic
groups to plead to Moscow for help. I think of Boris and Gia, the warmest friendship,
strained when Gia's family moved to a different part of the Soviet Union, further complic-
ated when Georgia became its own country. I think about Alexei, crippled, alone, and help-
less with his mother in that apartment in Nizhny Novgorod, ignored by the state. Igor, with
his T-shirt advertising the lost generation he feels a part of. Inna, on the train platform in
Amazar, and Taisiya in Baikalsk, remembering Soviet times as a period when people be-
lieved in something . Ivan, in that hardscrabble village, praising the state for making him a
soldier, loving a government that also drives him to tears. The people we've encountered
have so much depth, their lives are full of poetry, pain, and laughter, and yet in so many
cases something is just missing. When it comes to the future, there's just no faith.
“You get used to knowing nothing about your future here,” Olga said. “Everybody
knows something about their future.”
“History. We get used to changes and transformations and not being aware of the future.
We are the lost generation, the broken generation, the generation of changes and transform-
ations. We get used to it.” (Unbelievably, the soundtrack to our conversation, coming from
the kitchen radio, is “Another Day in Paradise,” by Phil Collins.)
“Why do you call it a lost generation?”
“Because we grew up in a different country, with different values. We didn't know we
had to buy anything or make money to be successful. We weren't linked to any markets.
We believed—or our teachers told us—we would always live in a communist society.
But then our society became capitalist—a wild capitalist society. Different country, dif-
ferent system. It's strange. So our generation is lost, I think. It is not easy.”
I ask Olga again if I caused any problems by coming last time, drawing a phone call to
Dmitry's father-in-law from the FSB.
“Pffft!” Dmitry says, as in, “Like we care !”
“We are not afraid of anything,” Olga says. “They can do nothing bad to me.”
Olga, Dmitry, and I spend several more hours polishing off the pizza, sipping cham-
pagne, taking smoking breaks on the balcony. They tell me I'm welcome back anytime, and
I promise to bring Rose back for a double date.