Finally I became a full age hobbit. A good reason to look back ;-)
I was born in 1982, at the very end of stagnation years. After my birth, Brezhnev was alive for seven more months ;-)
When I was about a year old, Andropov just began his struggle against violations of labour discipline. My mother had to take her passport with her even when she went to the shop at the ground floor of our house—as a confirmation that she really had a baby and was not shirking work.
When I was three, Perestroika began. My parents subscribed to so many magazines that they had to put a schedule of their delivery on the wall. We still try to put in order a vast collection of those magazines…
A first independent current affairs program appeared on TV. It’s strange to remember that now, but it was called Vesti [Tidings]; now it’s become completely official and propagandistic.
At the age of seven my father took me for the first time with him to the elections. These were the first real elections in the history of the Soviet Union.
At the kindergarten, our nursery teachers hang a new radio set on the wall to ‘listen the Congress’ (of Peoples’ Deputies). To my surprise, they and my parents explained what it was in almost the same words. My father, when I asked him what those people in the TV set were speaking about, said they were discussing why there were no goods at the shops. Just a few days later a nursery teacher at the kindergarten said after the Congress, ‘milk, cheese and so on will appear at the shops again’, or something like that.
I remember well the empty shelves at the shops that time.
While being in the first grade at school, we were admitted to Little Octobrists. But I have never become a Young Pioneer ;-(
When I was nine, a column of tanks passed along Michurinskii Avenue near my neighbourhood, armed patrols emerged in the streets, and all the programs on TV were replaced with endless Swan Lake ballet. My father went to defend the White House—then a housing of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation which became the main stronghold of resistance to the putsch.
Several days later he took me for the first time to a meeting. I remember a crowd in front of the White House, barricades that had not been pulled down yet, Yeltsin’s voice talking something about the victory of democracy, cries ‘Down with the CPSU!’. It was boring to stand long at the same place, so we began walking around the building and missed the change of the flag. When we were going back to the metro station, the red, with a blue stripe, flag of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic had already been replaced with the white, blue and red tricolour.
Four more months later the Soviet Union came to an end. My parents said (without any enthusiasm) that at the shops ‘everything will soon emerge. But will become more expensive’.
Everything became so much more expensive that new bank-notes of an adequate nominal value could not be put in circulation in time. Following my parents’ advice, I opened both of my coin boxes to use their contents before it decreased in value. We had to steam the cap of the wooden mushroom, and I didn’t want to break the piggy bank because it was a present from my sister-in-law for my tenth birthday, so we made a little hole in it and took the coins out ;-)
I don’t remember when the Vremia [Time] current affairs program was closed on TV, but I remember what it looked like. A strange notice ‘TV-Inform’ appeared in the screen instead of the usual picture of the globe, then the speaker said Vremia would never more be produced, and the news would be televised live, without any censorship. After that a new current affairs program began. There were two speakers, a man and a woman, as usually, but now they were talking with each other, exchanging the papers—they obviously wanted to show they were really televised live, not on tape delay as previously.
Somewhere at the same uneasy months my mother gave me a book, unknown to both of us, by an author, also unknown to both of us. The book belonged to her and my father’s friend. The title was attractive: ‘John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, being the first part of The Lord of the Rings’. You can see some long-term effects of reading it on this website ;-)
Meanwhile, times were changing rapidly. On weekends, my father and I went to a market some forty minutes way from my house for potatoes. In winter, we continued to go to ski in the vicinities of Moscow, but there were not so many people like us, the forest had become quite ‘depopulated’ in comparison with the previous years.
For my family’s four privatization checks, my father bought forty shares of the Moscow Realty voucher investment fund. I still keep the certificates in my desk, although the fund itself, as well as the other voucher investment funds like it, has for a long time already become a part of history ;-(
By the way, at school we were studying history using a Soviet text-book, although published in the years of Perestroika, so one day we were told to prepare a report about one of the heroes of the Civil War. A long and difficult evening talk with my mother followed; as a result, she finally managed to shake my Communist convictions formed at kindergarten and elementary school. Since then I became quite anti-Soviet ;-)
I was eleven when all the TV channels became silent except the Second Channel that continued broadcasting from the Shukhov Tower instead of Ostankino Tower and transmitted alarming news: armed supporters of the Supreme Soviet are attacking the Moscow city hall and the TV centre in Ostankino, a state of emergency and a curfew are imposed in the city. It happened only a night before the White House was shelled from the tank cannons…
Unlike 1991 my parents didn’t take part in that small civil war in the centre of Moscow. Now, twenty-two years later, it seems to me that they were right.
Several months later, George Soros, now quite unpopular in Russia, tried to support Russian scientists with small grants. My father invested his grant into shares of MMM company (the largest Ponzi scheme in Russian history) that had just entered the market and were the only instrument for investment of money that brought in an income exceeding the hyperinflation. My initials were then popular more than ever ;-) We happened to be among the first investors and managed to sell some part of our shares in time, so we were not at a loss when MMM collapsed. We spent our income for summer vacations and also bought a tortoise—just one or two days before the collapse of MMM. We called her Marina Sergeevna—in honour of a heroine of MMM advertising. She lived twelve years at our home…
An ‘operation of restoring the constitutional order’ in Chechnia, that is still far from an end, began six more months later. It was my grandmother who was the first one in my family to say the word ‘war’. After two years at the front in 1943–45 she really new what it means…
It turned to be not so easy for me to chose a profession because, being an excellent pupil, I was interested almost in everything; my parents told me, ‘Don’t study so much’ ;-) I wanted to become a physicist, but at the ninth grade I understood physics is too difficult for me. I was (and still am) interested in computers, but in the tenth grade it became clear that my ability for mathematics was over, too, so I couldn’t become a programmer as my elder brother did.
Finally I decided to be a historian and graduated from the Russian State University for the Humanities in 2004. The years spent at the university were a wonderful time. Only my travel to the USA in 2012–13 was the same full of events and impressions.
On holidays between the first and second years at the university I went to Iceland for the first (and, I hope, not the last) time. It wasn’t my first trip abroad, but it was the first time I had to arrange everything myself because I travelled together with my mother and she doesn’t speak English. I took a dictionary to that trip ;-)
My first employment was the same as that of my both elder brothers—a worker at our father’s geological expedition (two travels to Karelia in 2000 and 2001). Since 2008, after the defence of my Ph.D. thesis, I have worked at the Institute of Scientific Information for Social Sciences. By the time of my employment, salaries of researchers had been significantly increased (by staff reduction at all the academic institutions), but nevertheless, they still remain the only successful nanotechnology in Russia ;-(
In 2009 I went to Israel for the first time. I enjoyed it ;-)
In the beginning of 2010 I made a report at the Major Tolkien Seminar in Saint Petersburg and was rather surprised when discovered that I had no more ‘stage fright’. It was also confirmed by my further experience of making a report at a conference on history of the Second World War at the Russian State University for the Humanities. It was a really good news as I had lots of problems previously because of that fright.
A conference in Budapest in summer 2011 was my first travel abroad on business. For the first time I spent several days in a foreign city alone. My second trip to Israel the same year in September was my first travel on holiday without any organized tour, I booked hotels and bought tickets myself, travelled along the country just by intercity buses, and so on. Later, in November, I had an opportunity to talk a lot to my Hungarian colleagues in Moscow and found out that I finally could speak English well enough. The next year this allowed me to receive a Fulbright grant and to go to the USA for six months for a research.
While I was in Israel in 2011, Putin decided to become a president once more. Several of my friends who had never voted before decided to vote that time. After the parliamentary elections which were quite ‘magic’ as well as the previous ones, I began to go to political rallies. Wish I weren’t ill at the day of the first meeting at Bolotnaia Square… At the presidential elections in February 2012 I was a scrutineer.
In October 2012 I went to America. It was a wonderful travel :-)
In the fall of 2014 I became a senior researcher. This year on 30 January, a fire destroyed my working place and also a half of my institute’s library.
There’s nothing to be done, life’s going on. I don’t know whether I’ll have an opportunity to celebrate my eleventy-first birthday, but at least the past thirty-three years were not so bad anyway. Let’s be in touch :-)