'My Perestroika': the children of the revolution
Almost 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the film "My Perestroika" looks back on the last generation that grew up behind the iron curtain.
This story was originally covered by PRI's The World. For more, listen to the audio above.
American filmmaker Robin Hessman moved to Moscow in 1991, the year the Soviet Union collapsed. Two decades later, she returned to produce a documentary, "My Perestroika," about the revolution's effect on her classmates -- the last generation to grow up under communism, and see their world completely change.
The film interviews five middleclass Muscovites, all in their forties -- a musician, a saleswoman, a businessman, and two history teachers. Hessman benefitted from being a peer of her subjects. "I wasn't an outsider putting a microphone in their faces and saying 'So, tell me about that crazy perestroika y'all went through.'"
Hessman describes the revolution's effect on her interviewees:
You know, when they were little, nobody had any suspicion that the Soviet Union wouldn't be around forever, and then they were teenagers and coming of age just when Gorbachev came, when all of a sudden there's perestroika, glasnost, and a lot of the assumptions and the foundation of the country were shaken up, if not turned upside-down in such a short time.
The change in the culture of the country is revealed in the ways that everyday topics of the 1970s and 1980s are being forgotten. The history teachers at the center of the film, Borya and Lyuba, have seen this change in their students. Hessman explains what the teachers saw:
There was this one moment as the years went on, when all of a sudden they realized that the things that were ubiquitous when they were kids, and they assumed all the students knew about, like the Komsomol -- the communist youth organization that everybody was in -- when all of sudden, their students no longer knew what those things were.
The filmmaker sees a connection between the revolution in Russia and recent events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya:
I look at all of the events now, and these revolutions happening with, you know, excitement, and perhaps a little more trepidation. Kind of almost wanting to warn the people that it might not be as easy as you think. And that doesn't mean that there won't be very important changes for the better, but restructuring of society doesn't always work the way that you plan.
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