Weekly column by Svetlana Kolchik
When I was at college, I earned some extra cash by tutoring English. My three students were 10 years younger than I, all born in 1987, the year when the “wind of change" began sweeping away the old regime's most ugly rudiments. Even then, I admired those kids — their fast reactions and gadget-orientated minds (even though in the late 90s the world of gadgets was confined to pagers, gameboys and clunky computers.) But these youngsters were always somehow alien to me. It was obvious they had grown up in a different country to mine.
Curiously, at least half of the people I work with today come from the very same “alien” generation. The more I observe the ways they express themselves both in business and personal affairs, the more I feel that we grew up in different worlds. Ambitious, self-confident, resourceful, knowing what they want but still managing to take it easy, practical, inventive, open-minded and somehow free. It doesn't mean that the thirty-somethings lack all these qualities, it just seems to me that achieving success is so much more effortless for this new generation.
I asked my colleague, 23-year-old fashion editor Kseniya, an easy-going office sweetheart whose aptitude and knowledge of languages often leaves me speechless, if she has any memory of the Soviet Union. "I know of it only from textbooks and from my mom's tales," she said with a smile. Asked about her goals, she shrugged and said calmly: "to grab every opportunity that comes my way."
Experts suggest that when societies go through a fundamental, crucial change, just like Russia did during the past 25 years, the gap between the generations widens dramatically. Add the pace with which the world is moving these days, and it's no surprise that a small age gap can turn into a gulf.
In fact, when I interact with people in their late 30s and early 40s, I often feel they're perfect strangers, too. "We're the last generation with stable values, a steady life focus and a strong sense of responsibility," said Aleksey, a 43-year-old friend of mine. A father of three who has been married for 22 years, he said his generation has strong family values, which are lacking among today's thirty-somethings. "We still had the Soviet family model ingrained into us; you guys grew up in the crazy 90s, amidst all that anarchy and chaos. And that's what's happening inside your heads, too, - you're much more lost."
In some ways it's true. It seems that many of my peers are still searching for identity and direction, both in their careers and in their relationships. The contrasts posed by a conservative Soviet upbringing, a sudden wave of freedom and a consumerist boom have left us with a major dilemma: should we stick to conventional patterns or "do it our own way?”
Yet the twenty-somethings, it appears, have no problems on this front. Asked if she intends to settle down any time soon, my colleague Ksenia said, "I am looking for love, but I believe in marriage too. I just don't know when it's going to happen." She said that some of her friends are planning to marry in the near future, some already have families of their own, some are just dating casually, while others aren't even willing to consider anything serious until they are in their 30s. "There're so many ways to live your life these days, you just have to choose the one which is right for you," she said.
But what I am most curious about is the generation that's coming of age after Ksenia’s: today's teenagers. These are aliens from an even more distant planet. They've grown up in the world that consists not of borders, but of limitless information that's being constantly updated. They learned to write text-messages before they could speak. Many have been travelling abroad since they were babies. These youngsters already know a lot, perhaps too much. I recently had to explain to my 10-year-old niece what "metrosexual" means after she heard this word on her favorite reality-TV show (of course she already knows all about homosexuality.) I wonder what they will do with this country, where so many things still bear the marks of that alien place: the Soviet Union.
Russia has always been referred to as feminine and Russian women have been one of the most popular stereotypes of this nation, both positive and negative. But is this an all-male fantasy? Here is a hip, modern, professional and increasingly globalized Russian woman looking at the trends around her, both about her gender and the society at large. She talks and lets other women talk.
Svetlana Kolchik, 33, is deputy editor-in-chief of the Russian edition of Marie Claire magazine. She holds degrees from the Moscow State University Journalism Department and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has worked for Argumenty i Fakty weekly in Moscow and USA Today in Washington, D.C., and contributed to RussiaProfile.org, Russian editions of Vogue, Forbes and other publications.
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- firstname.lastname@example.orgAnother great article from Svetlana Kolchik22:13, 06/04/2011Svetlana your last two articles have been just excellent and so much fun to read.
I like them because they are like a personal letter into your life and that of Russian women and society.
Today's new word for was "metrosexual" and I didn't have a clue as to what it meant. A quick goggle search fixed the problem and I smiled confirmed that I was not "metrosexual". I am unique in my own special way but not “metrosexual”.
These days things have been busy as I plan my summer trip to Russia. Everyone is getting very excited for my arrival as my schedule is quickly booking up with Russian cultural events in Orshanka, Yoshkar-Ola, Volgodonsk, Gelendgik, Sochi and Moscow.
I really need a Russian tourist VISA that is good for 60 days and not 30 days, because there is just so much to do in Russia once a I arrive.
Once the Russian VISA is eliminated everything will be so much easier. Then I can fly into Russia in May and leave at the end of August giving me a good three months to visit and have fun.
So thank you for your great articles this week and last Svetlana. Loved them both.
The gap between the young and old I can relate to so much as I get older myself now being 49 years.
The younger you are and exposed to technology the more cool toys you love to play with and adapt to. Like the use of video games, cell phones, iPhones, iPads and so forth.
Social networking on Facebook is now completely normal and extends friend communication like never before.
Facebook I now fully embrace, but it took me a full year to figure out how to use it and not to be afraid to use it.
Now Facebook is the way I communicate with all of my friends in Russia and promote the artwork of the Russian kids I work with.
The kids get to see everything that I am doing on Russian Kids Artwork, Canadian Kids Artwork, European Kids Artwork and American Kids Artwork. They are happy to learn that their creative efforts are having literally a worldwide effect.
Facebook I have learned is a very sneaky way to promote modern Russia for tourism and to let people in the west know what modern Russia is really like. And the more people in the west know about modern Russia the better. Fears fall as people realize that the Russian people are just like them with regards to love of family friends, technology, cell phones, Facebook and video games to name just a few.
And I am constantly working with the governments of Canada, Russia and the United States to get this concept of the Russian Kids Artwork and Russian Kids Art Album eBooks going even more so.
As I connect with Russian people my age and older we have the greatest conversations discovering each others lives and learning how much alike we are with regards to love of friends and family.
And I connect just as well with the younger people who are readily embracing the new iPhones, iPads, iPods and MP3 players as they show me their latest digital toys.
Extremely rapidly Russian kids have caught up with the west and now are indistinguishable in their interests.
There is absolutely no difference between kids having fun in Volgodonsk, Russia, Ottawa, Canada and Sunnyvale, California.
I have found this so very interesting in my travels.
What the west needs more of now is a cross pollination of West-Russian movies.
Yesterday I had the pleasure to go to the new Canadian-American movie called "Source Code". Made in Montreal, Canada but with a US city backdrop Chicago.
This is a great science fiction movie on a theme of parallel universes and the QED Quantum effect of reality.
The bad guy in the movie for the first time is not Russian, but rather an American. The good guys are American trying to find the bad egg so to speak. All in all a great love story.
But I think that the really great movies are still to come when American, Canadian and Russian actors work together on collaborative love story's and science fiction movies that will bring Russia into the western public movie theaters. That is the day I am really looking forward too.
So for the next generation of kids today in Russia, Canada and America that will be a great goal to work towards. It will happen and this next generation of Russian, Canadian, and American kids will only know each other as friends sharing many similar interests and lifestyles.
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Some people are trying to make the reality in Russia at least a bit more humane. The amnesty should apply not only to persons involved in high-profile cases, but also to individuals who are not as well-known. It is better to set free at least some of the individuals who deserve to be released than no one at all.