A Turbulent Factor

O. Sklyrenko, Soviet Youth: a Turbulent Factor. 1988

Komsomolskaia Pravda printed a letter from O. Sklyrenko, a Moscow State University student. It is quoted in full here.

Original Source: Moskovskii Komsomolets, 15 November 1987.

At nineteen I’m one of those young people who are the subject of so much talk, one of those young people “opportunities” are being “opened up ” to. But I envy those younger than myself.

Our misfortune is that we knew everything at sixteen. We didn’t necessarily understand but we were certain what we knew and thought was the real thing. It is sad to reflect that in that brief span of awareness we concluded from what we read, heard and saw what was permissible and what wasn’t. I remember my country when it was “immune” from catastrophies and natural disasters. I remember the infamous lists of rock groups whose music was “banned in public places”.

‘We, too, had our shock, our mourning ceremony at school. I remember the feeling of confusion and uneasiness… Later we learned to take nothing seriously. But that was the first time — and the mournful faces of the adults and the unspoken question: “What’ll happen now?” And the long, agonizing wait. Later we acquired a phlegmatic attitude to everything. It was later that we discovered that awful variety of atheism–no faith in anything at all.

‘We subdued ourselves without ever having had the desire to fight. Fight for what, if everything is okay the way it is? We had the example of our parents. Their generation may, be able to rise from the ashes they suffered more when they were young. We grew up in relative comfort. It will be a thousand times harder for us to rise to our full height, because we didn’t manage to gain faith, let alone lose it.

‘If a generation that comes of age in adventurous questful times encounters difficulties it will search high and low for a way out of the situalion. But we grew up in calm and quiet, when “no” was the watchword. If the biological makeup of an individual is conditioned by his genes, a generations makeup is shaped by history.

‘We’re often accused of being callous and cynical. Not so. Rather, my generation is just distrustful. We have developed a fool-proof mechanism. We are smarter than previous generations and, more importantly, we are more calculating. We will not put ourselves out for nothing. There are times when I think that generations like mine do not make history, History makes us and will move us like chess pieces, one square at a time.

‘We do not talk–politics for instance. I avoided those pointless discussions ever since I was in school. Anil now I feel out of place as society is moving forward.

‘We knew what our future was to be gray and immutable. We grew up in the seventies — that was all we knew. And everyone told us that it was the best, in fact the only possible way. We simply lived the life you laughed about once you had put us to bed and firmly shut the door. No wonder you have turned out to be better prepared for the gust of fresh air which has knocked us off our feet.’

The letter’s honesty is startling. So are the hitter truths it tells. It gives us an insight into the minds of some sections of the young. Their mixture of skepticism, bravado and maximalism, their sense of frustration in spite of changes: their of frustration, confusion resulting from unpreparedness. Let us not disclaim at least a share of the responsibility for some of the disagreeable responses that have been showing themselves.

Source: Source: Vladimir Mezhenkov and Eva Skelley, eds., Perestroika in action: a collection of press articles and interviews. Moscow: Progress, 1988.

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