Russia’s Sputnik Generation presents the life stories of eight 1967 graduates of School No. 42 in the Russian city of Saratov. Born in 1949/50, these four men and four women belong to the first generation conceived during the Soviet Union’s return to "normality" following World War II. Well educated, articulate, and loosely networked even today, they were first-graders the year the USSR launched Sputnik, and grew up in a country that increasingly distanced itself from the excesses of Stalinism. Reaching middle age during the Gorbachev Revolution, they negotiated the transition to a Russian-style market economy and remain active, productive members of society in Russia and the diaspora.
In candid interviews with Donald J. Raleigh, these Soviet "baby boomers" talk about the historical times in which they grew up, but also about their everyday experiences―their family backgrounds; childhood pastimes; favorite books, movies, and music; and influential people in their lives. These personal testimonies shed valuable light on Soviet childhood and adolescence, on the reasons and course of perestroika, and on the wrenching transition that has taken place since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
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Donald J. Raleigh is Jay Richard Judson Distinguished Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is author, editor, or translator of numerous books, most recently Experiencing Russia’s Civil War: Politics, Society, and Revolutionary Culture in Saratov, 1917–1922.Review:
. . . this is an extremely informative book. It is also highly readable,
partly because of its novelistic qualities: the characters of both Raleigh and his
informants shine through the text. The introduction to each interview includes
a lively account of the interviewee’s behaviour during the event as well as a
narrative of Raleigh’s various adventures, such as getting lost on the way, in
the labyrinth of Moscow University, or being jumped on by an unannounced
pet rat. The book is beautifully illustrated with photographs of the informants,
for example, at May Day parades, on the beach, or dressed for graduation
ball. At the very end, hiding beyond the Index, are photographs of Raleigh
himself in 1967 and 2005. A valuable feature of the book is its sparing but deft
drawing of parallels between Russians and Americans of the same generation,
leading the reader to reflect on how far the book tells a specifically Russian
story or, conversely, one more universal.Volume 86, number 4, October 2008 (Anne White Department of European Studies and Modern Languages
University of Bath)
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