My Perestroika (Hessman, 2010)

My Perestroika

In a delicate time, when the progressive Russian movement towards nationalism dangerously resembles that of the former Soviet Union, My Perestroika assesses the present and the future of the country by looking into the past through the eyes of five classmates from school #57 in Moscow. These people, incidentally just as my own parents, were Lenin’s Pioneers growing up behind the Iron Curtain, who witnessed the breakdown of the USSR and were shocked by the instability of their country, their lives, and the concept of truth itself.

Robin Hessman captures the disillusionment with politics and the struggle which these people still go through in order to reconcile their old ideology with the new shifts towards democracy and economic liberation. Andrei Yevgrafov, a businessman and entrepreneur, is the only one out of the five classmates to actually seems to benefit from the economical changes, while the others like the single mother, Olga Durikova, the history teachers Lyuba and Borya Mayerson, and a former anarchist punk-rocker Ruslan Stupin manage to barely get by on very little. Heartwarming home-film footages combined with old Soviet propaganda carry both nostalgia and remorse for the old times.

For an average American viewer the history of the Soviet Union, and modern-day Russia for that matter, may forever remain wrapped up in the hazy mystery of the backward “Evil Empire” which Reagan presented. In that sense My Perestroika is an attempt to break down whatever remains of the Iron Curtain by giving an account of life from the other side. The power of communication and information remains the single greatest weapon against regressing back to the old regime. In a particularly touching moment, Borya Mayerson expresses his hopes that his son’s generation will be able to “hack” through any sort of informational barriers that may be thrown at them in the future. People, in his eyes, can and do learn from the past.

Ana Surviladze is a student of English Literature at Campbell University in Buies Creek,  North Carolina.

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