We loved America. I remember, we did. When we were teens, growing up in the early 90s; most of my friends the same age did not even question their attitude toward Western civilization. It was great, how could it be otherwise?
Unlike our grandfathers and even fathers, we did not think of the USSR falling apart - the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the XX century" - as a disaster. For us it was the beginning of a long journey. Finally, we would break out beyond the Soviet shell into the big world - limitless and cool. Finally, we would quench our sensory deprivation. We are born, maybe not in the right place, but certainly at the right time - or so we thought. It's hard to believe now, but even the Orthodox Church coming out from under communist supervision was for us the same thing as the triumph of Western liberal values. The celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia and the first concert of the Scorpions in Moscow with their "Winds of Change" - was, for us, all part of the same thing.
The war in Iraq and even the breakup of Yugoslavia mostly escaped our attention, somehow. And it was not just that we were young and carefree. I, for one, was already trained in the Komsomolskaya Pravda
, in the International Department. I was monitoring the English Reuters feed that was full of Izetbegovic, Karadzic and Mladic, but somehow did not take all these events seriously. It was somewhere far away, and not in our area. And, of course, the war in the Balkans did not fit within any kind of anti-Western storyline for me. Croats killed Serbs, Bosnians killed Serbs, the Serbs killed both of those - why blame America?
In 1990 we voted for "Yabloko" democrats, went to the White House barricades on the side of democratic forces, watched the newborn CHANNEL and listened to the echo of Moscow radio. Our first journalistic articles always mentioned the "civilized world" and we firmly believed that it was really civilized. By the mid-1990s, the first Euro-skeptics started to appear in our ranks, but they were more in the category of devil's advocates. I myself shared a dorm room with Pete the communist and Arseniy the monarchist. My friends from other rooms would see me off each evening with words of regret: "Bye, go back to your madhouse."
The first serious blow to our pro-Western orientation in life was Kosovo. It was a shock; our rose-colored glasses were shattered into pieces. The bombing of Belgrade was, for my generation, what the 9/11 attacks were for Americans.
Worldviews turned 180 degrees together with the plane of the then Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who was over the Atlantic Ocean on the way from Ireland to the United States when he learned of the beginning of the American aggression - and gave the command to return to Russia.