Had quite a nice talk the other night, with one of the mummies from school. Some people are genuinely fascinated by other cultures and places. This one was, too. She was very curious. She wanted to know what the Soviet times were like, and what it was like now...She was not asking me if we, Russians (I am NOT....ah, whatever) all shared one bed together, but she asked questions I had to think about before I answered, which I always enjoy.
For instance, she wanted to know if, during the Soviet times, we felt like part of one culture and nation. Or did the individual republics manage to maintain their own personalities within it.
Well, yes I said, we were all one big country, but i would not say that we all felt the same.
We always knew we were slightly different. Yes, we were all equal, with Russia being more equal than the rest. But despite being one country, we were all very different. If you allow me some light-hearted generalization, then I could tell you that Kazakhs loved their horse meat and Azeries were famous for selling stuff at markets. Armenians were known for their cognac and sense of humour, and Georgians- for music, vine and richness of culture. Ukrainian women were the most beautiful, and Russians were drinking too much but had a huge soul. And men...men of the whole Caucasus region were supposed to be hot and passionate, but Lithuanians had the reputation of the best lovers.
So yes, of course we were different.
'What were the good things about it?' she asked.
'Bananas', I said. 'They tasted sooooo much better after we had to queue for them for an hour! And now what? I can get them in any supermarket, piled up on shelves. Not the same.'
She also wanted to know what it was like now.
'It is corrupt, isn’t it?' she asked. In what ways, she wanted to know. How was it corrupt?
Where do I even start? Do I start with the road police, who would stop you to beg for some cash? 'Come on, brother', they would say, 'I had no lunch today!'
Do I tell you how much certain positions and jobs cost? Shall I tell you that everything new set up, however honest it was at the beginning, is bound to change eventually as the locals take over? Shall I tell you that I can’t imagine what it would take for it to change, let alone how long?
Or shall I just tell you a popular anecdote I heard a while ago?
One day our president’s wife was greeting her husband in heaven. She had been dead for ages and could not wait for him to join her.
'Oh, honey! So great to see you at last!',she exclaimed, 'But why are your hands so cold???'
'Have you not heard?' the dead president responded 'They kept me in a fridge for months!!!'
'Was that true??' the mummy asked.
'Oh, who knows?', I said. 'It is a joke, you know?'
'Wow', she said. 'You do come from a fascinating background that’s for sure!'
And I had not even told her about Stalin murdering my grandparents.
It was a fun night.