Watching a documentary series about the Soviet Union and East Germany in 2012, I decided to visit Berlin for historical reasons. History is tangled into everything I do and think about.
I have always hated the Soviet Union, I even remember how happy people were in Finland when the enemy fell in 1991. I was six years old so I couldn't really understand what had happened, but clearly something good.
In 2015 I started to have a desire to take a long train ride through Eastern Europe - I don't know why but the idea came to me. It took me until 2017 to finally do it and I'm still on that trip now in 2022.
I have never been interested in Russian culture, or of the culture of any of the Slavic people, their languages don't interest me and I've never dreamed about living in Russia for example, and yet I did and it was amazing.
Partially it was amazing because of the people, partially because of being away from the suffocating and tiresome West - and partially because of the connection to history. Seeing the ruins of the fallen empire everywhere was highly stimulating to me. Seeing capitalist people living in the old Soviet buildings, paying bills with their own money and watching American movies, was interesting. Seeing the old, huge and ugly factories was terrifying and depressing.
I enjoy very few things in life, normal life without any of the stimulants I need is horror to me. One of the main stimulants is historical connections: when I'm in a place where someone else stood thousand years ago, or just ten years ago - where something happened, where something shaped the world, I feel alive. One of the stimulants is hatred: I hate freely and passionately. I hate the Soviet Union and all the communists around the world, and I hate empires. And yet empires are interesting, they're like super athletes who rise to the top only to fall into ruins. You can read history and root for your favorite empires and be sad about their collapse. To me it's good, we need ruins and tragedies. Without collapse there would be nothing new. But wanting to go back to the old is unforgivable sign of weakness, of slave mentality. Take your lessons from the past and let it burn.
Five years in Russia was full of stimulation: historical marks everywhere all the time, the Ghost never too far, the weight of the history still seen in the people, remarkably beautiful and graceful women everywhere all the time, proud men not subjugated by feminism, the Spirit close always. New life occupying the ruins of the old, beauty growing out of the scary and bleak past.
I really thought Russia was on its way towards better. I projected my own thoughts onto a whole nation. I wanted to live in a beautiful country, still in the process of rebuilding after the disasters of the past, full of smart people who took their lessons from the tragedies they faced - in a place ahead of the West because the people haven't forgotten what real misery is. I thought the West is on its way to hell, where Russia has already been, and is now progressing towards a more reasonable direction. And indeed this is the country I was living in, before my self made illusions were broken.
Disillusionment is a thing dividing your life into before and after. I got five dreamlike years because I lived in an imaginary world which was built just for me, according to what I like the most. What could be better. Now the illusion is gone, but what I felt in Saint Petersburg, in the cold earth and in the birch trees waving in the wind - was and is something which cannot be explained.