The very important issue addressed in Don Raleigh’s book is the relations between Moscow and provincial cities, especially between Moscow and such “closed” cities as Saratov, during late socialism.
One important topic of Raleigh’s book is Soviet patriotism and anti-Americanism of the Soviet baby boomers. This topic with an emphasis on Soviet patriotism and rejection of negative aspects of capitalism prevailed in all student diaries from the early stage of the Soviet middle school (5-7 grades) through the years in the high school (8-10 grades) and the first college years through the 1960s and the 1980s. For the authors of those diaries a Soviet child was a patriot of his socialist “motherland.” Despite the fact of the growing influence of western cultural products, which became available during the détente in the 1970s, and beginning of cultural fixation over such products like movies, popular music and fashion in the last years in high school and the first years in college, the mental construction of the young man in the diaries is still based on the dichotomy of “Soviet patriot vs. western capitalism.”
Another important issue in Raleigh’s book is a role of media in cultural consumption of the Soviet baby boomers especially during the 1970s (pp. 221-223, 275, 299). I will add, which was missing in the book. The détente of the 1970s became a critical period in the westernization of Soviet youth, and various media played important role in this process. Paradoxically, by legitimizing consumption of Western cultural products, the official Soviet policy of détente justified an incorporation of various elements of Western modernity (from the new fashions to a commercialization of popular culture) into Soviet ideological practices of the 1970s that further disoriented and confused both local ideologists and local youth.
As far as I know, Donald Raleigh’s book is the first known Soviet oral history study by a western scholar that is based exclusively on personal oral interviews as only primary sources and uses only the oral history methodology in presenting and explaining these interviews. Apparently this project began as an extension of a book – Russia’s Sputnik Generation: Soviet Baby Boomers Talk about Their Lives, Translated and edited by Donald J. Raleigh (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2006) – which contained only Saratov’s interviews, the former graduates from Saratov’s school No. 42. Some of the major characters from the first book and their interviews, like Aleksandr Konstantinov (pp. 24-54), Aleksandr Trubniukov (pp. 220-252) and Gennadii Ivanov (pp. 253-280), still play the important role in this new book as well. What is more original in the new book is an addition the interviews with Muscovites, which create an important social and cultural dimension of historical comparison of two different, but elitist cohorts of the Soviet students from two elite schools specializing in English – one from the “closed” Soviet provincial city of Saratov, and another from the center of Soviet civilization, a capital city of Moscow.
Another interesting source for our understanding of the Soviet Baby Boomers Generation is a written correspondence by the western journalists who lived in Moscow during late socialism. Western journalists’ publications were also based on personal interviews. Sometime those publications have more insights and precious information than recent interviews which are distorted by the effect of condensed memory. I would recommend the best book about Moscow in the 1970s, which could be used in our conversation about post-Stalin Soviet generation, Hendrick Smith, The Russians (New York: Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co., 1976).