A Moscow Teen's Changing World Pavel Has Given Up Michael Jackson and Science Fiction for Dale Carnegie and Friedrich Nietzsche Series: BEING 16 AROUND THE WORLD. A SERIES OF PORTRAITS. Part 14 of a Series

By Daniel Sneider, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, May 28, 1991 | Go to article overview

A Moscow Teen's Changing World Pavel Has Given Up Michael Jackson and Science Fiction for Dale Carnegie and Friedrich Nietzsche Series: BEING 16 AROUND THE WORLD. A SERIES OF PORTRAITS. Part 14 of a Series


Daniel Sneider, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


PAVEL BOGACHKO covers his walls with the same garish posters found in any Soviet teenager's room - Michael Jackson in black leather and studs, Sly Stallone with his muscles bulging, Arnold Schwarzenegger glaring menacingly as the Terminator.

But Pavel waves his hand in embarrassed dismissal. "I'm not interested in them anymore," he says. They have gone the way of the detective novels and science fiction that used to fill his book shelves.

These days Pavel spends several hours of the day absorbed in philosophy and literature. The slight, dark-haired teen eagerly consumes the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and the American psychoanalyst Erich Fromm. He enjoys the novels of Mikhail Bulgakov and Vladimir Nabokov.

Changes at this age are sometimes painful. "I had to leave my old friends because I wasn't interested in what they were anymore," Pavel says. "They got together, played guitars, sang songs, listened to Soviet pop music I don't like, and discussed stupid things - just cursing and talking about girls."

Pavel found two close friends at school. They like to go the Central House of Artists and listen to lectures on ancient Greece or Shakespeare or perhaps mathematics. But Pavel's real love is psychology.

"I want to be a psychologist," the teenager says. "I like to communicate with people very much." Pavel claims inspiration from what may seem an unusual source for the Soviet Union - Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Some suggest it was the contrast between the heavy ideological drumbeat of Soviet life and Carnegie's down-to-earth advice that made a Russian translation of the postwar American classic a bestseller here for the past seven years.

But Pavel's role model may also be closer to home - his mother, Olga. She is a psychiatrist working in a factory clinic, treating the contemporary ills of Soviet life from overweight to alcoholism. Pavel's parents divorced when he was 3. He lived for two years with his grandparents in the Central Asian city of Dushanbe after his mother moved to Moscow to work.

Since he was 8, the two of them have lived together in Moscow. "Sometimes I had to work the evening shift," his mother recalls. "When Pavel came back from school, I had already left. And he was asleep when I came back from work. We didn't see each other for days on end.... Life made him self-reliant."

Four years ago his mother married Alexander Gushin, an electronics repairman who now works for a cooperative, the Soviet Union's only legal form of private business. And recently his beloved grandparents moved from Tadzhikstan, fearful of ethnic riots. The five of them share an average-size three-room apartment in the center of Moscow - along with Black, a rambunctious cocker spaniel.

The visit by a foreigner to their home is a first - a foreigner is like a lion to the family, Olga comments. The apartment's high ceilings are an echo of a rich past when this was only a piece of a huge apartment built before the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Now the kitchen is filled with the round table where the family gathers for its meals and tea.

As is common in cramped Soviet apartments, Pavel's parents sleep on a foldout couch in what doubles as the living room, now shared with his grandparents.

Soviet parents dote on their children. Pavel has his own room, cabinets lined with the books he acquires on his constant searches through nearby bookstores, a scratched wooden desk where he dutifully does his homework each evening. A Soviet-made cassette tape player on which he plays rock music sits on a chair. These days he is into British rocker Sting's music but Pavel also ranks Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, and Queen among his favorites.

A typical schoolday begins, if Pavel doesn't oversleep from staying up late reading, at 7 a.m. After a shower and breakfast, he is out the door before his parents are awake. …

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