National Geographic : 2016 Dec
92 national geographic • December 2016 was offensive to the point of tears, to sit there and hear outsiders making fun of us,” she says. This is as political as she gets these days. Back in 2011 Liza became interested in liberal politics, which was all the rage in Moscow. She joined Am- nesty International and the liberal Yabloko party as an observer for the December parliamentary elections. She was assigned to the polling station at her little sister’s school and was shocked to see teachers stuffing ballot boxes. When Liza tried to say something, they screamed at her and made her sit in a corner while the principal blocked her view. This was happening all over the country. Many election observers caught it on their phones and put the proof online, which sparked a mass protest movement in Moscow and major cities unlike any Russia had seen in 20 years. Liza, however, lost her nerve. “I was hysterical,” she tells me. “I spent two hours crying.” After that she decided, “No more politics. Ever. This doesn’t concern me, and I’m not strong enough to fight.” It’s a promise that she hasn’t broken, even as the ruble has crashed, cutting into her ability to do “I always wanted to be a journalist; I was always writing,” she says, noting that her grandmother kept all her short stories. “But my parents told me journalism isn’t serious. It’s a venal profes- sion”—a relic of the 1990s, when journalism here was bought and sold like any commodity—“ You won’t make a lot of money. You’re the oldest and the smartest; you need to go into a solid profes- sion so you can feed yourself and take care of your sister.” Along the way her parents separated. Her father’s business eventually took off, and Liza was able to spend a year of high school in Oregon and also study abroad in London. A modern Westernized woman, she tells her mother about her boyfriends and the drug- fueled parties she attends. But in some ways she is very, very Russian. “Putin irritates me,” she begins, sounding like many in the oppositional, educated milieu of Moscow. “But just let a for- eigner try to criticize him! I will always defend Russia.” When she was in London, she says, peo- ple constantly made fun of Russia and Russian women, mocking them as mail-order brides. “It With some seven million Instagram followers, 29-year-old TV actress Nastasya Samburskaya (@samburskaya) is one of Russia’s biggest social media stars. Nevertheless, like many Muscovites, she lives in a small apartment. No different from youth in many countries, young Russians rarely part with their smartphones.