Generation Z was born between 2000 and the present day. This is the first generation in the former Soviet-Union countries, and in the world, born and raised in a digital environment. We know how to use smartphones from an early age and cannot imagine a world without the internet. It is interesting to compare the Z-generation with the Silent Generation: according to the theory, there are many similarities between these generations. The modern generation is similar to the silent generation in the way they receive information: great-grandparents in their childhood drew their knowledge and emotions from books, gen Z also prefers the virtual world to the real one. Of course, the medium has changed – YouTube and Netflix have replaced books. But the essence is quite comparable - replacing the lived experience with the experience of text or video authors. The reason for the loneliness of the gadget generation is the predominance of digital communication and underdevelopment of personal communication skills. In live communication we find it difficult to read body language, listen, apply empathy and intuition. Therefore, fearing problems and discomfort, many of us avoid real life and spend more and more time on social media. Zoomers rarely go for a walk outside or go out at all, have parties less often, know that their mistakes and words can be recorded and posted online for all to see, it is the same caution as that of our Silent great-grandparents.
But Generation Z in the European sense (technologically educated progressive young people) can only be discovered in the largest cities. The other part of the countries might not be representative due to the lower level of living, digital divide and lack of change. Second, the impact of traditions and traditional values in the society still forms the public opinion even amongst youngsters. Gen Z in the Post-Soviet Union might be called the generation of contradictions according to the results of focus groups and public surveys.
In Kiev, Moscow, Minsk - cities with a population of millions, people have started to talk about New Ethics, Cancel Culture, and Gender-neutral words. In small towns, no one is interested in this; people here have other issues: they focus on survival. This also applies to the youngest generation. Zoomers here are not as affected by smartphones and the Internet; in cities frozen in the entourage of the 90s, the events that influenced the generation are also frozen. For example, high-speed internet was introduced to all the Russian cities under Medvedev in 2010, but it might not have been here if the elections had gone differently. Ideals in such cities, therefore, are built on the experience of previous generations rather than by the rapid digitalisation of information. Few teenagers here use Instagram, preferring older (domestic) and more universal social networks such as Vkontakte, the equivalent of Facebook. The main goal for young people here is to move to a bigger city, whether that means through study, work or luck. For some of them this path is successful, but most go back, or try to build their future following the example of their parents in their hometown.
In St. Petersburg, Odessa and Batumi, Generation Z consists of webcam models, roof climbing boys, small-time dealers, and in general colourful characters, as they are portrayed in new films and TV series, oriented towards the exaggerated and embellished American model of today's youth. In reality we are different. These stories are indeed more vivid than those of children raised in virtual reality made from saved posts on Instagram. We leave the small towns and try to move to the capitals; there we get lost in the crowd. Children from the big cities, like Minsk are rushing abroad in pursuit of freedom and a sense of security.
What the Z's in the capital cities and the provinces have in common is that we were all born in the era of Putin's rule. His presidency has shaped us, his policies have influenced Generation Z in all the countries of the former Soviet Union, some places more, some places less. In the big towns we try to oppose it, in the small ones we become apolitical, because we believe that the change of power will not affect us in any way - there was ruin and there will be ruin.
The Putin Era has not only produced a socio-phobic generation of girls and boys living online but also a grandiose generational conflict. Society in its ostentatious sanctimony continues to insist: we have no sex, no homoeroticism and even images of the female body, we cannot express ourselves through clothes if they are too revealing, we cannot complain about problems because then you are a whiner or a failure, and going to a psychologist means you have nothing to do. But neither the law nor public opinion stops us. Deep down, we yearn for change and a reboot of society, just like any other generation in their younger years, although as we grow older we realise that changes in politics or society in the post- Soviet Union countries will probably not solve any of our problems, it is certainly worth a try.