The history of the last thirty years can be studied from a multitude of different points of view. However, in the case of most courses on history, events, dates, and processes that contemporaries recognize as having influenced society and its people are discussed in one way or another, while the nature of the changes that they have brought about is largely left out. Although prevalent, such narratives appear divorced from the realities of life. In Russia, between the late 1980s and today, many people lived their lives without acknowledging or realising the transformations being made to the basis of their daily existence, the social environment, or social institutions. Changing governments, political parties, taxes, borders, newspapers, flags, and even money — all this happens beyond our mandate, without our decisive participation. And it ends where we ourselves become ordinary people.
The objective of Dmitry Butrin’s course is to illustrate the extent to which, in the past three decades, our understanding and concept of an ordinary person have altered. From the author’s point of view, these changes in perception are in many ways more radical than those made to the political system. When discussing topics such as friends and family, geographical spaces, faith and science as well as youth and old age, our understanding of these concepts often differs to what they would have meant thirty years ago. Moreover, the history of Russia between 1990–2010 was shaped, in part, by these changes, yet they are not included in the broad historical narrative of the country. The course’s aim is to attempt to describe what happened, in a changing nation, to those without whom history would be impossible.