The late 1990s and early aughts were a time of hope―for democracy and free press. The Soviet Union had failed, leaving behind a number of independent countries where the Scorpions’ 1990 pop ballad “Wind of Change” became a rallying cry. Communist propaganda was being replaced by Western ideals of freedom of speech, or so it was hoped. Two decades later the wind of change is blowing the other way. The Russians are proving their expertise in propaganda in far-off lands, including the United States. Russians are masters of “fake news.” Katya Cengel witnessed its production in the former Soviet Union long before it became a catch phrase. With distrust between Russia and the United States at an all-time high, it is hard to imagine an era when young Westerners flocked eastward. Yet that is what happened. Less than two decades ago, writers and adventure seekers sought out countries once controlled by Russia. Prague was the Paris of their generation. Despite the region’s appeal, neither Kyiv nor Riga was the place you would expect to find a twenty-two-year-old California woman just out of college. Kyiv was too close to Moscow. Riga was too small to matter―and too cold. Cengel ended up living in both. She took a job at the Baltic Times in Riga just seven years after Latvia regained its independence. The idea of a free press was still fluid, and the Soviet legacy of hospitality was so inviting that Cengel followed her Latvia posting with a move to Ukraine. There she made several trips to Chernobyl, site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. It was on her second reporting trip that she met her future fiancé. As she fell in love, the country fell apart. The beginning of what would become the Orange Revolution had arrived. Cengel’s adventures are illuminating, tragic, and often hilarious.
From Chernobyl with Love
Reporting from the Ruins of the Soviet Union
The late 1990s and early aughts were a time of hope―for democracy and free press. The Soviet Union had failed, leaving behind a number of independent countries where…
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