Chalk and cheese: why a US soap gripped post-communist Russia

World

Chalk and cheese: why a US soap gripped post-communist Russia

‘Santa Barbara’ was modern Russians’ first view of capitalism and was so influential an artist is recreating it

Paul Kendall

At the beginning of 1992, just a few weeks after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a phenomenon gripped Russia that only the country’s fearsome winter weather could match for intensity.

Across the vast land, in the face of spiralling crime and political chaos, citizens in their millions devoted hours each week to watching and obsessing over the American soap opera Santa Barbara.

Towns were named after the series. Hotels and bars adopted Santa Barbara-accented architecture. People christened their dogs and cats after the main characters (Eden, Mason, Cruz). A phrase even entered common parlance: “Don’t be so Santa Barbara” (“Don’t be so melodramatic”)...

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