The crumbling of the Soviet Union and its republics, on December 25, 1991, thrust the once mighty region into a period of political upheaval and poverty, making the necessities that once sustained everyday life seem like far-off luxuries. "We worried about locating soap and toilet paper in empty government stores," Sophia Moskalenko, a psychologist and writer born in Soviet Ukraine, Kiev, tells “Far & Wide.” "When we didn't, we used baking soda and vinegar to wash, and old newspapers to wipe."
During the day, people faced a cold and grim reality, but at night, through their television sets, millions across the Russian Federation escaped to Santa Barbara, California, where Moskalenko recalls, "The people were all gorgeous, and the sun was always shining, and everyone was dressed in clothes we could only dream about."
“Santa Barbara,” the first American soap opera to air on Russian television, made its debut in 1992 and, until ending in 2002, became what “Foreign Policy” described as “a national obsession of borderline-insane magnitude.”
More than an infatuation, for many the soap opera offered a glimpse into a life of freedom and prosperity that stood in stark contrast to post-Soviet Russia. "We couldn’t fathom a reality like that," Moskalenko shares. "Watching ‘Santa Barbara’ was not that much different for us than watching ‘Star Wars.’”
Today, nostalgia for the show is very much alive, and it’s not hard to find locals who will wax poetic about the show that, for a time, captivated a nation.