The kidnapping of my father or the 1990s in Russia

Alexei Sorokin
9 min readNov 11, 2021

If you are not familiar with Russia’s modern history and want a synopsis of Russia’s 1990s decade — I have it. You’re welcome.

A. FUCKING.MESS.

Economic turmoil, multiple political crises, crime, mafia activity, poverty, the war in Chechnya, hostage crises. Life expectancy in the country fell to a ridiculous fifty-something.

When the Soviet Union fell in 1991, there was a lot of hope. Yeltsin then defeated the coup led by the headliners who wanted to save the Soviet Union and emerged as the country’s leader. The image of him speaking on a tank outside of Parliament embodied the victorious start of his epoch.

Well, the epoch turned out a fucking mess.

The 1990s were a dark period when economic recovery never came, hopes of a new better were repeatedly crushed, and the state of disorder seemed set to last forever.

My family though had gone through most of the decade without any difficulties. In the early 1990s, my dad founded a meat production company and he was very successful. In the middle of the decade, I was sent to study abroad, but I did spend quite a lot of time in Moscow. For every break, I was back at home.

In 1999 the shit hit the fan.

It was the second day of September 1999. My head was spinning from going out with my girlfriend (now my wife of more than 20 years!) around the clock. I had just finished my boarding school in England and was enjoying the best summer of my life before I was due to head back to England to start university. The only ugly part of my life was the collapse of my parents’ marriage. Earlier that year they’d split up and my mom was going through a lot of pain.

That afternoon I walked out through the archway of my home on Kutuzovsky avenue and welcomed the familiar wave of unremitting noise from the traffic on the avenue. I dialed Yura, Dad’s younger brother, and partner, from my cell phone, but he didn’t answer. I had already exchanged calls with him and Marina, Dad’s girlfriend, wondering where Dad was. He’d been living with Marina in a rented apartment not far from Kutuzovsky, closer to the center of the city, and I hadn’t been able to reach him all day.

Then I saw Yura’s number on my cell phone. “It’s shit news, you can’t even imagine,” he said. “Your dad’s been kidnapped.”

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Alexei Sorokin

A Russian immigrant in America, father of 4, Cambridge and Harvard Business School alum. I run and write every day. https://runningwritingliving.substack.com/