One of the many follies of youth is the yearning to have whatever one desires at the moment. This insatiable urge drives and defines Sergey (Alexander Lyapin), a handsome and cocky young man in Russia in 1973. He is immersed in the culture of the Western world — jeans, rock music, dancing, and testing himself with every pretty girl he meets. As a first year student at a prestigious Moscow school, he never studies and ignores the lectures on Marx and Lenin.

It is in class that Sergey first sees Lyuda (Lidia Milyuzina), a beautiful young woman who is charmed by him. They begin dating and on her birthday, he gives her a hard-to-get copy of the Rolling Stones' latest album, only to find out that it is just a record of Swan Lake. Sergey has secretly been stealing valuable old books from his grandfather's library and selling them. When his single parent mother finds out, she is distraught. Sergey's selfishness and inability to express honest emotions even alienates him from his two best friends. One of them, Stepan (Yegor Baranovsky) is madly in love with Lyuda and is angered when his buddy treats her shamefully by having sex with other women.

The Vanished Empire, directed by Karen Shakhnazarov, presents an interesting glimpse into the global dimensions of America's pop culture in 1973. As the camera pans a room of youth dancing to the Archies' "Sugar, Sugar," it is hard to believe that the boys and girls on the screen are not in Boston or London. In the bittersweet finale set years later, the paths of Sergey and his best friend Stepan cross and they exchange stories. An older and perhaps wiser Sergey is no longer driven by his desires. They have burned themselves out over the long passage of time.