After two and a half years as NPR’s Moscow bureau chief, David Greene travels across the country - a 6,000 mile journey by rail, from Moscow to the Pacific port of Vladivostok - to speak with ordinary Russians about how their lives have changed in the post-Soviet years. Reaching beyond the headline-grabbing protests in Moscow, Green speaks with a group of singing babushkas from Buranovo, a teenager hawking “space rocks” from last spring’s meteor shower in Chelyabinsk, and activists battling for environmental regulation in the pollution-choked town of Baikalsk. Through the stories of fellow travelers, Greene explores the challenges and opportunities facing the new Russia: a nation that boasts open elections and newfound prosperity yet still continues to endure oppression, corruption, and stark inequality.
Set against the wintery landscape of Siberia, Greene’s lively travel narrative offers a glimpse into the soul of 20th century Russia: how its people remember their history and look forward to the future.
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Long String of NPR Short Reports
The intensity of encountering modern Russia
Insightful, moving, relevant
You meet so many marvelous Russian individuals, but the favorite character who emerges is modern Russia, herself.
In 2007 I spent 3 months in Russia as an American with little prior understanding of the country, and this book vividly brought back many feelings from that time. I was so grateful to recognize what I had seen and felt while there in a fellow traveler's experience. I recognized the culture-shock, and realization that there is this vast nation on the other side of the world about which most of us know very little, and that these people have a history and point of view that is unique and completely fascinating. It was very moving.
David Greene captures so many elements of the culture, from confusing idiosyncrasies of day-to-day Russian life, to a deeper, insidious mindset that holds fast to a nation of people beaten down by decades (or centuries, really) of political repression. By travelling via third class railway tickets across the country, Greene offers a unique perspective that cannot be found by studying Russian history or following the news. You learn about the state of humanity in this nation. While watching the development of post-soviet Russia from afar, it can be completely perplexing for a westerner to grasp such things as Putin's high approval rating, or a wave of seemingly anti-democratic, anti-western sentiment from the country. This book helps make sense of a nation of people who have been closed to America for so much of the 20th century, and it's incredibly relevant for any American who wants to better understand who those people are.
- Amber Vaughn Robinson