For the past 10 years, I have been living a few months each year in Russia. During that time I have seen vast changes in the county and have come to know it as few Americans ever will.
The important thing about this book is what I didn’t do and what I am not. I didn’t go to Russia as a journalist or diplomat didn’t live in fancy apartment, and I am not a tourist. My wife is a Russian and I had other friends who had married Russian women. I have lived in big places like Moscow and Tver, but spend most of my time out in a village in the south of Russia, a thousand miles from Moscow, a hundred miles from civilization, and about as far away from America as you can get without riding a camel.
It is important to know that there are several Russias. You are probably most familiar with the Moscow version of Russia. It’s home to more billionaires than any other city in the world, and about the second most expensive city in the world to live in. It is the “Land of Mink and Mercedes”. Most of my letters were written from the other Russia, the “Land of the Cotton Dress and The Lada.”
When you see a news broadcast showing families running from the terrorist attacks by piling their belongings on the family tractor and hitting the road, or when you see pictures of old women in faded cotton dresses and head scarves sitting in front of decrepit rural houses judging the world, you are looking at my Russia.
That real Russia has a much in common with Moscow as Rwanda has in common with New York City. Not that I haven’t written about Moscow. Like most people, I went there first – and Russians are about the same everywhere.
The first part is interesting but a little slow. To understand Russians, I suggest you start with “April 10, 2008 I Took a Marshutka Today” and then read “You might live in a village if…” If you like cars, read “July 13, 2010 A Piece Of History – That Sounds Like Jello” and the post after it to see what car ownership is like in Russia. If you are wondering why the food sanctions are not bothering Russians much, read “October 16, 2007 Kleb, Mayonnaise, and Chicken bone soup”
The entire book is here to be read, but if you get tired of switching between posts, it is available on Amazon for a measly $1.99