On one level, this book is the story of an epic 6000-kilometer road trip from the frigid shores of the Barents Sea to Sochi, Russia’s southernmost tip on the Black Sea. Dubbed "The Spine of Russia," the adventure tasked a mismatched duo of Russian and American journalists with capturing a view of Russia from the ground, to collect powerful images and honest human stories that offered a more subtle, complex picture of the world's largest country.
But this book is far more than just a travel essay. For it intertwines fascinating subject profiles with digressions into historical and cultural themes relevant to understanding modern Russia. It is a story told with humor and with the insight derived from the author’s three decades of intimate interactions with Russia.
Among the many interesting stories in the book:
There were also craft beer makers, ballroom dancers, policemen, restaurant owners, an opera student, a priest, a single mother, an accessibility activist, teachers, docents, a best-selling author, soap makers, journalists, a sailor, a winemaker, and a woman taking on the male-dominated world of Russian hockey. And no trip to Russia would be complete without a run-in with security officials in leather jackets. So there is also that.
Taken together, the stories from this epic road trip create a compelling portrait of Russia and its people. The book could not be more timely; recent events show how vital it is for Americans to continue working to understand Russia.
Includes no photos (for that, see The Spine of Russia), but it does include a map of the journey for reference.
Also available as an ebook.
"Richardson... knows his Russian history and relies on it in presenting a unique perspective on this fascinating country. Encounters with colorful Russians of all stripes enliven his engaging read."
– Ethan De Seife, Seven Days
PAUL E. RICHARDSON is a journalist and publisher. Editor of Russian Life magazine, he has authored and edited numerous books of fiction and nonfiction focused on Russia. He lives in Vermont.