Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Russian Journal” as Want to Read:
A Russian Journal
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Russian Journal

4.02  ·  Rating Details ·  1,290 Ratings  ·  149 Reviews
Steinbeck and Capa's account of their journey through Cold War Russia is a classic piece of reportage and travel writing.Just after the Iron Curtain fell on Eastern Europe, Pulitzer Prize - winning author John Steinbeck and acclaimed war photographer Robert Capa ventured into the Soviet Union to report for the New York Herald Tribune. This rare opportunity took the famous ...more
ebook, 240 pages
Published December 1st 1999 by Penguin Books (first published 1948)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Russian Journal, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jason Koivu
Right after WWII people in America were curious about the Soviet Union in a big way. It coincided with a time when author John Steinbeck and world-renowned photographer Robert Capa were at a loss for what to do next. A scheme was hatched up to do a bit of light investigative journalism and see what was up with post-war Russia.

This wasn't political, so much as a social call. Steinbeck and Capa really just wanted to see what was going on in the lives and minds of the people.

They went to Moscow...
This is a book definitely worth reading, but I wouldn't put it up there with Steinbeck's best.

It has clear prose, spiced with humor, pathos and wonderful descriptions of places and people. But the book is short and much was off limits.

In itself it is amazing that Steinbeck and the famed photographer Robert Capa were even allowed into Russia in 1947, two years after the war and with the Cold War in full swing. Steinbeck was employed as a war correspondent by the New York Herald Tribune and he c
Jul 04, 2010 Benjamin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Two things:

a) I wish Penguin would've gotten hold of some more hi-res versions of Capa's photos. You can find some of them at Magnum's online collection, and they're much better quality than the images in the book.

b) I wish Steinbeck had published an addendum to this journal after Khrushchev's Secret Speech exposing Stalin's crimes -- I know JS wasn't trying to be political or anything, but I would've been interested to see his interpretation of that time period with retrospective knowledge.

Andrei Tamaş
Oct 16, 2016 Andrei Tamaş rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Steinbeck, una dintre cele mai proeminente figuri ale literaturii americane din secolul XX, este unul dintre scriitorii care, prin însuși felul lor de a fi, iau atitudine împotriva pragmatismului caracteristic școlii de literatură din care au făcut parte. De aceea, Robert Capa, fotograful care l-a însoțit în călătoria întreprinsă în Uniunea Sovietică în anii de după cel de-al Doilea Război Mondial, afirma că, de fapt, Steinbeck ’’este un sentimental ascuns în propria cochilie’’.

Description: Just after the iron curtain fell on Eastern Europe John Steinbeck and acclaimed war photographer, Robert Capa ventured into the Soviet Union to report for the New York Herald Tribune. This rare opportunity took the famous travellers not only to Moscow and Stalingrad - now Volgograd - but through the countryside of the Ukraine and the Caucasus. A RUSSIAN JOURNAL is the distillation of their journey and remains a remarkable memoir and unique historical document. Steinbeck and Capa rec

Nobel Prize winning John Steinbeck and his photographer friend visit Moscow, the Ukraine, (what was then) Stalingrad, and Georgia in 1947. They stick to their mission which is to find out about everyday people: “What do people wear there? What do they serve for dinner? Do they have parties? ….” They did not find out about how they make love or how they die (also in the mission). They are not interested in important people, politics or 5 year plans.

Destruction and the remnants of war are all aro
AmberBug **

Overall a good book. Steinbeck and Capa have a great chemistry going on that flows throughout their travels. Robert Capa (the photographer) writes a small chapter of his disgust and annoyance (more of a rant in form of a letter). It sheds some light and humor on the trip and gives a perspective different from Steinbeck. I enjoyed the dynamic between the writer and the photographer and the styles of personality that shine through while traveling in such a drastic difference of culture. They clash
Sep 15, 2010 Cams rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was a student of Russian language and literature in the 90s and spent some time in the former Soviet Union. I'm a big fan of John Steinbeck's novels and am surprised that it took me so long to read this.

Steinbeck and his friend, photographer Robert Capa had a project to enter the Soviet Union to document and photograph the lives of the ordinary Russian people. It's basically a slice of life of the time and documents very well not only how Russian, Ukrainian and Georgian people live, but also
Aug 02, 2013 Stacy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Steinbeck and famous photographer Capa take a surprising trip through cold war Russia in 1948. Steinbeck said he wanted to know what the life of a Russian was like; what they wore, ate, vacationed, worked on, cared about and anything else connected with their day to day existence. I was surprised they were even allowed in at all but Steinbeck happened to get his papers signed by a Russian who enjoyed literature and believed Steinbeck when he said he wasn't political, didn't have any kind of agen ...more
Apr 08, 2011 E rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics-history
Snapshots textual and visual of post-war Stalinist Russia from two beguiling travelers who don't take themselves too seriously. Because Steinbeck openly admits that their observations are superficial and could never be otherwise, and because his affection for people everywhere glows throughout the book, one is never tempted to dispute his account.

Cold War history is so often obsessed with the top-down perspective. This book offered many insights I had always craved during my Soviet history clas
Feb 09, 2016 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, russia, travel
From 1947, before anyone knew if the Cold War would stick, though relations were tense. They are there for the 800th anniversary of the founding of Moscow:

Coincidentally (or not) I have this week been doing Animal Farm with a class, reading The Tsar of Love and Techno, and listening to the TMS lectures on the Cold War, and this all nestles together satisfactorily. The Russian Journal incidentally would make good supplementary reading to support a study of Animal Farm. I'm giving my class this:

For a relatively short book, I still found it bogged down at times, especially the preparation for the trip and the digressions about (digs at) his photographer companion. The story was likely groundbreaking at the time, but struck me as dated now. A strong interest in either Russia, or that era, would be necessary to appreciate the book more than I did. Narration captured the tone well.
Helena Demirci
Nov 04, 2015 Helena Demirci rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Wherever we had been in Russia, in Moscow, in the Ukraine, in Stalingrad, the magical name of Georgia came up constantly. People who had never been there, and who possibly never could go there, spoke of Georgia with a kind of longing and a great admiration. The spoke of Georgians as supermen, as great drinkers, greats dancers, great musicians, great workers and lovers. And they spoke of the country in the Caucasus and around the Black Sea as a kind of second heaven. Indeed, we began to believe ...more
Dec 09, 2013 Maria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Дълго търсих тази книга, по непонятни за мен причини не е преиздавана и съвсем логично и изчерпана по всички познати канали. Исках да я прочета, защото обичам Стайнбек и досега не ме е разочаровал. Т.е. исках да я прочета като колекционер и почитател. Но я намерих точно в период, в който актуалните новини са много сходни с тези от началото на Студената война. И може би съвсем естествено всичко написано ми се стори твърде съвременно. Странно и плашещо е колко малко се е развил светът в някои отно ...more
Loved this. Steinbeck's experience travelling through Soviet era Russia in 1948. Fascinating, and includes some humorous observations. Steinbeck and Robert Capa were invited to a house for 'a bite and a drink' to find a table twenty feet long, loaded with delicious food. "I think it is the only meal or dinner we ever attended where fried chicken was an hors d'oeuvre, and where the hors d'oeuvre was half a chicken."
Written during the Cold-War, the wonderful message of this book is that people are
Ana Badagadze
Jul 10, 2016 Ana Badagadze rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's nothing better then when you're from a very small country like Georgia and you love very big writer like Steinbeck and you read how your Steinbeck loved your Georgia. You feel him even closer, more realistic, friend from past century, enjoying cuisine of your people, dancing and singing Georgian songs and getting tired of walking the same streets you walk every day.

Oh, yes, even though Georgia is described as a real jewel in Soviet Union, so I'm very subjective, the book is very interes
This is a wonderful liitle book, and quite an eye-opener. Written a scant three years after the end of the Second World war, when the world was coming to terms with the advent of the Iron Curtain, John Steinbeck and his photographerRobert Capa set out to see for themselves what Russia* was like.

Not surprisingly, they met some obstacles in the form of Soviet bureaucracy and prohibitions, and since they had to rely on government-approved translators, everywhere they went they were at their mercy
Apr 15, 2015 4cats rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Two American greats decided to work together and visit Russia in 1947, they wanted to meet real Russians, see them at work and at play, and most importantly write about their journey and their impressions of a country recovering from war. Steinbeck and Capa wanted to record the truth about their trip and not be influenced by propaganda from both sides (American or Russian).

This is a great piece of reportage, Steinbeck and Capa work together creating an intimate travel book which is full of humou
Oct 20, 2016 Falina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was the book I was wishing for while I read Steinbeck's propaganda novels. It's a realistic-seeming look at postwar Russia from a very open-minded American in 1948. It's an area that we still really hear nothing about in North America and so it's a fascinating glimpse into a pivotal time in a mysterious place, from a person who had the courage to look at it with a minimum of prejudice.
Oct 04, 2008 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone fascinated by the Hemingway social circle and the like
Recommended to Heather by: saw it at the library in the travel section
Really enjoyed reading this. I'm a big fan of Frank Capa (life AND work--but mostly jealous of his life); so it was cool to see his pictures along with Steinbeck's writing. I particularly liked their gossipy comments on each other. A real "buddy" book; but also an interesting study in what Russia was really like behind the curtain in the late 1940s.
Jul 08, 2013 Simon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a forgotten classic in my neck of the woods. Steinbeck's homage to the Russian people and the trials of life they faced is one of the best of its kind.
Sergey Tomson
Jun 16, 2017 Sergey Tomson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
После прочтения многочисленных семейных саг послевоенного периода «РУССКИЙ ДНЕВНИК» ДЖОНА СТЕЙНБЕКА и его лайтовость немного режет глаз. В самых общих чертах итог таков: «Мы объелись». Чего обьелся Стэйнбек в Советском Союзе - читай подробно (очень подробно) в его дневнике.
«Мы знаем, что этот дневник не удовлетворит никого», кроме Познера. Как минимум, меня удивила его рецензия на обложке. Должно быть мне попался дурной, какой-то нелитературный перевод? И я ни чуть не принижаю мастерство Стейнбе
James (JD) Dittes
Steinbeck's trip to the Soviet Union looks almost miraculous in retrospect, occurring as it did in a window between the end of World War 2 and the onset of full-blown Cold War.

If Steinbeck had tried this book two or three years later, he would have been putting his entire career in jeopardy with every word. Instead, he returned home from Russia and began working on East of Eden.

What is most notable about this book is Steinbeck's clear fascination with working Russians, Ukrainians and Georgians.
Chris Blocker
In my journey to read all things Steinbeck (I'm well over half way now) I have a brief layover in Russia. Steinbeck visited Soviet Russia in 1947 accompanied by photographer Robert Capa. The fact one of America's most prized writers at the time was allowed into the Soviet Union with an acclaimed photojournalist astonishes me. This was the beginning of the so-called cold war; the United States' challenges toward Russia were growing, Russia's distrust of America was strong. So Steinbeck makes it i ...more
Jun 16, 2016 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"For news is no longer news, at least the part of it which draws the most attention. News has become a matter of punditry. A man sitting at a desk in Washington or New York reads the cables and rearranges them to fit his own mental pattern and his by-line. What we often read as news now is not news at all but the opinion of one of half of dozen pundits as to what the news means."

John Steinbeck was right about this in 1948 and were he alive would still be right about it! There is no such thing a
Jul 25, 2008 sdw rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Steinbeck fans
Shelves: mydissertation
John Steinbeck and his friend photographer Robert Capa go to Russia and publish, upon return, a travelogue with accompanying photos, in 1948, adding to the mystery I see in Steinbeck’s politics. He goes, he explains, not out of any political reason or to discuss politics, but to learn who the everyday Russian people are, how they live, what they eat, what they are like. He concludes, “Well, there it is. It’s about what we went for. We found, as we had suspected, that the Russian people are peopl ...more
Nov 04, 2015 Steven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to the Recorded Books audiotape version of the book, narrated by Richard Poe, so I missed the visual effect of Richard Capa's photographs. Still, Steinbeck paints a pretty good word picture of his trip to Russia shortly after World War II. The picture is one of a friendly, peace-loving people trying hard to rebuild after the war, while burdened by an inefficient economy and a vice-like government.

I'd read Jules Verne's novel Michael Strogoff, which is a fictional account of an 1876 t
Mar 20, 2016 Marshall rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting book, at times naive, at other times insightful. Steinbeck is not, nor does he pretend to be an expert in things Russian or the Soviet Union. The persona he adapts is very much similar to that of Mark Twain's in "Innocents Abroad." He is observant of details that stood out in the Soviet Union in the aftermath of World War II, the destruction and the loss. He misses others ("why don't Russians smile in Moscow, well they live a dystopian society, for one where they are perse ...more
In 1947 begint de Koude Oorlog wat op te warmen. Bij gebrek aan een 'echte' oorlog lijkt Robert Capa, in essentie een oorlogsfotograaf, met zijn ziel onder zijn arm te lopen. Ook John Steinbeck zit in een fase in zijn schrijversleven waarin hij toe is aan een nieuwe impuls. Zijn magnum opus East of Eden is in aanbouw maar nog niet lang af. Volgens A Russian Journal wordt tijdens een avondje in de kroeg besloten eens na te vragen bij de Herald Tribune of een reisje Sovjet-Unie erin zit. Dit blijk ...more
P.S. Carrillo
Jan 23, 2016 P.S. Carrillo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A remarkable narrative of a journey taken by two incredible men, John Steinbeck and Robert Capa. First I must comment that I was sorely disappointed in the pictures by Capa. The photographs seemed uninspired and of grade school textbook quality. Given Capa's previous work as the most celebrated war photographer of WW 2, I expected to be wowed. However, Steinbeck shone in his writing which varied in tone from humorous to tragic. I don't think anyone can capture in words the pitiful state that hum ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Steinbeck fans: A Russian Journal 5 12 Oct 28, 2014 07:11AM  
Modern Russia 2 7 Jan 10, 2014 11:10AM  
  • Among the Russians
  • Slightly Out of Focus
  • Eight Pieces of Empire: A 20-Year Journey Through the Soviet Collapse
  • The Party and Other Stories
  • Ukraine: A History
  • Russian Journal
  • Machines as the Measure of Men: Science, Technology and Ideologies of Western Dominance (Cornell studies in comparative history)
  • John Steinbeck, Writer
  • K Blows Top: A Cold War Comic Interlude Starring Nikita Khrushchev, America's Most Unlikely Tourist
  • Death of a Dissident: The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB
  • Is Journalism Worth Dying For?: Final Dispatches
  • The Last Man in Russia: The Struggle to Save a Dying Nation
  • Lost and Found in Russia: Lives in the Post-Soviet Landscape
  • Russian Literature: A Very Short Introduction
  • The Magical Chorus: A History of Russian Culture from Tolstoy to Solzhenitsyn
  • The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century
  • The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia's Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB
  • Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine
John Steinbeck III was an American writer. He wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939 and the novella Of Mice and Men, published in 1937. In all, he wrote twenty-five books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and several collections of short stories.

In 1962 Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Steinbeck grew up in the Salinas Valley
More about John Steinbeck...

Share This Book

“WHEREVER WE HAD BEEN in Russia, in Moscow, in the Ukraine, in Stalingrad, the magical name of Georgia came up constantly. People who had never been there, and who possibly never could go there, spoke of Georgia with a kind of longing and a great admiration. They spoke of Georgians as supermen, as great drinkers, great dancers, great musicians, great workers and lovers. And they spoke of the country in the Caucasus and around the Black Sea as a kind of second heaven. Indeed, we began to believe that most Russians hope that if they live very good and virtuous lives, they will go not to heaven, but to Georgia, when they die. It is a country favored in climate, very rich in soil, and it has its own little ocean. Great service to the state is rewarded by a trip to Georgia. It is a place of recuperation for people who have been long ill. And even during the war it was a favored place, for the Germans never got there, neither with planes nor with troops. It is one of the places that was not hurt at all.” 7 likes
“There was a huge moon over the western mountains, and it made the city seem even more mysterious and old, and the great black castle on the ridge stood out in front of the moon. And if there are ghosts anyplace in the world, they must be here, and if there is a ghost of Queen Tamara, she must have been walking the ridge in the moonlight that night.” 5 likes
More quotes…