Brian's Reviews > Black Earth: A Journey Through Russia After the Fall

Black Earth by Andrew Meier
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's review
Feb 14, 09

bookshelves: russian-soviet-history
Read in February, 2009

REVIEW WHILE READING: This is an informative read about the oft-unrealized dreams and ambitions of those trying to make a future in post-Soviet Russia, as well as how little change from those days is apparent in that process, particularly in the way the leaders run the country. Kind of in the style of "Lenin's Tomb" in that it portrays snippets of individual lives as a way of talking about larger issues.

POST-READING REVIEW: In reading this book, one gets a panoramic view of the struggles facing modern Russia and its citizens. The book focuses not only on present struggles, but also on how the present is haunted (and, in some ways, crippled) by the past. This panoramic view is comprised of glimpses into various people's lives (factory workers, former KGB officials, soldiers, fishermen, Chechen rebels, aging grandmothers, etc.), from four selected regions in Russia: "The South" as a way to talk about the Chechen war, providing perspectives from both sides; "The West" to describe Petersburg's struggle to define itself; "The North" to explore the harrowing past of gulag labor and its present day effects, focusing on Norilsk; "The East" to describe the environmental disasters off the coasts of Sakhalin; and "Zero Gravity" to describe how the nation's capital looks for a promising future while managing the crises covering the entire country.

The book can be tedious at times, as the shifts between exposition and narrative aren't always fluid, and the author also tries to effect a certain mysterious, poetic quality to events and stories that sometimes fits and other times leave one (at least me) wanting him to cut to the chase.

Altogether, an impressively researched book, though certainly not to be read lightly or casually. (Really, about 3.5 stars)

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