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Among the Russians

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  840 ratings  ·  62 reviews
Here is a fresh perspective on the last tumultuous years of the Soviet Union and an exquisitely poetic travelogue.With a keen grasp of Russia's history, a deep appreciation for its architecture and iconography, and an inexhaustible enthusiasm for its people and its culture, Colin Thubron is the perfect guide to a country most of us will never get to know firsthand. Here, w ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published December 26th 2000 by Harper Perennial (first published 1983)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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Jun 24, 2012 rated it liked it
I was born in the USSR in 1984 and left post-Soviet Russia in 1995 for the US.

17 years later, I read this travelogue and had mixed feelings about it because although Thubron is a great descriptive writer, his interpretation of the Soviet Union of the 1980s is somewhat simplistic and firmly rooted in Cold War-era British biases.

The name, "Among the Russians" (likely chosen to move units on the shelves) is a misnomer since he spends half his time in the Soviet republics with Belorussians, Estonian
An OK travel book that in hindsight is less about the Russians and more a set of postcards of life in the late Soviet Union.

Thubron managed to travel individually as a one-man group. He drove a fair part of his journey and was able to stay at camp-sites, occasionally he took internal flights. What struck him was the size of the country, alien to anyone from Western Europe and the sameness of material life that gave the country a strong feeling of blandness and an irrepressible desire on the part
Nov 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
So, this author sounds like he swallowed a thesaurus, but overall, this was a well-formed and kind of poetic travelogue. The title is misleading. He was actually not only traveling through the Russia in 1980, but also through the Soviet states of Belarus, Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Ukraine. Summary: Really great travelogue, but I didn't want to hear about his personal political opinions because it sounded like he'd just start in on people and it seemed pretty rude.

I took off on
Sep 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Thubron has a way of writing that few others can match, let alone the average travel writer. His knowledge of his subject is so thorough it would make a guidebook blush, but he expresses it in the most accessible way you feel like you are learning the history of Russia without ever feeling you are getting a history lesson. His writing is as incredible as his journey: a trip through Breshnev's pre-Glasnost USSR in a British car. He gets drunk with dissidents and the agents that the KGB sets on hi ...more
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
I had higher hopes for this book than it wound up delivering. Thubron drove a British Morris car across a huge area of the Cold War-era Soviet Union, staying in campgrounds and the occasional hotel, and meeting people. Stylistically Thubron's writing was hard for me to enjoy at times; it seemed so detached, and even his meetings with dissidents, arranged through mutual friends, come off (to me) as repetitive and uninteresting. Perhaps he's reflected the general malaise of the USSR a decade befor ...more
Vikas Datta
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating account of a meandering trip through the European part of the then Soviet Union, from the Baltics to the Black Sea and down the Caucasus, in the days when the USSR was a power to reckon with... Mr Thubron draws some memorable characterisations of various people he encountered and compelling descriptions of this enormous swathe of territory including beaches, mountains, forests and extensive plains... A most nostalgic read!
Jackie Côtécobsen
Oct 14, 2018 rated it liked it
I had been really looking forward to this book, and reading Thubron. I had interviewed him years ago and he was lovely. But I really had trouble with his writing style - his choice of verbs is bewildering, and it's unusual that I come across so many words that I'm not familiar with in one paragraph. This is the first time I've read anything Russian-themed since the 2016 election, because I was so disgusted (I even stopped my Russian language course). When he stops being florid and describes the ...more
Jul 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
A perfect travel companion read when travelling in Russia. This travelogue by Colin Thubron is 'dated' in a way as it was written during his travels in the Soviet Union Russia (i.e. includes the countries which have now become independent e.g. Estonia, Lithuania and not just present day Russia) in early 1980s when the Union was under the Communist regime. Much has changed since then in Russia's place under the sun, its politics, its geographical boundaries, existential questions/ ideologies whic ...more
Richard Newton
I enjoyed this book. Thubron is a wonderful writer, although this is one of his earlier books and I don't think he had quite honed his writing style. At times he is a little over florid in descriptions.

It describes his travels around the soviet union in the early 1980s - a journey not possible now in the same way since the collapse of communism. The Russians of the title is a slight misnomer as he travels for some time amongst non-Russians such as Georgians, Armenians and Latvians who certainly
Ismail Qureshi
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
AMONG THE RUSSIANS is a travelogue that narrates Colin Thubron's road travel through Russia and several other states of the USSR, a few years prior to its collapse.
He gives a detailed account of the geography, history, people, culture, religion, and government of Soviet Union.


The crux of his thesis is the utter failure of communism in providing an efficient and fair system of government.
He writes about a discourse with locals that denied anew the possibility of imposing selfle
Mar 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recommended
Glorious book written by an American journalist living in Communist Russia. Although some of it might seem a little outdated now that communism has "fallen", in reality, many of the societal issues of the Russia remain the same. Funny, weird and disturbing - a phenomenal culture shock. ...more
Dec 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Lots of stereotypes that get frustrating, but nevertheless a really interesting book that captures the zeitgeist of the USSR on the verge of dissolution. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.
Sep 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A delightful account of an Englishman abroad, more precisely a car ride through Russia and its surrounding Soviet republics in 1982. Mr. Thubron is an excellent pen, sympathetic to his subjects, but yet critical of the absurdities of the Soviet system.
Paolo Zanelli
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
I found the writing style heavy and pompous, making reading unnecessarily slow and difficult. Also, some of the views expressed vs Russians can be condescending at times. Not a great read for me
David Wilby
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stick a proverbial pin in a map of China (I tried this) and you'll probably end up somewhere like a city, but do the same thing with Russia and you'll most likely land thousands of miles from anywhere. This is the scale of the task set in trying to portray the USSR, an empire which once covered a considerably greater proportion of the globe than even modern Russia.

In the mid-eighties, equipped with a stack of reporters' notebooks, Colin Thubron tours Russia behind the wheel of a clapped-out Morr
Jul 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: travel
It's a travelogue encompassing large swathes of the Soviet Union during it's final years in the 80's. Thurbon has a beat-up Morris Minor car and does a series of road trips to experience the region. It's an interesting snapshot of that period, and gives a subjective insight into the mind and soul of the motley groups of people residing within the Soviet Union. Thurbon has some memorable encounters and projects himself into a wide spectrum of experiences visiting the soviet states from the Baltic ...more
Vicky Pinpin-Feinstein
When I read the first sentence of this book which begins like this, "I had been afraid of Russia ever since I could remember," I knew that Thubron has hooked me. I'm not surprised about this because I have long been an admirer of his work. I consider him one of my favorite travel writers.

Thubron traveled through Russia in 1980, years before the fall of communism. So, reading the book after that momentous period in 1989 and onwards is like a history lesson. His delving deep into Russian daily li
Toby Tsoutseos
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A journey at the end of an era

An amazing journey at the end of an era. The author tried to understand the Russian soul and observed with as much insight as possible people and the places he visited. I am not sure he met the representative people of Russia and that he finally understood them. Definitely he did not understand the religion and the art.
I was thoroughly impressed with the language of the text that in certain aspects it was very rich, almost poetic but sometimes convoluted and diffi
Jan 12, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
About me - born in 1988 in Bulgaria, close ally of the USSR until 1989. For the past 30 years Bulgaria became member of EU and a friend of the USA. I was raised by USSR cultivated parents. Afterwards I lived/studied/worked for 9 years in western Europe. So I believe I know a fair bit about the USSR and the western world and I can say that....

This book is a great example of propaganda! Apparently back in 1983, someone in the UK thought it is a smart idea to ask a writer to tell the world how horr
May 31, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Having finished Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar which featured Russia towards the end, I was intrigued to read this book. A lone British car traveller exploring the old Soviet Union in his Morris Minor sounded highly adventurous. He met different types of people either at campsites that he was staying at or at their homes. However the author often went off-track and so much so that you forget which place he was actually in. A difficult read with too much jargon and not enough interaction ...more
Rachel Lofthouse
I read Thurbron’s back catalogue of books as his writing style is exceptional. Published back in 1983, Among Russians gives a snapshot of early-80s life in the Soviet Union. Thurbron’s honest and well-written account of his travels through this vast country has yet again proved that there is always the kindness of strangers, and everyone is much the same no matter what country or religion we come from or believe.
Feroz Hameed
May 24, 2018 rated it liked it
i like the Thubrons poetic style of writing no doubt, but his choice of subject to measure the life of Russians through their eyes is baised.
As for now Russia is different, she refuses to establish herself under the "western order". Russia is Russia quite simply......
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russia
A breezily mapped book- sort of whistlestop tour of the erstwhile USSR. Quite a classical 20th century travel writing with Colin Thubron describing landscapes, movement and people he meets in various Soviet cities. Good descriptive writing, few insights. Recommended for Soviet enthusiasts.
Jul 17, 2017 rated it liked it
started off well but towards the end became a political monologue and reminded me of a spy thriller
Robert Dillon
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
An interesting snapshot of a point in history, Thubron's ability to tell a story through other people's stories is brilliant. Brief but poignant, well worth anyone's time. ...more
Sarah Franklin
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read it before my adventurous trip to St Petersburgh. I have not even dipped my toe in the waters of adventure in comparison.
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thubron’s travel writing is excellent, but what is most interesting about this read is the people he meets and relationships he fosters with them.
Lucija Perko
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: travel, journalism
"Russia is a country where everyone is part of a conspiracy to mystify the foreigner." ...more
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The book is certainly fabulous.
Oct 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Rating this book is difficult because it isn't what I hoped it would be, but it's great for what it is. I was hoping for a general Soviet travelogue for the uninitiated, but it turned out to be a travelogue coupled with a detailed commentary for those who are much more familiar with Russian history and culture. I enjoyed the travelogue sections and his deep insight into the psychology of those he met. The author is clearly a skilled writer with a deep knowledge of Russian history and culture (fr ...more
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Colin Thubron, CBE FRSL is a Man Booker nominated British travel writer and novelist.

In 2008, The Times ranked him 45th on their list of the 50 greatest postwar British writers. He is a contributor to The New York Review of Books, The Times, The Times Literary Supplement and The New York Times. His books have been translated into more than twenty languages. Thubron was appointed a CBE in the 2007

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