Dеnnis's Reviews > Russia: A Journey to the Heart of a Land and its People

Russia by Jonathan Dimbleby
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's review
May 16, 2012

it was amazing
Read from May 16 to June 01, 2012

Comment from Russian perspective

Let me comment on it from Russian perspective: I think it is an exceptionally good book on the matter. One can only wonder where does this vitriol of the reviewers seep from?
First, to me the book feels absolutely objective. I unlike other foreign reviewers haven’t sensed any bad feelings toward my country and its people or at least the ones that significantly affects his ability to perceive reality objectively and I was never offended. I had a luxury of traveling to many same destinations the author visited (even that bar in Murmansk) and thus know what I am speaking. The vastness of the country is nicely captured in his strategically placed visits to its most nodal and/or characteristic points.

Yes, he confesses his downbeat emotional state at times, but it’s Ok. We’re all humans. What is important is that his emotional state does not influence the speakers he interviews. And the speakers…you may not like their opinions, but they speak what they think. And there’s a great array of opinions, just like it is in reality in Russia. His interlocutors are Stalinists, yuppies, dissidents, common folks or in general from all walks of life and layers of Russian societies. I heard those opinions thousands of times and can confirm their genuineness. They are all grounded in reality unlike Orlando Figes’s stretching, wishful thinking and outright fraud. Such array of views should be very sobering to those of you who has your own pet-theory of Russia or who thinks it is monotone and monochrome.

The author sheds light onto many pages of Russian history and does it timely, appropriately, not boring and with verve. I immensely enjoyed the book, it is not shallow, it is not glossing over or vilifying Russia. The man just tries hard to understand the country, which at times is incomprehensible to its own citizens, who often can only mumble something fatalistic like “This is Russia”.

I may myself not like some things he sees and reports, but it’s not his fault. He conveys the actual reality, which currently is not a solacing view. Don’t attribute society’s and state’s ills to the author’s ill-deposed attitude to Russia. Don’t pick on him for extolling virtues of true democracy and always contemplating what he sees in Russia ….Of course a book that reports only niceties is vastly more pleasant to read. But switch on or tune to Russian State Channel news and you’ll get this rosy view in spades. That is why Russians are NOT watching their television. You may not need such disturbing depictions of our country, but we certainly do. In fact, the reality and corruption are even uglier and less conceivable. From time to time he also makes comparisons between Russia and his native UK with such comparisons not always in favor of the latter.

And after all, he is not that downbeat all the time – there are multiple moments and encounters in which he experiences generosity, wit and good humor or Russian people (not only ethnical Russians). To summarize: it is an enlightening, thought-provoking and realistic work that reads well.
P.s. it is not unavoidable to drink as much vodka as he did during his trips. I managed to stay within reasonable limits (I hate the taste of vodka) while visiting pretty much the same places and simultaneously was able not to offend my genuinely well-meaning hosts :)
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