Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Where Have I Been Lately...? Russia...

Have you ever picked up a book that absorbed you so much, you were teleported to another place? Well, lately I have been teleported to Russia. Winston Churchill once described Russia as "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma", and it is one country that has always fascinated me. If we hold a mirror up to North American society and culture, we see Russia -- ourselves in reverse. We look similar, but North America is very new civilization, and Russia is an ancient one, steeped in beautiful traditions and cultures. Russians have endured tyranny, oppression and authoritarian rule that we can't even imagine, and yet they remain more positive, upbeat -- happier -- than we are in North America. Perhaps that is the enigma.

The book "Russia" by Jonathan Dimbleby takes us on a journey with him from Murmansk in the west to Vladivostok in the east, a journey of 10,000 miles and eight time zones. We go through isolated villages and sophisticated cities. We meet people from all walks of life, intellectuals, aging rock stars, loggers, Babushkas, teenagers, and just regular, ordinary people. In this photograph, Dimbleby is interviewing two young women at a cocktail party in St. Petersburg. I thought the blonde woman looked a bit like the actress Melanie Griffith.

A friend of mine once took the train from Moscow to Leningrad, now St. Petersburg.  She sent me postcards along the way, and at the time I thought it was probably the closest I would ever get to seeing Russia.  But this book takes me there.  It's wonderful.  So, if you have been wondering where I am, I'm on my journey through Russia.  Yes, I will send you postcards along the way...

18 comments:

Bruce Coltin said...

I have always wanted to visit Russia -- but not in winter.

Mia said...

I'm not sure if Russians are happier than North Americans. Do happy people smoke and drink that much? All of the Russians I know have a little bit of pissed off about them.

But any book that elicits interest in another land is a good thing.

Jennifer D said...

This is just what I love about your blog. I am always intrigued, now I must get that book.

pilgrimchick said...

I have actually never been a fan of Russian history/culture, but this book sounds fascinating. I like the "from the inside" perspective.

I think the last book that had the same effect on me was probably "The Last Queen" by C. W. Gortner. It was a fictional account of the life of Juana of Castile--very well written.

TomCat said...

Thanks Josie. It sounds worth the read. I have enjoyed studying Russian history.

Paula Slade said...

Having spent three months in Russia, on three separate trips, once under communist rule, and in 1999 and 2000, I found the people to be warm and fascinating as well as fascinated with our culture.

An incredibly diverse country in terms of geography, I had the good fortune to experience life on a daily basis in St.Petersburg, Yalta, Ekaterinberg, Moscow and Tblisi.

The changes that have taken place over the years in Russia are astonishing, and reflect the resiliency of its people and their heritage.

Jo said...

Oooh, I love this post, Jo! Many of my daughter's ballet teachers have been Russian, and she had the pleasure of studying ballet in St. Petersburg for two summers...coming home with countless stories of the people and places!

I intend to pick up this book just as soon as the weather permits venturing out to the bookstore.

Thanks for another great recommendation!

Kathy's Klothesline said...

I am now intrigued and must find the book. My biggest hope is to find it on audio .....

DJan said...

Another book to read! I always love to add another one to my list, and then at the bookstore I peruse them all and find the one that calls to me. Good review, and I appreciate the postcard from Russia! :-)

JeannetteLS said...

Figured you were doing something interesting if you were not blogging, and I was right. I look forward to the postcards.

June said...

My impression is the same as Mia's. But I only know Russians who are here in the US, so maybe they're only homesick...?

You certainly do make the book sound fascinating, and I might well go read more about it to see if it's something I'd enjoy reading.

Cloudia said...

You journey truly in your great mind, Jo



Aloha from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral

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budh.aaah said...

Wow Churchill's comment is almost like a poem..beautiful. Enjoy thejourney dear Jo but please dont forget us all..we will wait eagerly for the postcards

Travelingrant said...

Russia has certainly been on my To Travel list for a long time. I had pondered taking the Trans-Siberian Express, as that does seem the most adventurous way to get there from Asia, but one overnight train between Shanghai and Beijing has me thinking twice about that trip! Just because it would be the most adventurous does not mean it would be fun at all!

lgsquirrel said...

While most northern Hemisphere bloggers dream of warm sunny sandy tropical islands, I congratulate you for seeking escape to the snowfields of Russia. You have a very adventurous spirit.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Just don't eat any borscht. It's nasty stuff.

Ruth D~ said...

>>>If we hold a mirror up to North American society and culture, we see Russia -- ourselves in reverse.<<<

I think we all become so used to looking out of our own eyes that we fail to understand what others see of us when they gaze back. We tend to see differences and overlook the many similarities.

I'm going to see about getting a copy of that book based on your rec.

Indian Pundit said...

Dear Jo

i have a strange habit of looking at Amazon reviews of books....in fact that is the first thing i do when i hear about any books.....

i was a little surprised by contrasting reactions of Americans and British public to this book:

Just look at the "STARS" the book got:
1)American Reviews:

http://www.amazon.com/Russia-Journey-Heart-Land-People/dp/1846075408

2)British Reviews:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Russia-Journey-Heart-Land-People/dp/0563539127/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Very interesting.