Author(s): Jonathan Dimbleby
Russia is a country in transition. It is a land of exotic treasures with a culture rich in world-famous artists, writers and musicians. It is a swiftly modernising economy yet still a place of corruption, suppression, and secrecy, shaking off its recent, bloody past of Communist dictatorship. Russia may no longer be seen to rival America, but with control over a huge portion of the world's remaining non-renewable energy resources, it is a rapidly rising energy super-power. Yet, shrouded in myth and ice, it is little understood by the rest of world. Travelling thousands of miles, Jonathan journeys from Kaliningrad in the west to Provideniya in the east to discover modern Russia. Passing through some of the most extreme landscape on earth, several climates and across eleven time zones, he visits places - spectacular, infamous, secret - that witnessed defining moments in Russia's extraordinary history. The people that inhabit this vast landmass are as fascinating and diverse as the landscape. Caught between Asia and Europe, they are a mix of ethnicities, a product of Russian expansionism and their turbulent past. In this book and the groundbreaking television series it accompanies, Jonathan looks at how Russia's past has shaped her current identity and investigates what modern Russia means to her people now. Winston Churchill famously described Russia as 'a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma'. Even today it remains a country little understood by the West. But as a resurgent world power, with an energy-rich economy, we ignore Russia at our peril. In this timely and revealing portrait, distinguished author and broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby crosses eight time zones and covers 10,000 miles, from Murmansk in the Arctic Circle to the Asian city of Vladivostok, in an attempt to get beneath the skin of modern Russia. Travelling by road, rail and boat, his epic journey takes him from the neo-classical splendour of St Petersburg to remote and inaccessible parts of Siberia. At the heart of this magisterial account are Jonathan's encounters with a diverse range of ordinary Russians - from urban intellectuals and the new class of entrepreneurs, to impoverished peasants and Russia's ethnic minorities struggling to cling to their distinctive identities.Jonathan was the only British television journalist to interview President Gorbachev during the Cold War, and, returning to Russia for the first time since those days, he discovers a land transformed. But despite economic progress, he finds aspects of Russian society deeply troubling, and takes an unflinchingly critical look at the way Russia has been run during the Putin years. For Jonathan, crossing the immense Russian landmass became as much an interior journey as an exterior one, and the book contains painfully honest passages as he struggles to meet the challenges of an arduous film trip against the backdrop of great turbulence in his personal life. Filled with a dazzling array of historical and literary references, "Russia - A Journey to the Heart of a Land and Its People" is a riveting and illuminating account of modern Russia. First published May 2008.