Russia: A Journey to the Heart of a Land and Its People

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BBC Books, 2008 - Travel - 564 pages
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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.

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About the author (2008)

Jonathan Dimbleby is a distinguished broadcaster and author, who has reported from Russia at pivotal moments in the country's recent history. He has written several bestselling books, including a biography of his father Richard Dimbleby, The Palestinians, The Prince of Wales and The Last Governor. For many years he has presented flagship political programmes for ITV, and he is well known as the presenter of BBC Radio 4's Any Questions.

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