Last week I announced I would be releasing a new book including essays and photographs in honor of my first visit to Russia in 1993. The book is now available through Amazon as a Kindle ebook, but with a slightly different name than I used in my initial announcement. There are several books already in print called Russia: Then and Now. None of them are recent books, mostly detailing Russia as it transitioned from the Czars to the Communists or the change that happened when the Soviet Union broke apart in the 1991. Still, I thought it best to change the name of this book.
So, my new book Russia: The New Age is now available. It is about the Russian people that I met over a 20 year period from 1993 to present day. They have gone through one of the most turbulent periods in Russian history. For more than 70 years, they were repressed and lied to by their government. When the Soviet Union was no more, they had to reinvent everything. Religion had been repressed, technology was way behind. They even had to rely heavily on Germany and other European nations for kitchen appliances and other conveniences. Relying on Germany really didn’t sit well with a lot of Russians, the memories of WWII still fresh in their minds.
The breakup of the Soviet Union was as much a mental ordeal for the Russian people as anything else and they struggled with it. Many people wanted stability, even at the expense of freedom. They wanted a firm hand on the government. At one point over those 20 years, they flirted with a return to Communism. The current government isn’t quite what it was before, but it is definitely more directed than a lot of other democracies. The most important thing I learned from my time in Russia, though, is that the Russian people are the country, not the government. Generally, in their very fatalistic way, Russians, take whatever happens to them with a grain of salt and keep moving forward.
The group of educators I accompanied on my first trip to Russia was so struck by the people, the culture and the history of the place, they formed the nonprofit Russia and West Virginia Foundation to continue educational, cultural and business exchanges. To date, more than 400 exchanges have happened, totally on a shoestring budget. That includes all of my trips. So, 50 percent of all royalties from the sale of Russia: The New Age in January will be donated to the foundation. It won’t be a huge amount, but it should be something toward paying back the debt I owe them.
The photograph I used for the cover of the book was taken on my first full day in Russia. It is a statue of Prince Yuri Dolgoruky, the founder of Moscow. He is also called “Yuri the long armed”, because he pulled everyone together. That’s why his arm is stuck out. I took the photograph through a tour bus window. The window was covered with condensation. I quickly wiped it off and took the picture. You can see a blurry section near the base of the statue where the window was still wet. That is the second frame on black and white film…and then the bus pulled away. I always loved that shot, though. It just seemed to sum up Russia in 1993 for me. I always swore that if I ever published a book about Russia, it would be the cover.
If you want to learn something about Russian culture, history and sense of humor, download Russia: The New Age today direct from Amazon.
See a selection of images from the book here.