Sep/Oct 2018 Current Moscow Time: 18:17:41
24 September 2018

  The world’s biggest country, in a magazine. Since 1956.

Staying Unpredictable

Author: Paul E. Richardson

May/June 2016
Page 4   ( 1 pages)

Summary: The best trips are those that are unpredictable, that defy expectations and surprise you.


“The highway, oh, the highway. No place, in theory, is boring of itself. Boredom lies only with the traveler’s limited perception and his failure to explore deeply enough.”

– William Least Heat Moon, Blue Highways

The best trips are those that are unpredictable, that defy expectations and surprise you. As Mikhail Mordasov said to me before we set out on our Spine of Russia journey last fall, “I hope that, for the sake of our story, we have some good misadventures.”

We did.

Yet the 6,000-kilometer trip was easy compared to the post-trip processing: culling thousands of images down to the 200 we can fit into the coffee table book; trans-Atlantic bargaining over page layouts, photo compositions, translations and design; fixing ideas and thoughts on paper.

But everything is falling into place and in May and June the two books (even though we only planned on creating one) about our trip will live in the world. We are excited about their “birth” and provide a preview of things to come with the story in this issue about our search for the Kola Super Deep Borehole. It begins on page 38.

The issue also contains our usual admixture of stories on culture, history, literature and life. There is a fantastic piece by Olga Kuzmina about Mikhail Bulgakov, one of Russia’s most important writers, whose 125th birthday is celebrated in May. And there are excellent stories on a neglected airfield on Lake Baikal, on the little-known history of the Czech Legion, and about a Russian-American hockey player with some very big skates to fill.

Search the rest of the magazine and you will find a poetry smackdown, information about how to take Russian courses online, notes about a tsarist coronation feast, a primer on prison lingo, a history of an underrated and transitional tsar, and a memoir of when Soviet travel restrictions were lifted in the 1990s. Plus stats, book reviews, news and even a bit of Chekhov in the original.

Every issue of Russian Life is a journey, and the more unexpected and eclectic we can make each trip, the more variety we can throw in, the better it is for you, our readers, and the better we represent the complex, multi-textured reality that is Russia.

Yet our complex reality can be unsettling. On the evening that I write this, I heard disturbing news reports about Russian navy fighter planes buzzing American warships in the Baltic Sea, yet I also spent an hour devouring an amazing come of age novel by a Russian author (to be reviewed in a future issue). Focusing on either of these two things, one would find it hard to believe the other rose from the same ground.

So it bears remembering, especially when the news is ominous or depressing, that Russia is never just one thing. It is many things, not all of them good, not all of them bad, and many of them not easily understandable.

As William Heat Moon opines above, no place is boring. Although I’d be happy with boring, if it means the fighter jets will be given a rest.

Enjoy the issue.

To read more, follow the "Purchase Back Issue" link from the full story listing for this issue.