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17 November 2018

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What Every Russian Knows (and You Don’t)

Olga Fedina (Anaconda Editions)

At first one is a bit amazed that “every Russian” knows so little. At 114 pages, this is a slim volume indeed for a book that seeks to impart the fullness of Russian cultural awareness.

But of course Fedina is not that ambitious, and, actually, she is rather gifted at stuffing a great amount of information into a very small space. Thus, an essay on Emelya the Simpleton touches on everything from toasty cabbage pies to Alexei Navalny to the Russian stove to fatalism and Dostoyevsky.

There are 12 short essays in this worthy book, exploring important films, comics, fairy tales and fiction. They convey far from everything an educated Russian would know, but certainly a goodly amount of what an educated westerner might want to know before spending any amount of time in Russia or with Russians.

An added plus is that each chapter has a list of useful Russian phrases, jokes or idioms related to the theme.

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: Jan/Feb 2014