In Putin’s Footsteps: Searching for the Soul of an Empire Across Russia’s Eleven Time Zones

Nina Khrushcheva and Jeffrey Tayler. St. Martin’s, $28.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-16323-3
Khrushcheva (The Lost Khrushchev), Russian-born professor of international affairs at the New School, and Tayler (Siberian Dawn), a Moscow-based American journalist married to a Russian, recount a cross-country journey they undertook in 2017 “to see and understand... Russia beyond the capital’s bounds.” They pose many fascinating questions—whether Putin’s plan to make Russia great again is reaching its hinterlands; how faith, myth, and geography shape national identity; whether the West can influence Russia’s future—that this charming travelogue with a dash of history can’t really answer. Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, for example, on the Sea of Okhotsk in the Pacific, is rendered in terms of its eateries and grocery stores, and the chapter on Ulyanovsk details uncomfortable encounters with evasive museum guides and “grumpy” attendants. The result reads like a travel guide, with descriptions of historical monuments and anecdotal brushes with border guards, but little deeper substance. Readers accustomed to the Western press portraying Putin as a dictator might find it illuminating to learn that Russians say positive things about him—for example, that he has decreased unemployment, bolstered pensions, and revitalized the nation—which the authors receive with skepticism. Readers looking for a comprehensive understanding of the country will be disappointed, but the authors’ observations on Russian provincial culture are undoubtedly entertaining. Agent: Sonia Land, Sheil Land. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/12/2018
Release date: 02/19/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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