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Down the Volga: A Journey Through Mother Russia in a Time of Troubles Hardcover – January 1, 1992

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (January 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670843539
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670843534
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,983,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An air of melancholy, of wrenching wistfulness informs Toronto journalist de Villiers's account of his circuitous rambles on Matushka Volga , "little Mother Volga which is Russia itself," during the summer of 1990. Although he has a knack for making certain unpleasant experiences seem like a lark, this is a serious-minded, probing, knowledgeable report on heartland Russia today, also on many yesterdays ago as the author relates tales going back to the Huns and Tartars, plus more recent history, to the Cossacks, the Revolution, WW II. Alternately traveling alone, with tourists on a Russian cruise ship, in the company of five Soviet journalists from Moscow--not an especially compatible crew--on a creaky vessel which looked like a decommissioned military craft, de Villiers was intrepid. The Russian-speaking journalist visited villages for which he had no visa and hung around factories, collective farms, the riverfront, the streets: chatting, questioning, listening. He discerned widespread nostalgia for a noble dream corrupted, then abandoned, and found racism and ethnic anger "everywhere," pessimism "everywhere." It was a dispiriting 3500 kilometers.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

During the summer of 1990, Canadian journalist de Villiers made a 2000-mile journey by boat down the Volga River in order to visit places not generally accessible to foreigners. In this travelog, he explains that "the centralized system has produced places that are virtually interchangeable in their banality." Everywhere there are endless lines, stifling regulations, food and housing shortages, alcoholism, and a general ugliness. The Russians he meets display an achingly similar sense of resignation and despair. Ironically, there are some hints that an upheaval may soon occur. In an uneven style, de Villiers interweaves interesting personal observations with repetitive condemnations of the Communist system and tedious history lessons. With so much attention currently focused on the Soviet Union this may be of some interest, but it is not an essential purchase.
- Ilse Heidmann Ali, formerly with Motlow State Community Coll., Tullahoma, Tenn.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Adam Rust VINE VOICE on November 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I read this book while traveling in Russia in 2003. The book covers the changes occuring almost fifteen years prior, when the Soviet Union first experienced the pangs of perestroika. The author envelopes this political time around a journey among friends in an ill-begotten retired Russian navy ship. At all times, the author's trip is threatened by Russia's almost complete lack of amenities for tourism and by frequent document checkers. I found that this echoed my journey, even today: Russia still does not have the kind of facilities for travel that might be found in a place like Guatemala or the Czech Republic, and it operates on a system of negotiated justice.
I value the ability of this book to quicky distill a sense of Russian history in a short and breezy tone. This will not replace reading Pushkin and some of the great tomes on the history of the Tsars. It will put some context into how people got by in the era of the Soviet Union. I really enjoyed his explanation of "blat," the Russian term for the currency of favor granting.
The choice of the Volga as a subject for a journey into the consciousness of Russia is also appropriate. The author, although a Canadian, explains that the Volga serves to Russia as does the Mississippi in the United States. It is the heartland river that carries freight, serving industry up and down its banks. If fast changes take place in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Kiev, then they may not reach the burgs of Samara, Kazan, and Volgograd. In my brief trip, I would offer my opinion that even now the evidence of change in Russia has only occurred in its cosmopolitan cities. The Russian countryside remains an ananchronism.
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