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Siberian Dawn: A Journey Across the New Russia Hardcover – June 1, 2000

4.1 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The ideal readers for this book would be World Bank advisers drawing up credit agreements in their five-star Moscow hotel rooms as they dine on German beef. Yet anyone seeking an understanding of post-Soviet Russia that goes beyond the dull CNN cliched fade-out of a Lenin monument standing before a McDonald's will be mesmerized by this account of an American's overland journey from Magadan to Warsaw. Completing a trip that even few Russians would be willing to attempt, Tayler portrays a Russia to which foreigners have long been denied access, both geographically and spiritually. Tayler (a contributor to Atlantic Monthly and commentator for NPR's All Things Considered) begins his 8325-mile trip by hitching a ride out of deepest, darkest Siberia, above the Arctic Circle, where the remnants of the Gulag system lie strewn about the frozen steppe. His willingness to press onward and calmly accept local conditions distinguishes this experience from most Westerners' travels in Russia. The Kalmyk, Burati and other Siberian peoples, including the Russians, are a reminder that this is a country straddling Europe and Asia. The reader is confronted with a bleak landscape blighted by ecological disaster, alcoholism, poverty, bad roads (where roads exist at all) and a systemic breakdown so severe that many pine for a return to authoritarianism. Yet, through the entire book, Tayler's fascination with and love for the birch forest, the steppe and the enduring Russian spirit remain at the fore. Refreshingly, cracker-barrel discussion of who "won the cold war" and suggestions for reform are left out.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In 1993, Tayler, an American journalist who lives in Moscow, decided to brave a trek across the vast expanse of the former Soviet Union, from the gulag city of Magadan in the far east to the border of Poland. The over 8000-mile route?almost never undertaken over land?took him through some of the most difficult terrain on the planet as he stopped in small, bereft towns and witnessed the shattered remnants of communism and the false starts of capitalism. Alternately hitching with truckers and taking trains, Tayler reveals the profound poverty, environmental degradation, and hopelessness faced by people in the midst of economic collapse. In spite of Tayler's often choppy prose and somewhat abrupt judgments (especially about the many victims of alcoholism he encounters), this book provides a rare view into the very real human crisis that continues to play out in Russia. Recommended for all public libraries.?Rebecca Miller, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 301 pages
  • Publisher: Ruminator Books (June 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1886913269
  • ISBN-13: 978-1886913264
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,032,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on January 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The book is well written and tells a very engaging story. It's in the tradition of "hardship travel" writing. I'm reminded of an essay by the philosopher Santayana about travelling "in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately..." The author's adventure involves all those things. I knew Jeff Tayler in college and am not surprised that he could make the journey. His language skills were legendary, and he already showed some taste for enduring hardship. He also had a talent for empathy that is showcased here. I will add a few things that other reviwers have not mentioned. The view of Americans by Russians is more favorable than I expected, and rather poignant. The chapter about Jeff's visit to Lenin's hometown is brief but fascinating. Although the book is quite serious, there is some needed comic relief in such things as the Russian fascination with the soap opera "Santa Barbara." In the end, the depiction of Russian life is pretty bleak, and the prospects for it getting better in the near future do not appear bright. The picture painted is of a damaged culture and a beaten-down people. It comes across as a hard place to like, which makes Tayler's love for it even more remarkable.
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By A Customer on August 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Like the author, I am fascinated with all things Russian. I will not discuss much about the book - the other reviews pretty much cover what I have to say, and I truly enjoyed it. The author did a fine job. However, I have a major criticism (which made this a 4-star instead of a 5-star book) - as some others said, the publisher (not the author) does a great disservice by including no photos - also, I cannot understand any travel book not containing at least a route map! This is unbelieveable, and Hungry Mind Press should be severely ashamed! If the object was to save money, then this publisher is "penny-wise and pound-foolish." It steers readers away from other publications from the same publisher because of a shoddy production impression.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a tremendous book. Jeffrey Tayler's Siberian Dawn a chronicle of his 8000 mile trip across Russia tells us as much about the current state of the former Soviet Union as it does about the bleak consequences for Russia's future. Through Tayler's masterful descriptive narrative and an unmatched ability to communicate the important details skillfully we are bestowed with a mostly grim picture of a people and society in complete disrepair. At some points a dangerous journey, he threads his way across a Russian geography complete with a remnant (and maddening) bureaucracy, copious criminal elements, dangerous drunkards, and treacherous unrelenting weather. Jeffery Tayler's trip makes any college student's year off hitchhike across the U.S. look like an arranged travel company tour complete with catering. Not without its bright spots, Tayler occasionally catches glimpses of Russian scenery that by its beauty and power leaves him spell bound. Also, he is occasionally bestowed with what might be considered genuine hospitality. He does meet a few Russians along the way that offer kindness, guidance and who possess a recognition that not all is lost in post communist Russia. As is true with much of Tayler's work the real power of this book is the strength and skill of his writing. Like few other travel writers he places you at the scene both physically and emotionally. My only regret about the book is that he did not include some of the photographs he took on the trip and provide a map illustrating the course of his journey (I found one and tracked it myself). Nonetheless you will enjoy this fine read and will come away with an appreciation of Tayler's magnificent accomplishment in writing about his travels across Russia. S. H. Hassett
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Format: Hardcover
From Magadan to Warsaw Jeffery Tayler takes you on a bumpy "zimnik" ride from eastern Siberia to the smooth rails of western Europe. It is not a Slavomir Rawicz "The Long Walk" trek of survival, but a journal by road along the desolate and barren Kolyma Route in Siberia to the railhead at Berkakit and then to the warmer and fertile points westward. It is Tayler's sobering journey by road and rail and his encounters with the people, the places and the history that exists at each major mile marker that make this a fascinating read. Sadly, Tayler provides you with no inclusive road maps with which to guide you along his route and no snapshots from his camera to help bring the journey and the people into focus. You are left only with his descriptions and characterizations of the Yakuts, the people of Chernyshevsk, and Chelyabinsk that he brushes up against, dines and often sleeps with. Tayler only gives you his mental snapshots of the "sopki"; of the cities and towns that are still struggling from the effects of totalitarianism and the environmental fallout from the once flourishing military/industrial complexes. Tayler's journey is one which helps us understand the once large sphere of influence the Soviet Union encompassed, but leaves you with a question of how these regions and their people will find their place in the next millennium without central State control and its economic subsidies.
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