Don't be put off by the fact that this was written before the fall of the Berlin Wall - the Russia it writes about is still so recognisable that if you have been there it gives you a lump in the throat to read about it. Unlike Van der Post's Journey into Russia, Thubron writes more about the individuals he meets than the system itself, and in the process manages to paint a portrait of an entire nation. What sets this book above over travel books on Russia is Thubron's ability somehow to put all of Russian literature into the book, with chapters that evoke Pushkin, or Tolstoy, or Chekhov. It is hard-nosed but lyrical, and full of beautiful images, juxtaposed with one another and allowing you to feel the experience as well as just reading about it. Some of the characters are so well evoked you somehow feel afterwards that the encounters are not Thubron's but your own. The pace and power of the book do not slacken until the final line, which packs a punch all of its own. If you are going to Russia, or to the Caucasus, or even to Central Europe, make sure you read this first. It may only be 212 pages long, but it has an epic quality that many books twice the size lack. Recommended without reservation.