This is not a systematic study, based on secondary sources, but an account of the author's own experience, largely in travels round the outlying parts of the USSR (Siberia and the now independent states to the south) between 1967 and 1993. The writing is vivid, and a number of important aspects of the Stalinist past and modern conditions are treated with insight and feeling, though it remains a travel-book whose sequence is determined not by the unfolding of an argument, but by the chronology of the writer's movements. The book ends with prognostications of the future - written in 1993. How well do they stand up twenty years later? Kapuscinski's direct experience of the periphery of the country made him sceptical about any rapid improvements in a country so vast and with such poor infrastructure. As for politics, he writes: `The democratic camp, so active during the struggle against communism, has been pushed to the margins of the political stage and finds itself either in disarray or simply forgotten... Forces calling for the consolidation of power (especially of central power) and a strong, might nation are gaining the upper hand. It is a climate that encourages authoritarian methods of government, favorable to various forms of dictatorship.' - This was pretty clear by the late 1990s, even before Putin came to power, but to realize this as early as 1993 was surely exceptional.
The translation reads well, though there is some carelessness over the correct English transliteration of Russian names and terms. For example, `nomenclature' is not the right translation of `nomenklatura'.