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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History of the people, 14 Jan. 2008
By 
Ian Shine (England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Black Earth: A journey through Russia after the fall (Paperback)
While this is a completely absorbing read, I doubt whether it can really be classed as a history book. It's more like a travelogue - the author travels to extreme north, east, south and west in Russia and talks about what he sees, while making some comments on the post-1990 history of Russia. Occassionally he makes some comment on pre-1990 history, but it's fairly insubstantial stuff, as he just brushes the surface, mentions that such and such an event happened in such and such a place and moves on. This only really annoyed me in the case of 'the barricade' which I didn't know much about and the book didn't enlighten me any further about it. However, as the author kept making reference to it as an important event, I went and researched it on the internet. If I'm reading a history book, I don't expect to have to do this.

Yet, this is still an involving and a great read. It sheds a light on the life of ordinary Russians unlike any 'history' book could or would ever do. The writing is very good and I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in post-1990 Russia. But, if you're after a history book or something about earlier Russia, you should go elsewhere.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good journalist's account, 6 April 2010
By 
John Hopper (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Black Earth: A journey through Russia after the fall (Paperback)
A very readable account of post-Soviet life written by a journalist with deep experience in living in in the country before and during perestroika as well as after 1991. The tone of the book is pretty pessimistic, but this is not surprising under the circumstances. The author has visited Moscow, St Petersburg, Chechnya, Norilsk in the far North and Sakhalin in the Far East. He captures the range and the warp and weft of Russian life much better than would an account solely based on experiences of life in the two main cities. A remarkable read and in places, esp. the section on Chechnya, quite horrific.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Black earth by Andrew meier, 28 Feb. 2010
By 
This review is from: Black Earth: A journey through Russia after the fall (Paperback)
I read this book before a visit to Russia. I found it very informative. A huge amount of background information about the situation in Chechnya. Also so many interesting sketches of parts of Russia I wouldn't be visiting which however were of great interest to me e.g Norilisk, Sakhalin Island and many more. The book was second hand but in good condition.I do like the opportunity to buy really good books second hand. I prefer this to borrowing them from a library as I can take my time reading them, then I keep them and have them on hand for referring to at a later stage.
Thank you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A record of Russia's new 'time of troubles' for future generations, 9 Nov. 2013
By 
F Henwood "The bookworm that turned" (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Black Earth: A journey through Russia after the fall (Paperback)
I recall someone, somewhere referring to Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union as a `slimmed down Soviet Union'. It is still of course the largest country on Earth, still a cross between an empire and a nation-state. Under Communism, the state was strong and society was weak. But after communism, in the 1990s, the state was weak but society did not become stronger. Instead it fell prey to the oligarchs and criminals, many of whom were once-loyal communist apparatchiks. Meir is a witness to this, travelling to far-flung corners of the country to try and get under its skin.

Meir's travels took him to Chechnya, where he investigates a hideous atrocity; St. Petersburg, where he meets a gangster who isn't your idea of what you think a Russian gangster is like; Sakhalin Island, a former penal colony in Tsarist times, which quoting the words of one failed investor, expecting to find a place like 'Germany and Japan after the war', found instead a place like 'Germany and Japan during the war'; the Arctic city of Norlisk, built like St. Petersburg on the backs of slave labour, but one in which many of its former gulag inmates elected to stay; and of course Moscow, where the book begins, a place in which he describes being `scared' each day he lived there.

The book is bleak, because much of what he sees is bleak. It is not a tale of how the human spirit thrives in the face of adversity. There is not much of that. But it does survive. Despite this, people get on with their lives and they aren't lives necessarily devoid of happiness. It is also enlivened by flashes of humour and his obvious love for the country and people, which means that it is not a relentlessly depressing reading experience.

Why did it all go so badly wrong for Russia after the fall of communism? Meir doesn't answer this question and doesn't seek to do so. That is not the purpose of the book. If you want an explanation of the reasons, then one place to start with is Steven Kotkin's `Armageddon Averted'. He provides a chronicle of Russia bled dry after nearly a decade and a half of failed reform. When you read it, you will get an idea why Putin emerged and what the basis of his appeal was (although the book is no apology for Putin).

Putin is supposed to have said that anyone who doesn't regret the passing of the old Soviet Union has no heart - but anyone who wants to restore it has no head. The old system is gone forever but no one has yet worked out what should replace it. Russia is still in transition and where it is going is anyone's guess. Wherever it ends up, future historians will surely consult this book if they want to understand what the journey was like for so many of its citizens during the 1990s and early 2000s.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a great (and often sad) read, 4 April 2011
I bought this book some years back but didn't get around to reading it until after making several visits to Russia (always on business). The book was completely absorbing from the outset and should be recommended reading for anybody who does not want to automatically fall for stereotypes (not that stereotypes are incorrect!). Unlike some other reviewers, I was not looking for a history text book, but rather a well-written insight into an equally fascinating and scary country. And that's what it was.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written, informative, 13 May 2009
By 
Mr. H. D. Perry "Above us only sky" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Black Earth: A journey through Russia after the fall (Paperback)
I'm two-thirds of the way through this excellent book. Having just read 'Comrade Criminal', a book that covered a lot of similar ground some ten years earlier, I have to say that 'Black Earth' is much better written in terms both of literary skill and a more convincing account of the numerous conversations reported. The author has tried hard to get under the skin of post Soviet Russia and I get the feeling he has succeeded.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning journey., 5 May 2012
By 
godzilla78 (northern ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Black Earth: A journey through Russia after the fall (Paperback)
Of the books I have read about the recent history of Russia, this was by far the best. Whilst nearly being 10 years old, the book is amazing and still quite relevant. In the beginning Andrew Meier starts to hear people speak of an individual named Putin. I wonder what ever happened to him? The book is a great amalgamation of travel, history, politics and the people of Russia - both good and bad. The author has a great writing style, very engaging and easy to read (much easier to get into compared to Colin Thubron who has also traveled this vast region). No slight on the latter but this was a much more enjoyable read. Many people in the book speak of the difference between Russians who live in Moscow and those who live in the rest of the nation. The stark reality is the hardship those in the wilderness face to the excess and greed of the capital. The chapter about Chechnya is a prime example of this. Its not a hard book to get into nor is it bogged down with academic facts, just an amazing journey that travels beyond the main bastions of civilization and into the wilderness.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I read every word and strongly recommend it to anyone needing a deeply informed understanding of ..., 15 July 2014
By 
V A H BOLAM (WISBECH, CAMBS United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Black Earth: A journey through Russia after the fall (Paperback)
An immensely rich, erudite, well-researched, and profound book, if somewhat crowded and occasionally difficult to read in this paperback edition. I read every word and strongly recommend it to anyone needing a deeply informed understanding of Russia as she emerges from glasnost' and perestroika.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening Read, 30 May 2007
By 
S. Dawson (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Black Earth: A journey through Russia after the fall (Paperback)
This is a very enlightening and interesting read. Andrew Meier spoke to ordinary Russians trying to get by since the fall of the Soviet Union, he makes a dangerous journey out to Chechnya to hear their stories. He tells the Russians stories in their own words, from all walks of life and all situations. Very interesting read, thoroughly recommended.
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Black Earth: A journey through Russia after the fall
Black Earth: A journey through Russia after the fall by Andrew Meier (Paperback - 15 Nov. 2004)
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