This Thubron admirer was disappointed. At the time of which the author writes, I was a fairly frequent visitor to Russia . Although only to Moscow and Leningrad (as it then was), I can vouch that this book paints a true enough picture - the blank-eyed document checks, the huge menus but only chicken Kiev available, the endless vodka toasts, the subterranean rebels against the system
The problem is that the system had ironed out many idiosyncrasies - as a generality, the people and the issues were, like the landscape he traversed, universally grey. Perhaps that is why the book is fleshed out with history and with many churches and their icons. Thubron's prose palette is rich but the saints and cherubs he describes at length merge in the reader's imagination but leave no lingering trace.
There are better books about Russia at that time, maybe not so immaculately written but better nonetheless.