Siberian Odyssey: A Voyage Into the Russian Soul

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9780399137556: Siberian Odyssey: A Voyage Into the Russian Soul

An account of an expedition down Siberia's Ob River describes the lives of coal miners, oilmen, tribesmen, politicians, black market traders, and others. By the author of Divorcing the Dictator. 17,500 first printing.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A venture down the Ob River and into the heart of Siberia by Wall Street Journal Berlin bureau chief Kempe, who offers telling vignettes of a region now in flux but once as notorious for its climate as for its infamous history. Over five weeks in the summer of 1991, Kempe was part of a Russian-European expedition--which included Greenpeace scientists monitoring environmental damage as well as a member of the Supreme Soviet--that followed the course of the Ob, which rises near Mongolia and then flows north to its mouth, beyond the Arctic Circle. Though the expedition used a specially chartered boat, Kempe and his companions also made side trips by helicopter and train to visit local landmarks. The journey began in Kemerova, heart of the Siberian coal-mining and industrial region; continued on to Kolpashevo, grisly riverbank site of one of Stalinism's mass graves; and ended with a journey by train to Vorkhuta, once a notorious gulag in a region home to most of Russia's nuclear program. Kempe was the first American allowed into Tomsk 7, a planned town run entirely by the defense ministry; he also visited oil-drilling sites and spoke with native reindeer-herders. Everywhere, he and the accompanying scientists heard alarming stories of environmental damage and saw examples for themselves. In most places, local water is so contaminated as to be undrinkable, and widespread destruction of the fragile tundra threatens to become more significant than that of the rain forests. Along the way, Kempe talked to a variety of people, including a former prisoner who claimed to have tried to assassinate Stalin, and the son of a native people's shaman. Despite intermittent observations on the Siberian tendency to hold fate responsible for everything, more an anecdotal than analytical account of a place ``that has always been more a warning than a region.'' Timely. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Wall Street Journal correspondent Kempe ( Divorcing the Dictator: America's Bungled Affair with Manuel Noriega ) has seen things no American heretofore has, but that's only part of the hold of this superb journal of a five-week summer trip through Siberia just before the abortive Moscow coup. Kempe is a seasoned journalist and precise writer, and the book is brisk, evocative and telling. In company with three Western journalists, two Greenpeace scientists, local interpreters and assorted Russians--one a troublesome member of the Supreme Soviet--Kempe traveled via helicopter and riverboat. Since the expedition was organized to be journalistic and ecological, and carried a letter of safe passage from the KGB--and because the author is obviously tenacious--Kempe was allowed to visit Tomsk 7, a self-contained city where nuclear weapons material is produced, although he was refused access to the reactors. He also stopped at vast industrial areas where the pollution is so severe that half of all newborns have chronic illnesses; and he spent time with Gulag veterans and aboriginal Siberians, including nomads who herd reindeer 100 miles above the Arctic Circle. With no pretense to finding the "Russian soul," Kemp makes vivid the populace's self-defeating acceptance of sudba , or fate, and its repressed anger at the Communist lie, as well as his compassion for "a people who had been so anaesthetized by suffering and exhausted by hardships that they had lost much of the spirit they needed for the free market and democracy." Photos not seen by PW .
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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