Cover image for Midnight in Siberia : a train journey into the heart of Russia
Midnight in Siberia : a train journey into the heart of Russia
Greene, David, 1976- , author.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton & Company, [2014]
Physical Description:
xvii, 318 pages : illustrations, map ; 25 cm
"After two and a half years as NPR's Moscow bureau chief, David Greene travels across the country--a 6,000-mile journey by rail, from Moscow to the Pacific port of Vladivostok--to speak with ordinary Russians about how their lives have changed in the post-Soviet years. Reaching beyond the headline-grabbing protests in Moscow, Greene speaks with a group of singing babushkas from Buranovo, a teenager hawking 'space rocks' from last spring's meteor shower in Chelyabinsk, and activists battling for environmental regulation in the pollution-choked town of Baikalsk"--Provided by publisher.
General Note:
Includes index.
Rose -- Sergei -- Boris -- Another Sergei -- Liubov -- Nina -- Alexei -- Vasily -- Galina -- Marina -- Angelina -- Andrei -- Polina -- Ivan -- Tatiana -- Nadezhda -- Yet another Sergei -- Taisiya -- Igor -- Olga -- Vitaly.
Format :


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DK510.29 .G74 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
DK510.29 .G74 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
DK510.29 .G74 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
DK510.29 .G74 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
DK510.29 .G74 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
DK510.29 .G74 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
DK510.29 .G74 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
DK510.29 .G74 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Far away from the trendy cafés, designer boutiques, and political protests and crackdowns in Moscow, the real Russia exists.

Midnight in Siberia chronicles David Greene's journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway, a 6,000-mile cross-country trip from Moscow to the Pacific port of Vladivostok. In quadruple-bunked cabins and stopover towns sprinkled across the country's snowy landscape, Greene speaks with ordinary Russians about how their lives have changed in the post-Soviet years.

These travels offer a glimpse of the new Russia--a nation that boasts open elections and newfound prosperity but continues to endure oppression, corruption, a dwindling population, and stark inequality.

We follow Greene as he finds opportunity and hardship embodied in his fellow train travelers and in conversations with residents of towns throughout Siberia.

We meet Nadezhda, an entrepreneur who runs a small hotel in Ishim, fighting through corrupt layers of bureaucracy every day. Greene spends a joyous evening with a group of babushkas who made international headlines as runners-up at the Eurovision singing competition. They sing Beatles covers, alongside their traditional songs, finding that music and companionship can heal wounds from the past. In Novosibirsk, Greene has tea with Alexei, who runs the carpet company his mother began after the Soviet collapse and has mixed feelings about a government in which his family has done quite well. And in Chelyabinsk, a hunt for space debris after a meteorite landing leads Greene to a young man orphaned as a teenager, forced into military service, and now figuring out if any of his dreams are possible.

Midnight in Siberia is a lively travel narrative filled with humor, adventure, and insight. It opens a window onto that country's complicated relationship with democracy and offers a rare look into the soul of twenty-first-century Russia.

Author Notes

David Greene is cohost of NPR's Morning Edition. He is NPR's former Moscow bureau chief and has spent more than a decade covering politics and events from the White House and abroad. He lives in Washington, DC, with his wife, Rose, a restaurant owner and fellow traveler.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Prior to his current job as Morning Edition host, NPR's Greene reported from Russia. This chronicle of a 2013, five-week-long train journey from Moscow to Vladivostok concerns life stories of individuals he met (their names title the chapters). Collectively, they furnish Greene's source material for presenting his general observations about contemporary Russia. Vitally aided by a translator (Greene's asides clearly indicate a limited fluency in Russian), Greene draws out a person's interests and circumstances. Often connecting his interlocutors with his own perplexities about Russia, chief among them popular acceptance of authoritarian and corrupt government, Greene alludes to Russian traits of fatalism and endurance as explanations. If those are not exactly new discoveries in the annals of trans-Siberian travel, his detection of a split between Soviet and post-Communist generations makes Greene optimistic that the latter, more entrepreneurial and less fearful than their elders, may yet push democracy forward in Putin's Russia. With abundant interpersonal detail, Greene delivers a lively, tangible feeling of meeting modern Russians on one of the world's famous railroads.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

In 2013, after several years serving as NPR's Moscow bureau chief, Greene traveled 6,000 miles of the Trans-Siberian Railway in a quixotic attempt to understand the Russian soul. As Green journeyed across the Siberian landscape, he made frequent stops to interview ordinary Russians in a variety of situations to capture the everyday realities of post-Soviet Russia. The result is chronicled in this travelogue that reads like a series of episodic radio pieces in the NPR style, a collage of Green's interviews and insights from scholars about Russian history that attempts to answer a few difficult questions: what do the Russians want? Why do they tolerate a corrupt and restrictive government? And, as the Arab Spring erupts in the Middle East, how close is Russia to (another) revolution? What Greene finds is complex and frequently contradictory but all the more thought-provoking: a small business owner who believes Russia must be patient and slowly develop towards democracy, a taxi driver who wishes for socialism, an anti-Putin activist who believes Russia needs an autocrat like Stalin (but more benign). Despite the poverty and repression he frequently encounters, Greene remains optimistic throughout his travels, and he reproduces the source of this conviction in this collection of vignettes. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Former NPR Moscow bureau chief Greene twice made the 6,000-mile trip from Moscow to Vladivostok on the Trans-Siberian Railway, using the travels to examine early 21st-century Russian society. In this audiobook, he presents a series of extended interviews with a cross section of Russian people outside the governing elite. Figuring predominately is Sergei, Greene's translator and close friend. Others appearing include members of Sergei's family, the parents of a hockey player killed in a plane crash, a young businessperson on the make, and a human rights activist. He contrasts the hard and cold personae many Russians present in public with warmth given to family and friends in private. Greene also explores the Russian people's attitude toward President Vladimir Putin. While many dislike him and his corrupt government, little desire for radical political reform exists, and many people possess a sense of nostalgia for the Soviet era. While harshly oppressive, the communists provided basic social services lacking in present-day Russia. Greene narrates this story with great humor and warmth toward the Russian people. VERDICT Highly recommended to listeners with an interest in Russia and Russian history. ["An impressive look at a complex country, this book brings the reader into direct contact with myriad Russians struggling and surviving in their snowy, expansive homeland," read the starred review of the Norton hc, LJ 9/15/14.]-Stephen L. Hupp, West Virginia Univ. Parkersburg Lib. (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



It's the first thing international visitors notice: The streets are filled with nervous, blank faces. In public many Russians don't seem to acknowledge that other humans are sharing their space. They are indifferent if, say, you want to squeeze past on a crowded sidewalk. They avoid eye contact as if they might get a disease from it. (A not-unrelated point: Russians who visit the United States are equally perplexed by Americans, and their obsession with smiling at people they've never met.) You come to understand these tendencies. In Soviet times being in public was risky. If you accidentally spoke to a stranger who was under suspicion from the government, or told a joke about Stalin, or appeared too friendly with a foreigner, it could mean interrogation or in extreme cases worse--a journey to a Siberian prison camp. Many Russians developed coldness in public as defense, suppressing thoughts and feelings, not letting their true selves escape. And while the risks of putting yourself out there are far less severe in today's Russia, remnants of that behaviour remain. During three years living in Moscow, my wife, Rose, and I slowly adjusted to this. If someone slipped on the ice or was otherwise in need of help strangers would often just walk by pretending not to notice. Why risk getting involved, especially if the police were being called? Rose and I would be the only people coming to someone's aid, doing all we could with limited Russian-language skills. A British diplomat friend once saw two teenage girls hit by a speeding car as they were running across a street. One of the girls was decapitated. The driver just sped from the scene. Our friend stopped his car, called an ambulance, and ran to the other girl, who was screaming uncontrollably next to her friend's body. All the while, cars passed and pedestrians walked by as if nothing was out of order. While seemingly cold and vacant to strangers on the outside, many Russians are beautiful and generous on the inside. Their public disengagement can be shocking, but they are some of the warmest people on earth. Once they get to know you and invite you into their homes, many Russians will freely share their stories, traditions, and food. When you enter a home, two things happen: You are offered a pair of slippers--polite encouragement to take off your shoes and make yourself comfortable--then you are offered tea or vodka. I spent many days hoping for tea and getting vodka... Excerpted from Midnight in Siberia: A Train Journey into the Heart of Russia by David Greene All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Author's Note on the Mapp. ix
Mapp. x
Prologuep. xiii
Introductionp. 3
1 Rosep. 19
2 Sergeip. 25
3 Borisp. 46
4 Another Sergeip. 63
5 Liubovp. 72
6 Ninap. 92
7 Alexeip. 112
6 Vasilyp. 121
9 Galinap. 134
10 Marinap. 151
11 Angelinap. 159
12 Andreip. 174
13 Polinap. 185
14 Ivanp. 198
15 Tatianap. 210
16 Nadezhdap. 216
17 Yet Another Sergeip. 233
18 Taisiyap. 252
19 Igorp. 266
20 Olcap. 274
21 Vitalyp. 286
Acknowledgmentsp. 395
Indexp. 299