‘In the mood for’ with the Brownbookproject: Russia and all those countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union

Flickering through the travel pages of the Observer this morning, the Brownbook project was very pleasantly reminded of its fascination with Russia and the former Soviet Union.

Not even half way through Mike Carter’s article about Lake Baikal in Siberia, I wished that instead of having coffee in my warm apartment in Amsterdam, I was having vodka ‘two thousand miles west of the Pacific, 3,200 miles east of Moscow and south of nowhere’ with a view of the frozen lake Baikal.  I seldom come across good travel articles or books these days, but Carter’s article is really a great read.

As the Brownbook project would like you to get into a Russia and the former Soviet Union mood as well, this sunny but cold Sunday, we offer you some nice suggestions of Russia and those-countries-which-used-to-be-part-of-the Soviet-Union related reads and eats.

We’ll start at the beginning with a classic read which was one of the books that spurred our interest in this region in the first place, aside from growing up with a father who is a great Dostoevsky fan. Ryszard Kapuscinski’s Imperium is a great reportage about the vastness of the former Soviet Union in the late 80s and about the first year after it’s breakup.

For an interesting and well written feature article about the life of a Soviet capitalist during the first years after the fall of Soviet, the art and politics magazine Guernica recently published an article by the Georgian writer Irakli Iosebashvili. The two part article tells the dramatic story of the rise and fall of Iosebashvili’s  father in law’s business in the wild years of capitalism which followed after the break up of the Soviet Union.  Part one of the article is here and part two here.

This then takes us to another wild capitalism in post Soviet subject worth exploring: the oligarchs. The FT lunch is a rather good way to get a close-up of the oligarchs and their wifes. You can start with this, this and this. The FT seems to be quite fond of oligarchs in general so if you want to know more, just go to the ft.com and search on oligarch to find out more.

Now, it’s impossible to get into the mood for Russia and all those countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union without reading at least one Dostoevsky book. The Brownbookproject absolutely loves and wants you to love The Brothers Karamazov. Entertaining and soul-penetrating, this book must be read.

And finally, for some really lovely food and atmosphere, when in London go to the Little Georgia Cafe in Bethnal Green.

Happy Sunday!

P.S Completely unrelated, if you have some time to spare or perhaps as part of your Christmas dinner, the Brownbook project suggests that you try to make at least one of the amazing desserts FT’s Rowlei Leigh presents in this week’s FT weekend. Don’t they all sound amazing?


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