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The relationship between the United States and Russia can only be described one way: complicated. Throughout history, and especially during the Cold War, there has been mistrust, spying, threats and fear between these two large and powerful countries.

The villages in Alaska where I grew up were only a ‘stone’s throw’ across the Arctic Ocean from Russia. Some of my friends had family members in Siberia they stayed in touch with or met in the middle of the sea for hunting trips. They spoke in Yupik when they met because the Russian relatives spoke Russian and Yupik while the American relatives spoke English and Yupik. Even through the Cold War, these relatives were able to stay in touch and look past the differences of their governments. Like I said, it is complicated.

Russia, with it’s size, ornate architecture, cultural variety and dominating political stances is an incredibly fascinating as a country. If you’re inclined to learn more about Russia’s history, this is the book for you:

russiaRussia in Private by Richard Yatzeck: 

From the very beginning of Russia’s history, discord has been prevalent thanks to the ruinous jealousy of the nobles, the Pecheneg and Tatar invasions, and lost wars (or brutally costly victories, as in 1812 or 1945). Autocratic government with serfdom, famine, and gangsterism have been the Russian lot. Two questions: “Who is to blame?” and “What is to be done?”, have plagued life in that one-sixth of the world’s land surface since its conception, roughly 988 AD.

During ten tours of Russia, between 1961 and 1997 (nearly thirty years in all), Richard Yatzeck was generously included in the political, kitchen table conversations concerning these very questions. Public discussion of such matters has never been safe. Russia in Private is an attempt to plumb the abyss between Russian and Western life, and explain how Russians understand and bear their history.

More about the author, Richard Yatzeck: “Richard Yatzeck is an American academic who has visited the Soviet Union and now Russia with his students over many decades and thus has a wealth of impressions and insights to share with the reader. His is inevitably a personal view, but nonetheless he offers an insight into how life was before the Soviet Union broke up and in which ways it is different – and yet somehow always the same – now. I found much that I recognised in his account, and recommend the book to anyone wishing to find out more of this most enigmatic of countries.” –  Review by Mandy Jenkinson for NetGalley.

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