Russia by Rail

Article excerpt

One of the first books I recall reading about Russia (after Hedrick Smith's The Russians) was Elizabeth Pond's 1981 classic, From Yaroslavsky Station. Part travelogue, part social and political history, Pond's book used her ride across Russia on the Trans-Siberian as a window into various aspects of Russian culture, history and society. Each stop, each conversation, led her off the main route into a shunting yard, an urban neighborhood, or the wilds of the taiga, to illuminate some little-known aspect of Russia.

There is something endlessly fascinating about the Trans-Siberian. This 9,000 km artery, laid across the vast girth of Russia, pulses with the life and commerce of Eurasia, feeding and being fed by countless local veins and capillaries. And so we return to it again and again in our pages. In 2001 (May/June) we paired a history of the Trans-Siberian with a travelogue; in 2005 (July/Aug), we offered a photo feature by a traveler who spent two months traveling the line, plus surveyed the food on board; in 2007 we wrote about the BAM (May/June).

This time around, we present a travelogue by one of Russia's leading novelists, Peter Aleshkovsky, who is accompanied by the accomplished photographer Eugene Petrushanskiy. The feature is impressionistic, insightful and full of rich side journeys, again showing how the Trans-Siberian reflects life as it is being lived across Russia.

Meanwhile, in this issue, we also dip into a hidden realm of Russian history (page 42), take a side journey to the republic of Tuva (page 55), and explode myths about the Washington-Moscow Hotline (page 50).

With this issue, we also jump onto a new track with our Cuisine column, penned by Darra Goldstein. …