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Lost and Found in Russia: Encounters in a Deep Heartland, by Susan Richards, IB Tauris, RRP£10.99, 299 pages

In August 1992, seven months after the Soviet Union had been dissolved, Susan Richards set off down the Volga towards the still closed town of Marx. She’s met by Anna, an unabashed local journalist who has championed the cause of a Russian-German homeland in the Volga hinterland, and their often stormy friendship endures through the next 16 years of Richards’ excursions.

Anna’s circle includes the economically dispossessed and entrepreneurs, building a future out of a lawless society riven with ethnic tensions. Both women find their aspirations for a post-communist Russia souring, although the impact on Anna’s prospects is starker.

Richards’ genial snapshots (of “Old Believers” in southern Siberia, and alien sightings at a secret uranium mine) hint at the multifaceted nature of Russian life but her cumulative impressions suggest a country in turmoil, with old and new traditions in headlong collision.

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