Book Review: Glimpses of Siberia

Glimpses of Siberia

Nikolai Yanovsky, compiler

1972, Progress Publishers, Moscow

This is a collection of verbal pictures of Siberia with a pictorial foreword.  The propaganda focus of the book clearly comes through, promoting Siberia as a wonderland of resources, center of technological and academic development, and the backbone of the USSR’s invincibility while at the same time portraying it is a misunderstood wilderness vacationland where a person could easily spend days without ever seeing anyone or follow a walk through the dense woods with a night at the opera.  Additionally, a deep love of the Siberians for their land clearly shows through.

Seen in this, or any, context, the book is a perfect hit on my senses.  There is incredible, and rather unfortunate, irony in reading these heroically worded  episodes and the hopes that Siberia was to become a center of economic power and compare the situation to what little reliable information I have obtained about conditions in the former USSR today [2001].  Here was a land begging to be settled, explored, and respected; a land beckoning the youth of the Soviet Union in a great patriotic cause.  Hope is abundant in the pages, from a Fleeter-esque research professor who, having built a highly acclaimed research institute with hand picked staff and students from basically a cleared forest, sees no end to the advancements in technology his institute is capable of producing to the Moscow based writer who, while unexpectedly spending the night in a mining camp during a vacation, finds that even the miners have organized literary circles and marvels at the possibilities for this land when even those engaged in rugged work in harsh conditions take time to ponder over literature and even write respectable works themselves.

Every so often, an unabashed praise of the land comes through, perhaps as the writer describes his first day in a boat on Lake Balkali or as another writer describes the painstaking work of the early geologists in their search for oil.  Were it feasible, I would have been on the first plane headed to Novosibirsk after finishing the book….

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