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Black Earth


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Russia today is a world in a dark limbo. The body politic is diseased, the state in collapse. Yet for all the signs of encroaching doom, Russians do not fear the future. They fear the past. Russians have long known theirs is not a land that develops and progresses. It careens, heaves, and all too often sinks. * Received stunning review coverage * Includes a fascinating PS section with an author profile and exclusive essay. * Fast becoming acknowledged as the definitive book on contemporary Russia.

About the Author

Andrew Meier graduated from Oxford University in 1989. In 1996 he was awarded the Alicia Patterson Fellowship to report on the ethnic conflicts in the former Soviet Union. He is now Moscow correspondent for Time and writes extensively for the New York Times, Washington Post, New Republic, Harpers, Wired. He also reports for both PBS and NPR.


"How do you explain a state in decay?" the author of this engrossing, beautifully written book asks about a country where "the death of an ideology has displaced millions," a third of the households are poor, and epidemics of HIV, TB, suicide, drug abuse and alcoholism are rife. Meier, a Moscow correspondent for Time magazine from 1996 to 2001, attempted to answer the question by traveling to the four corners of Russia so he could report on the suffering of the people as they struggle to survive in the ruins of the Soviet experiment. He began in 2000 by going south to war-devastated Chechnya, particularly the town of Aldy, a district of Grozny, which earlier that year had endured the massacre of at least 60 of its citizens by Russian soldiers. He then traveled north, above the Arctic Circle, to the heavily polluted industrial city of Norilsk, originally a labor camp and now "a showcase for the ravages of unbridled capitalism," where descendants of the prisoners still mine for precious metals. Finally, he went west to St. Petersburg, "a den of thieves and compromised politicians" whose much-heralded revival is largely unrealized and where the people are still haunted by the assassination in 1998 of Galina Vasilievna Starovoitova, the country's leading liberal. After talking to scores of people-from survivors of the Aldy massacre to a harrowed Russian lieutenant colonel who runs the body-collection point closest to the Chechen battleground-Meier paints in this heartbreaking book a devastating picture of contemporary life in a country where, as one man put it, people have "lived like the lowest dogs for more than eighty years." Maps and photos not seen by PW. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

'[Meier's] knowledge of the country and his abiding love for its people stands out on every page of this book, making his journey through Russia after the fall an informed and scrupulously researched one.' The Economist 'Black Earth is the best investigation of post-Soviet Russia since David Remnick's Resurrection. Andrew Meier is a truly penetrating eyewitness.' Robert Conquest 'If President Bush were to read only the chapters on Chechnya in Meier's Black Earth, he would gain a priceless education about Putin's Russia.' Zbigniew Brzezinski 'That Black Earth is an extraordinary work is, for anyone who has known Russia, beyond question.' George Kennan 'From the pointless war in Cechnya to the wild, exhilarating and dispriting East and the rise of Vladimir Putin, the former KGB officer -- it's all here in great detail, written with insight, passion and genuine affection.' Michael Specter, New Yorker and co-chief of NY Times Moscow bureau 'An engrossing, beautifully written book about a country where "the death of an ideology has displaced millions"... Heartbreaking.' Publisher's Weekly

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