The Last Man in Russia: and the Struggle to Save a Dying Nation

From the publisher:

From Oliver Bullough, the acclaimed author of the Orwell Prize-shortlisted, Let Our Fame Be Great, a study – part travelogue, part political analysis – of a nation in crisis In the 1960s, when the Soviet Union said it was building heaven on earth and the brave, non-conformist dissidents lived like free men in the midst of this enormous prison, the Russian nation began to drink itself to death. For a while, government income from vodka surpassed their income from oil. Now, fifty years later, with the Soviet state dismantled, this is still a country where Muscovites might drink a bottle of vodka before breakfast, where demographers look with astonishment as the population of the world’s largest country continues to fall, far beyond the rate of decline in the West. In The Last Man in Russia, award-winning writer Oliver Bullough uses the life of an extraordinary Orthodox priest, with equal passions for writing and for saving his fellow citizens from the KGB, to find out why. Following in the footsteps of Father Dmitry, Bullough reconstructs the world he experienced: the famine, the occupation, the war, the frozen wastes of the Gulag, the collapse of communism and the giddy excesses that followed it. While the story of Russia’s self-destruction is shrouded in secrecy and denial, with no contemporary documents to acknowledge or explain why so many Russians were seeking oblivion, Dmitry’s diaries and sermons are that rare thing: an insight into life in a totalitarian state, unmediated and raw, exposing the deep spiritual sickness born out of the country’s long communist experiment. Offering a portrait of Russia like no other, one that traces the current contours of the Russian soul, Oliver Bullough shows that in a country so willing to crush its citizens, there is also courage, resilience and – at last – small, flickering glimmers of hope. ‘Brisk, lucid style ... skilful interweaving of historical context with his own rich experience of Russia. [Bullough] has a talent for sketching the people he meets, often administering a welcome dose of humour ... and he appreciates the absurd, in the best Russian tradition ... an ambitious and wide-ranging journey’ Arthur House, Sunday Telegraph ‘An extraordinary portrait of a nation struggling to shed its past and find peace with itself’ Anthony Sattin, Sunday Times ‘[A] superb hybrid of travel and social analysis ... raw, poetic prose ... The Last Man in Russia is distinguished by the excellence of its writing and its lucid, unsparing gaze’ Ian Thomson, Daily Telegraph ‘[Bullough] is particularly good at conjuring key moments, vivid characters and credible dialogue, and at flipping between the small incident and the big picture ... Imagining [the whole country of Russia] is a whole lot easier with such a lively, well-written and commanding narrative to guide us’ Anthony Sattin, Observer [Praise for Let Our Fame Be Great]: ‘Raw, romantic’ Guardian ‘A haunting portrait of a people blown to the winds by a forgotten storm’ Economist ‘Brilliant ... Bullough draws you irresistibly into his narrative, fusing reportage, history and travelogue in colourful, absorbing prose ... The book is a pleasure’ Spectator ‘Wonderful ... compelling’ Financial Times Oliver Bullough studied modern history at Oxford University and moved to Russia after graduating in 1999. He lived in St Petersburg, Bishkek and Moscow over the next seven years, travelling widely as a reporter for Reuters news agency. He is now the Caucasus Editor for the Institute of War and Peace Reporting. His first book, Let Our Fame Be Great: Journeys Among the Defiant People of the Caucasus, received the Cornelius Ryan award in the United States and was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize in Britain. Oliver Bullough received the Oxfam Emerging Writer award in 2011.

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