10 April 2005

The Other Side of Russia

I've read several travel books about eastern Russia, China, and Central Asia over the last 5 or 6 years. Most of them were written by men traveling through these areas usually by train, bicycle or hitchhiking. They're fun to read but really only give a tiny glimpse into what life might really be like in those places.

So I was very pleased to discover Sharon Hudgins' The Other Side of Russia: A Slice of Life in Siberia and the Russian Far East. She and her husband taught at two universities in Vladivostok and Irkutsk and lived in Asian Russia for about 18 months in 1993 and 1994. She also has lived in a variety of countries in Europe and is a food writer.

Of course Hudgins experiences are out of date now. She assures us that things have changed greatly Russia in the last 12 years (and if they haven't, I'm not interested in living in Bishkek with two children!). However, she has a lot of insight on Russian perceptions. Her chapter on the university system and attitudes in the system was appreciated since my husband will be teaching at two Russian-style universities.

She also writes quite a bit about food, grocery shopping, and parties. She confirmed my wish to not live in a Russian-style high rise. She also collects spinning wheels and spindles which is something I wanted to do when we were there. (I had my husband running all over Cairo to find me a spindle when he was there 5 years ago.)

The books is written topically instead of chronologically. Each topic is pretty much chronological. She also writes about Lake Baikal, the Buryats who live around Lake Baikal, Vladivostok, Irkutsk, and the Trans-Siberian Railroad. I highly recommend this book if you have any interest in Asian Russia.


  1. You are wise to avoid the high rise if you are able too. We lived with a family part of the time in an apartment, and there were a lot of quirky problems. However, where we were there weren't many other options for housing.

    Are there houses in the area where you will be living? We visited some in smaller villages and they were adorable.

  2. There are houses in Bishkek, but I'm not sure what we'll be living in. My main goal is to find a place that is relatively quiet. We've found some people there that will help us find housing before we go.