Matthew Janney

An innocent abroad: a Dutch tour operator in 1980s Russia

‘One morning in late October 1988,’ begins The Long Song of Tchaikovsky Street, ‘this dapper-looking guy from Leiden asked me if I might be able to deliver 7,000-odd Bibles to the Soviet Union.’ It’s the kind of line you might hear in a bar when you accidentally catch the eye of the resident storyteller —

‘Mother Volga’ has always been Russia’s lifeblood

‘Without this river the Russians could not live,’ remarked Robert Bremner in his work, Excursions in the Interior of Russia. The year is 1840. The river in question, the Volga, the 2,000 mile-long meandering waterway stretching from the forests of north-west Russia to the steppes by the Caspian. At the time of Bremner’s survey, half