SOCIAL SCIENCES

Pravda Ha Ha: True Travels to the End of Europe

Bloomsbury. Jan. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9781408896525. $27. TRAV
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In this timely look at the former Soviet Union, British travel writer Maclean (Stalin’s Nose), goes back to Russia and areas of the former U.S.S.R. to discover what went wrong after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union two years later. He describes the initial euphoria at newfound freedoms, the hard times afterward as the “USSR imploded,” and the lack of freedom under the current leadership of Putin. Maclean brings the current reality of Russians to light with vivid descriptions of visits with various characters and their views on life and the future, which at first seem surprising, but quickly fall into a recognizable pattern. From a Russian oligarch with teeth like “broken rocks” who made a fortune selling mushrooms and a young Nigerian immigrant frantically searching for a way to freedom, to a quick look at the chilling Internet Research Agency and the havoc it has wreaked, the author writes with heart and draws in readers with his captivating experiences.
VERDICT Fans of travelogs, history buffs, and those with an interest in Russia and the former U.S.S.R. will thoroughly enjoy.

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