Hedrick Smith is an American journalist who've spent the first few years of the 70s living in Moscow. In this book he tells about his impressions of life in the Soviet Union back then. And it's not just a view-from-far of a foreigner. Despite the tight censorship and the fear of Russians to socialize with foreigners, Smith managed to blend into the Russian society, making some friends (which produced revealing kitchen-chats that provide most of the information in this book) and traveling a lot in the immense country.

On one hand, this book was written in 1976 so it's a bit old. But if we recall that USSR fell apart not long after that, this book is somewhat timeless, as it takes an excellent snapshot of life in the most "communist" country of the world - the biggest, both ideologically and physically, communist experiment in the history of mankind.

The scope of "The Russians" is amazing. Almost 700 tightly packed pages tell about a plethora of subjects pertaining to the life in USSR - economy, priveleged class, middle class, students, children, culture, sports, national projects, underground culture, dissidens and much more. When I picked this book from the shelf of a bookstore (DS-Books used bookstore in Koh-Samui, Thailand) I hoped to gain more insight into the lives of people in my homeland, just a few years before I was born, and this book definitely fulfilled this desire. I learned so much from it, so much about how my parents and grandparents lived, the facts that shaped their youth and mid-life, and hence molded their philosophy and outlook on life.

This book is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in Russia. It also serves as a great book on economics, human psychology and what's in between, in my opinion, as it clearly shows how the communistic experiment utterly failed in the Soviet Union. Especially, it proves just how incompatible communism is to the human nature.


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