With the Pussy Riot trials, the Winter Olympics, rampant homophobia and most recently the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has been very much in the public eye as of late. Many questions are being raised about the role Russia will play in the future with regards to its ability to trade, its power status and the effect all of this will have on international relations.
The Last Man in Russia provides an insight into this vast country’s recent political history, as well as its current political and social problems, by exploring the life of dissident Orthodox priest Father Dimitry. Author Oliver Bullough takes the reader on a long and difficult journey through Russia on his quest for information about Father Dimitry and everything he stood for. At the same time he paints a frank and telling picture of the Russia of today, its people, and the alcoholism epidemic that is killing the nation at a startling rate.
Informative yet full of emotion and insight, Bullough engages the reader with the play-by-play of his adventure whilst also providing a moving account of the nation’s incredible suffering. This book brings it all to life – imagine being imprisoned in a sub-zero tundra camp just for writing a poem, feel the anxiety of a people who trusted no one and sense the desperation of a starved population stripped of every right.
Russia is a nation that is still trying to break away from its dark and painful past, and Bullough does find glimmers of hope, but there is also the need to remember those who suffered and not allow them to be swept under the carpet by those who would prefer to present a rose-tinted version of events.
Reviewed by Francesca Bassenger. Images courtesy of Penguin.