Travel to postSoviet Siberia and the Russian Far East with author Sharon Hudgins as she takes readers on a personal adventure through the Asian side of Russia—an area closed to most Westerners and many Russians prior to the 1990s. Even today, few people from the West have ridden the TransSiberian railroad in winter, stood on the frozen surface of Lake Baikal, feasted with the Siberian Buryats, or lived in the "highrise villages" of Vladivostok and Irkutsk.
One of the few American women who has lived and worked in this part of the world, Hudgins debunks many of the myths and misconceptions that surround this "other side of Russia." She artfully depicts the details of everyday life, set within their cultural and historical context—local customs, foods, and festivals, as well as urban life, the education system, and the developing market economy in postSoviet Siberia and the Russian Far East.
Hudgin's prose shines in her colorful descriptions of multicourse meals washed down with champagne and vodka, often eaten by candlelight when the electricity failed. The author's accounts of hors d'oeuvres made of sea slugs and roulades of raw horse liver will fascinate those with adventuresome tastes, while her stories of hosting Spanish, French, and TexMex feasts will come as a surprise to anyone who thinks of Russia as a gastronomic wasteland.
Readers of The Other Side of Russia: A Slice of Life in Siberia and the Russian Far East will find themselves among the guests at Christmas parties, New Year's banquets, Easter dinners, and birthday celebrations. They will experience the challenges of living in highrise apartment buildings often lacking water, heat, and electricity. Above all, Asian Russia's natural beauty, thriving cities, and proud people shine from the pages, proving it is not only a land of harsh winters and vast uninhabited spaces, but also home to millions of Russian citizens who live and work in modern metropolises and enjoy a rich cultural and social life.
What Readers Are Saying:
“Sharon Hudgins has written a vivid and engrossing book about a part of the world that’s both geographically and ethnically complex. She’s done much to make the unfamiliar familiar.” --Larry McMurtry, Pulitzer Prize-winning author
“Like Hedrick Smith’s The Russians, Sharon Hudgins’ The Other Side of Russia, takes the reader inside Russia, to the daily life of people, and the economic and political realities in the post-Soviet era. It goes well beyond being a travelogue, and provides insight well beyond the confines of Siberia. A great read.”--Helen Hundley
“Like Hedrick Smith’s The Russians, Sharon Hudgins’ The Other Side of Russia, takes the reader inside Russia, to the daily life of people, and the economic and political realities in the post-Soviet era. It goes well beyond being a travelogue, and provides insight well beyond the confines of Siberia. A great read.” --Helen Hundley
“Sharon Hudgins’ perceptive memoir of survival in modern Siberia is full of anecdote, conversation, humor, food, friendships and hardships. In a society that, she reports, “placed little value on truth,” she kept her eyes and notebook and mind open. The result is an animated examination of grim, grimy, and unpredictably gracious ordinary life in the extraordinary place she calls Absurdistan.” --Alfred Friendly, Jr. Co-author, Ecocide in the USSR, and former Newsweek Mosc
“This is an exceptional book that presents a multi-layered picture of a part of Russia that has been the subject of little of the first-hand reporting Hudgins presents. Living and working in Siberia and the Russian Far East provided the author with understanding and insight that often eludes foreigners who only pass through the region. What we find is a Russia whose experiences over the last decade have been markedly different from those of the European part of the country. Hudgins helps us comprehend the daily lives and challenges of people doing their best to survive in exceptionally difficult circumstances. Her book is full of memorable daily adventures and encounters, and her descriptions remind us of the warmth of individual Russians as well as the lunacy of Soviet ways of doing things that seem to have survived in the eastern part of the country far longer than they have in Russia’s western cities. This is an essential book for those who hope to understand the changes that have shaken Siberia and the Russian Far East over the past decade and the impact those changes have had on the lives of those living in the towns and cities of Russia’s ‘other side.” --Dr. Bill Richardson, Director and Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sci
“The book is highly accurate, informative and readable. It fills an important place today, when Russia is so much in the news and people are curious to know what is really going on over there. The author answers those questions with marvelous detail that makes the picture come alive, more than fulfulling her objectives of presenting a personal narrative which moves beyond stereotypes. Hudgins seamlessly weaves in a lot of history and other factual information, which makes the book a valuable resource for those interested in sociology and anthropology, as well as education and Russian Studies. An outstanding feature of the book is its wealth of detail. The author was in Russia long enough, and in two different regions, to get a much deeper knowledge than is possible for most outsiders. The book remains an important contribution by painting a very clear picture of a certain time period, in which things were changing so very fast.” --Kira Van Deusen, Ethnographer of Siberian Peoples
“Rare is the person who can step into the wonderland of Siberia and capture the culture and the spirit of its people. Sharon Hudgins has done that and much more. Having traveled a similar path in the 1980s, I found her account insightful, witty and accurate. This is a warm, considered and completely engaging work from start to finish. For those seeking a window into the soul of Siberia, you need look no further.” --James A. Cramer, President & CEO, World Learning
“Fascinating view of life in Siberia...a fascinating travel book, with a lot of fun anecdotes and stories about horrific train rides, scary food...If you are interested in Russia, in a part of Russia most Westerners never visit, you should read ‘The Other Side of Russia’.” --Joanna Daneman
“Rather than focus on only the pleasures and inconveniences of daily life, Hudgins mingles her insights with useful explanations about the history and development of these regions, almost 6000 miles from the capital, Moscow. Readers will enjoy Hudgin’s lively narrative style and the inclusion of photographs. An excellent bibliographic essay closes the book and gives suggestions for further reading.” --Library Journal
“In The Other Side of Russia author/educator Sharon Hudgins manages to give us more insight into an area of the world most of us have known only as a destination for political prisoners from the Tsars on, a faceless frozen tundra where few (if any) of our fellowmen could possibly elect to live!...In the pages of this enormously readable, educational, and fascinating book Hudgins manages to reveal much about the Russian people...Hudgins writes eloquently about the beauty of the terrain(her chapter on Lake Baikal is sheer poetry), the harshness of the winters contrasted with the beauty of Spring and Fall, and when it comes to her chapter on Feasts and Festivals she reveals her own proclivities of being a meticulously detailed, fascinatingly interesting food writer...Others have written books about this area of the world and each author has a direction for justifying his/her investigation. Hudgins writes as though for her own pleasure which easily extends to ‘our’ pleasure. Well written, well documented, funny, tender, and in general an all around excellent book. Highly recommended!” --Amazon.com
“The resulting book is outstanding, on a par with the work of another author we all read back in the day, John Gunther. Besides explaining much about this mysterious corner of the globe, she presents an important and troublesome picture of the enduring effects of seven decades of totalitarianism, which raises questions –at a time when we entertain visions of liberalizing the Islamic world —about how likely democratic/capitalist reform is to succeed when few, if any, of the preconditions, institutions, or attitudes it requires exist. . . .Given this extraordinary confluence of events and a decline of Westerners on the scene to explain them to us, we’re really fortunate to have had so observant and literate an observer as Ms. Hudgins on site.” --BrothersJudd.com
"Chapter 7, entitled 'The High-Rise Village,' is an instant classic in the literature on Russia. This is a wonderful book that has something for all...it will entertain everyone from lay persons to Slavic scholars."--Victor L. Mote, University of Houston and author of Siberia: Worlds Apart
"As an eyewitness portrayal of Russia's East during the first years of the post-communist era, this book is destined to become a key primary description of social change in an often forgotten region of the world. Highly recommended."--E. J. Vajda, Western Washington University