Was the Russia we grew up fearing truly a monster in disguise, or a country struggling through various leaders and methods to find itself? Russian Experiences: Life in the Former USSR and Post-Soviet Russia is an eye opening discovery of the true Russia. The Russia of the ‘suburbs’; the Russia of the common worker; the Russia of the struggling family. No political grandstanding in this book, no. This is a story of its people. It’s heart and soul.
Unless one went through it, experienced it, and lived it, one can’t ever really know. But a man known as ‘The Raven’ lived through it, and with the help of co-writer Marie Claire, he tells his story of growing up in this Russia to the world. But ‘Russian Experiences’ is so much more than just a story, a riveting story of trial and labor, and of rebirth. It is, in its essence, a moving and dramatic tale of one man’s quest for freedom; not just in a physical sense, but an emotional one as well.
The Raven was born into a period of turmoil. The economy was poor, even to the point of many teetering on the brink of privation. Proper education and training for many jobs and positions in the medical field was below standard and proper supplies, not only those needed for basic living, but more important, medical supplies were sadly lacking as well. No luxuries of supermarkets, shopping malls, fashion stores and private transportation. Because of a lack of proper medical facilities and care, The Raven suffered a hearing loss accompanied by a speech impediment as a young child, thereby forcing him from early childhood to deal with prejudice because of his handicap. For decades, the Russian ideal of perfection allowed no compassion for those suffering from physical or emotional handicaps, almost an ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ mentality. And so, ‘The Raven’ was practically ignored, existing without really existing in the eyes of society.
The Raven grew up in Baku City, the capital of Azerbaijan. His life there was by no means easy, and compared to standards most Americans take for granted, at or near what could be considered the poverty level. Because of the conflicts and recurring strife between native Armenians and Azerbaijan natives, he and his brother were unable to attend school for long stretches of time.
Ultimately, The Raven and his family left Baku, where they had lived all their lives, to move to a region around Moscow where The Raven and his family hoped for a better life, a better opportunity for education and employment. There The Raven continued his education, yet even on the outskirts of Moscow The Raven struggled to gain the education he desired, one that would enable him to rise above the poverty and narrow-mindedness of many of Russia’s inhabitants. Despite an interrupted education, growing political strife and military tensions, The Raven pursued his goals and ultimately achieved his degree.
Russian Experiences is a wonderful book that tells the story of one man’s rise above the restrictive and difficult conditions surrounding him. The story is not only well written from a technical standpoint, but it is also a very personal saga of the history and transition of one of the mightiest nations in the world and the consequences felt by its complicated political history. Through the eyes of ‘The Raven’ and Marie Claire, a reader of this tale begins to understand there is much behind the façade of Russia, one rarely seen or talked about on such a personal level. As a result, this book could and should be used as a primer for one to gain a better understanding of what Russia was and is all about, a book told through the eyes of one man who fought against prejudice and poor living conditions to gain an identity he could be proud of. 'Russian Experiences' is an excellent format for anyone to utilize, from either a social or personal perspective, in order to experience and learn about Russia's history, culture, and the indomitable spirit of many of its people. In its presentation of both history and humanity, the authors have managed to cover a brief though thorough bird’s eye view of how the Russia of today developed; through the growing pains and uncertainty following of World War Two, through the difficult and tense years that encompassed the Cold War and finally to the breakdown of the Soviet Union.
The co-authors have written a concise, fast reading semi-biographical story in such a simple and painless writing style as to make pleasurable though serious reading for any student of political or cultural history. A unique approach, in employing the anonymity of ‘The Raven’ and his co-writer telling the story, offers what many might consider an unusual though very effective method to encourage an understanding of one of the mightiest nations in the world through the eyes of one of its citizens. Written in a smoothly descriptive style and utilizing rich though simple language, this book offers something for a wide range of readers, from High School students to adults.
Russian Experiences: Life in the Former USSR and Post-Soviet Russia By The Raven and Marie Claire ISBNs: 1589391772 (paperback), 1589391985 (hardcover)