My imagined Russia was a place of vast empty landscapes, planes of snow, birch and rowan trees, and long light summers, of the wild haunting folk music that runs through Rite of Spring, of The Three Sisters and their longing for Moscow. I too longed to visit. I intended to save up to go on the Trans Siberian Railway as soon as I could.
My romantic attachment was still more or less intact in recent years when I read Natasha’s Dance by Orlando Figes full of rich stories about the cultural history of Russia, and Helen Dunmore’s brilliant novel, The Siege, set during the siege of Leningrad. But by the time I read her sequel, Betrayal, all romantic notions of Russia had been replaced by something much darker. I can’t remember why. A crack in the illusion and the news is sobering. Reality at last caught up with me. And earlier this week I finished reading Andy Miller’s novel Snowdrops – a haunting book, powerfully evocative of the dark nature of present day Moscow.
I’ll probably never visit Russia now. The desire isn’t there any longer. But I hope that the old Russia I imagined still exists at heart, if only in the richness of its culture, folklore and religion.