From Oliver Bullough, the acclaimed author of the Orwell Prize-shortlisted, Let Our Fame Be Great, a study - part travelogue, part political analysis - of a nation in crisis
The Last Man in Russia is a portrait of the country like no other; a quest to understand the soul of Russia. Award-winning writer Oliver Bullough travels the country from crowded Moscow train to empty windswept village, following in the footsteps of one extraordinary man, the dissident Orthodox priest Father Dmitry. His moving, terrifying story is the story of a nation: famine, war, the frozen wastes of the Gulag, the collapse of communism and now, a people seeking oblivion. Bullough shows that in a country so willing to crush its citizens, there is also courage, resilience and flickering glimmers of hope.
'Brisk, lucid style ... skilful interweaving of historical context with his own rich experience of Russia. [Bullough] has a talent for sketching the people he meets, often administering a welcome dose of humour ... and he appreciates the absurd, in the best Russian tradition ... an ambitious and wide-ranging journey' Arthur House, Sunday Telegraph
'An extraordinary portrait of a nation struggling to shed its past and find peace with itself'
Anthony Sattin, Sunday Times
Oliver Bullough studied modern history at Oxford University and moved to Russia after graduating in 1999. He lived in St Petersburg, Bishkek and Moscow over the next seven years, travelling widely as a reporter for Reuters news agency. He is now the Caucasus Editor for the Institute of War and Peace Reporting. His first book, Let Our Fame Be Great: Journeys Among the Defiant People of the Caucasus, received the Cornelius Ryan award in the United States and was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize in Britain. Oliver Bullough received the Oxfam Emerging Writer award in 2011.
In this his latest work, British journalist Bullough attempts to shed new light on the present-day Russia that has made the once proud country a "dying nation." Bullough surmises that by "assaulting religion and imprisoning priests," communism destroyed Russia's spiritual heart and its people's faith, thereby doing damage that has not and may never be repaired. Bullough traces "the life and death" of Russia by following the life of Father Dmitry, a dissident Russian priest who was first a rebel and a later a KGB pawn. Pursuing Father Dmitry's story takes Bullough on a crisscross journey of modern day Russia, affording glimpses into the lives of Russians, which is rich with vodka but little else, least of all hope. By incorporating facts ("Taxes earned from alcohol were greater than the defense budget") and statistics ("By 1991, the average Russian woman had had 3.4 abortions over the course of her life") into his retelling of Father Dmitry's life, Bullough creates a historical narrative that is both procedural and personal. While most of what Bullough finds in the past and the present shows why one Russian priest told him, "I look at the future with pessimism," the book does end with a glimmer of hope, which is a fitting tribute to Father Dmitry and to Bullough's ability to find and illuminate a story worth telling. Karolina Sutton, Curtis Brown Ltd.