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Back in the USSR – Heroic Adventures in Transnistria
Ian Fleming could not have imagined a better place to set his latest thriller: an upstart mini-state at the edge of Europe which looks to Lenin and Stalin for leadership, with a Facebook-savvy Cheryl Cole-lookalike foreign minister, a breathtakingly wealthy football club founded by KGB officers that’s determined to dominate the European Champions League, and a retired general with private zoo and free-roaming anaconda. Is this wild and wacky Cold War fiction? No, it’s real, modern day Transnistria.
Transnistria is a nowhereland hugging a narrow valley near the Black Sea. No bigger than Cornwall or Rhode Island, this unrecognised country is a Soviet museum occupied by Russian 'peace-keepers'. Its oligarchs in Adidas track suits hunt wild boar with AK-47s. Its young people train for revolution at the Che Guevara High School of Political Leadership. Its secret factories have supplied arms to Chechnya and electrical cable for Iran’s nuclear power programme. Yet its supporters champion it as a peace-loving exemplar of cyber-age democracy.
Friends! Comrades! Come and join us on a journey into the heart of the new age Russian Revolution. Venture to this terra incognita with award-winning photojournalist Nick Danziger and best-selling author Rory MacLean as they lift the veil on Europe's most secret state. Gaze in awe at the audacity of its creation, the slickness of its business elite and its personable, drop-dead-gorgeous government ministers. Visit a Red Army retirement home. Learn how to sustain the half lotus yoga position with a KGB colonel.
Stand together with heroic citizens on the factory floors and knee-deep in the fallow fields of collective farms and celebrate Transnistria’s uniqueness as the only country in the world not to have recognised the collapse of the Soviet Union. Let the balalaikas ring out as the Great Game is played on, and find yourself back in the USSR... with a difference.
Snow flurries danced in the air, caught the slipstream of a shivering trolley bus, whipped into the faces of the flat-capped men towing wooden carts toward the market. At a bus stop thick-set commuters waited in battle fatigues. Young women, their faces haloed in deep, fur-lined hoods, stamped the winter cold out of their high-heeled boots. The ancient trolley shuddered to a halt, its contacts sparking and crackling on the iced overhead wires. The driver swung down from his cab, hoisted himself up onto the roof and – with raw hands blackened with grease – hacked the ice off the contacts with a broken bayonet. He eased the arms back onto the lines, ignored the passengers and continued on his way, past babushkas selling tangerines frozen as hard as orange rocks.
Rory MacLean’s nine non-fiction books include the UK best-sellers Stalin’s Nose and Under the Dragon as well as Magic Bus: On the Hippie Trail from Istanbul to India. His works – according to the late John Fowles – are among those that 'marvellously explain why literature still lives'. During his research journeys, he walked through the newly-opened Berlin Wall and met Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon. His personal history of Berlin will be published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in January 2014. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Nick Danziger is one of Europe’s finest photojournalists having spent a life documenting what he sees in best-selling books, and in award-winning documentaries and photography. His most recent books have included: Mana, a unique behind-the-scenes look at New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team and Onze Femmes, tracing the lives of 11 women from countries in conflict over the last 10 years. His photographic work is held in museum collections worldwide. His 'mirror' image of Tony Blair and George W. Bush shot during a 30-day, ground-breaking study of a Prime Minister at war won the World Press Photo Award.
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