A GUIDE TO THE POST SOVIET PUZZLE
ONCE UPON A TIME there was a country called Soviet Union. An endless expanse covering more than one sixth of the dry surface of our planet, an unthinkable and unknown immensity stretching from the thick forests near the Polish border to the waves of the Pacific Ocean, from the iced coasts along the Arctic to the cruel sands of Central Asia and from the austere peaks of the Pamir mountains to the eternal flatness of the Siberian steppes. Despite being stereotypically associated with onion-shaped domes, drunk Cossacks and snow-covered steppes, this magnificent country was extremely diverse both in its sceneries and in its demographics. The Soviet Union was, in fact, inhabited by more than three hundred million people divided in more than one hundred different ethnicities speaking a similar number of languages.
Lenin, the great father of the USSR, saw both a possibility and a challenge in the intricate demography of the newly born socialist empire: each officially recognised ethnic minority, however small, was granted its own national territory where it enjoyed a certain degree of self-governance; autonomous regions and associated republics were created inside the fifteen states forming the Soviet Union. Very few people outside the Eastern Block - but a couple of Soviet-geeks, historians, anthropologists and CIA agents - seemed to be aware of the complexity hidden behind the gargantuan Soviet World. Most of us were, indeed, caught by surprise when in 1991 a puzzle of newly independent states and jigsawed boundaries came to light.
Until now the former Soviet republics (Russia included) have been somewhat of a terra incognita and just recently we are slowly beginning to familiarise with the reality that followed the fall of the USSR: a complex geopolitical mosaic of obscure nations, unpronounceable countries, secessionist regions and weird backwaters. To these bizarre places, to their people, to their cultures and to their strong will, we - at Soviet Tours - have devoted our entire work and passion.
We invite you to discover them with us and here is a our practical compendium for your first orientation into the post-Soviet labyrinth.
The departing world leaves behind it not an heir but a pregnant widow. Between the death of one and the birth of the other, much water will flow by; a long night of chaos and desolation will pass.
- Alexander Herzen