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Episode 3

Andrei has a tiny salary from doing some online academic teaching of Russian literature. But in the real world, he is rather out of his depth in Putin's Russia.

In the summer of 2008 as the global financial crisis erupts, Andrei Kaplan moves from New York to Moscow to look after his ageing grandmother.

His older brother Dima has left the country in something of a hurry after his bid to run a network of gas stations on a new highway was rejected. It had been Dima who used to keep an eye on their grandmother but now, as Andrei once again fails to secure an academic job in the US, it falls to him to take his turn.

Baba Seva is approaching 90. She is a former professor who survived the dark days of communism and witnessed Russia's violent capitalist transformation, during which she lost her beloved dacha. She welcomes Andrei into her home, even if she can't always remember who he is, and he in turn indulges her in endless games of anagrams, at which she excels.

Andrei learns to navigate Moscow, still the city of his birth but with more expensive cars and coffee. He finds a place to play hockey, a cafe to send emails from, and eventually some friends, including an attractive and serious young activist named Yulia. But he remains an innocent abroad, a young man with no experience of Putin's Russia or indeed of the real world beyond the petty grievances and feuds of academia.

In Episode 3, Andrei learns some of his grandmother's reasons for describing Russia as "a terrible country".

Written by Keith Gessen
Read by Trevor White
Abridged by Jill Waters and Isobel Creed
Produced by Jill Waters
A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4

20 days left to listen

14 minutes

Last on

Wed 13 Mar 2019 22:45