Russian Lapland, a region of amazing contrasts. Here lies the last true wilderness of Europe, a rich and pristine ecosystem teeming with bird and animal life. But here too lie the dark, satanic mills of the former Soviet Union and the rotting remnants of the Northern Fleet's nuclear submarines. Despite its strategic importance to the Allies during both World Wars, Russian Lapland - renamed Murmansk Region and now frequently referred to as the Kola Peninsula - remained a forgotten corner of Europe, inaccessible to foreign visitors, until perestroika. "Running with reindeer" is the first account of life in this harsh but beautiful land for over a century. Roger Took is almost certainly the first foreigner since the Russian Civil War of 1918-1920 to have explored the region extensively, witnessing at first hand the disturbing aftermath of communism. Living among remote reindeer-herding and hunting families, he follows the lives and traditions of the indigenous Lapps, or Saami. He meets pioneering villagers descended from medieval Novgorod fur-traders who are now learning to cope with the new economy, and the men and women originally forced north to mine Russian Lapland's fabulous mineral wealth but now unemployed and stranded. His arduous adventures take him to a lost Eden - home to bears, elk, reindeer and birds of prey, and fish that anglers dream of. And, avoiding the still vigilant security services, he explores the naval bases where nuclear-powered submarines are lying dangerously neglected. His encounters with the land and its inhabitants are dramatic and comical as well as emotionally disturbing and at times physically dangerous. Moving between the lines of the official histories, coping with arduous Arctic conditions, he writes compellingly. The result is a vivid account of a unique part of Europe.
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Roger Took is an art historian and museum curator. Before becoming involved with Russia, he held several museum posts in England and was the founding director of Artangel, the London-based contemporary arts group. An active Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, he currently spends much of the year in the field with a Russian research team of archaeologists and historians. He lives in London and on the west coast of Ireland.Review:
'Pure adventure ... A fascinating and convincing picture of one of the most inhospitable and inaccessible corners of the world' -- Times Literary Supplement 20030509 'Took tells his compelling story of adventure spent with his reindeer-herding and hunting community that exists on the fringes of the modern world' -- Daily Express, BOOK OF THE WEEK 20030201 'What a superb Reindeer book! It's now tempting me to read not only at bed-time, when reading for fun is allowed, but at intervals during the day when I should be writing.' -- Dervla Murphy 20030201 'On the whole, like most visitors to Russia, Roger Took finds warmth, humour and generosity. He gives a readable, entertaining account of his experiences in a region that remains, despite salmon, apatite and the Northern Fleet, one of the uttermost parts of the earth' -- Independent on Sunday 20030302 'Gripping ... Full of information about historical sideshows, the book also charts the changes that have taken place in the last decade. It presents a picture of an utterly unfamiliar corner of the last Russian empire - remote, troubled and run-down' -- Justin Cartwright, Sunday Telegraph 20030302 'An absorbing and almost encyclopaedic account of northern travels ... Out of Roger Took's story emerges the beauty of the land, the well-observed character and comedy of the people, the smells of food and smoky tents' -- Trevor Fishlock, Daily Telegraph 20030222 'Enthralling - as we ride with Roger, wrapped in deerskins, though a frosty forest, on a reindeer sledge' -- Wanderlust 20030222 'One of those rare, remarkable books that leave the reader with a vivid sense of a part of world he is unlikely to visit! Took's curiosity and gently self-depreciating style make him the perfect guide to this fascinating land' -- Mail on Sunday 20040101 'An eye-opener' -- Manchester Evening News 20040103 'Roger Took has style, and his elegantly written and sometimes nicely self-depracating prose makes his book quite exceptional in recent travel writing on Russia' -- East-West Review 20040103 'Lapland's enormous landscapes [are] expertly evoked' -- The Sunday Telegraph 20040104 'A useful social document of a potentially beautiful existence dominated unfortunately by the ubiquitous mosquito' -- The Irish Times 20040110 '[This] book shines a fascinating ... light on one of the darkest regions of our continent.' -- Aberdeen Press & Journal 20040117 'Fascinating ... a remarkable image of this little-known region' -- Sunday Times 20040912
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