Why I wrote ‘Back in the USSR’

During the Cold War, Western propaganda had us believe that Europe ended at the Berlin Wall. In my first book ‘Stalin’s Nose’, I travelled across that heinous divide into the ‘forgotten’ half of Europe, heading further and further east in search of the real end of the continent.

Years later – and long after the demise of the USSR – I heard about Europe’s most secret state, a nowhereland hugging a narrow valley near the Black Sea. I discovered that one of its government minister (a former Red Army colonel) kept a private zoo with a free-roaming anaconda in the Ministry of Justice. Above the man’s desk hung a portrait of Felix Dzerzhinsky. I learned that its leading opposition politician (and former KGB colonel) taught yoga and revolution at the ‘Che Guevara High School of Political Leadership’. I saw a photograph of the (unrecognisd) country’s delightful Foreign Minister Nina Shtanski, one of the personable, attractive women who – in a cunning coup of political marketing – was ‘sexing-up’ its government. I – and photojournalist Nick Danziger – simply had to discover the last, tiny bastion of Soviet Communism for ourselves.

In part the journey was a continuation of my search for the real end of Europe. But also it was a quest for New Soviet Man. I’ve long been fascinated that archetype of an ideal dedicated to spreading socialist revolution. Since the fall of the Wall, I’d wondered what had happened to that ‘selfless higher social biologic being’. To my amazement I discovered that he was alive and well and living in Transnistria… sort of.