As the Soviet Union collapsed, faith healing, quackery and long dormant religious traditions reared their head again. The American narrator and his Russian friend, Valera, hatch a plan to search out the traces of shamanism in the remote arctic republic of Sakha-Yakutia. But the shamans have died off, and the native reindeer herders have migrated to the capital Yakutsk, a permafrosted sprawl of wooden sheds and Soviet cement blocks. Once settled at the dormitory of the Meatpackers Union, the duo uncovers a motley crew of local eccentrics - hard drinking folk healers, bear bile traders, heavy metal trance rockers, and the lovely Miss Yakutia runner-up - who, each in their own way, honor the shamanic heritage.
DIARY OF A COWBOY OUTFIT
The hucksters and hustlers of the Wild East are chronicled in this first-hand account of a Mercedes dumptruck dealership in the oil and gas boomtown of Tyumen, Siberia. Modestly titled the Siberian World Company, the firm is run by Olaf, the Swiss-American son of an arms trader, who lives far beyond his means, spouts flaky management jargon, and can’t control his secretive local partner, Kolya, a former biathlete now dabbling in the dangerous jet fuel trade. Troubled by Kolya’s increasingly independent initiatives, Olaf hires the narrator - with a freshly minted PhD on Hegel and Jesus - to “build synergies” between the disconnected parts of the firm. The descent that follows into arctic power broking and $1000 Moscow nights offers an intimate portrait of the money-grab culture that defined Russia in the 1990s.