hidden europe 47

The spine of Russia

by Nicky Gardner

Picture above: Paul Richardson looks out over the dystopian wasteland near Nikel in Russia’s Murmansk Oblast (photo © Mikhail Mordasov).


Mikhail Mordasov is a very talented Russian photographer. Paul Richardson is a translator and writer who knows Russia well. When Mikhail and Paul decided to create a book from a long road trip across Russia, we knew something good was in the offing. Discover the Spine of Russia project.

When hidden europe editor Nicky Gardner made an off-the-cuff remark about the innate appeal of the E105 highway, it set Paul Richardson thinking. Just imagine, one road, a ribbon of tarmac that extends all the way from Kirkenes in northern Norway to the Black Sea coast of Crimea. Paul is editor of Russian Life magazine and has a distinguished record in writing about Russian culture and history. He also clearly has an eye for a good road trip, and that E105 remark struck a chord.

Politics intervened in the plan to drive the entire length of the highway, for the E105 cuts across eastern Ukraine and it is by no means easy
these days to cross from Kherson Oblast into Crimea (see our feature “Eastern Connections” in this issue of hidden europe). So the route was tweaked to avoid crossing Ukraine and thus was born the project which has been promoted under the tile The Spine of Russia.

On 12 October, Paul set off from Kirkenes, accompanied by Russian photographer Mikhail Mordasov, on a journey from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea.

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