hidden europe 49

The Berry Seller

by Paul E Richardson

Picture above: The Spine of Russia is a high quality, hardcover photo book by Paul E Richardson and Mikhail Mordasov, published in July 2016. The book is a vivid portrait of modern Russian life.


Two new books arising from the Spine of Russia project afford a look at everyday life in the Russian Federation. In this preview of one of the books, Paul Richardson swaps notes with Igor, who is selling berries on a roadside in Karelia.

Igor Drozdov is sitting next to a fire, about 30 metres from the road, when we stop several car lengths in front of five large buckets of cranberries he has displayed on the verge. Igor stands up from his fire and walks slowly towards the road, waiting for us to approach.

The camera hanging from Mikhail’s shoulder alerts Igor to the fact that this is not going to be a typical buy-and-sell operation. But he quickly seems at ease and talks freely with us about his life and business.

Igor is slim with close-cropped hair, teeth that have put in 52 good years, and he wears a smart, sporting outfit of stone-washed denim jeans, a Puma windbreaker and black baseball cap. He has the firm handshake of a farmer or sailor. Tattooed hands peek out from the sleeves of his jacket.

“I just got out in August,” he says after we exchange first names, explain what we are doing here, and ask him to tell us a bit about himself. “It was a 12-year stint.”

What his prison term was for, we don’t ask; that’s his business. We are here to talk berries.

This is just an excerpt. The full text of this article is not yet available to members with online access to hidden europe. Of course you can read the full article in the print edition of hidden europe 49.
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