While strolling along the Russian bookshelves in the library - a favorite pastime of mine, I assure you - I happened across a title that I just couldn't pass up. Of course they always tell you that you can't judge a book by its cover, but they never said anything about the title, and with a book called Kapoot...well, you can understand my feelings.
As it turns out, Kapoot was written by a well known American explorer/author by the name of Carveth Wells. A dogged world traveller, Wells spent a good portion of his life exploring the dangers and discomforts of the Malaysian jungle, the African desert, and, yes, Soviet Russia. At the time that the book was written - 1933 - the communist party in the U.S. was at the height of its popularity. Apparently, Wells was not so sympathetic with the party and, from what I gain from reading the book, he held an irrational fear that Americans would be hoodwinked into buying communism.
Now we all know that Russia under Stalin was not a pretty picture, what with the 5 year plans and the liquidization of the kulaks and the severe famine and the Party purges and the gulags and the collectivization of farms and the general social and economic upheaval. But Mr. Wells goes to such lengths to prove it that the result is almost comical. It is clear that he intended at all costs to keep an eye on those sneaky communists; I was expecially gratified by his inclusion of several compelling alliterations, my favorite being "those burly Bolsheviks."
Despite the questionable authority of Wells's book, I can't deny that I enjoyed myself. He takes us up and down eastern Russian, from St. Petersburg to Echmiazin, on an ill-fated attempt to climb Mt. Ararat and find the remains of Noah's ark. Along the way, he demonstrates the godlessness of the Russians, gets arrested at least three times, subsists on black bread riddled with assorted items of garbage, experiences the Russian equivalent of the bed bug, half starves on a week long train ride to Vladikavkaz, listens to the screams of patients being treated in a Russian hospital, survives a harrowing horseback ride through the Khevsur region, and generally commentates on the poverty and downtroddenness of the land. Russia, he wants everyone to know, is Kapoot indeed.
While Wells's book is certainly not something I would recommend as a source for scholarly research, it nevertheless made for interesting bedtime reading. But perhaps you would rather take my word for it...