A beginner's guide to the decline and fall of the Soviet Union In 1990, Kim traill set off for the former Soviet Union with a smattering of vocabulary, a lust for wild adventure and a swag of youthful idealism about the great Communist experiment. It would take some time for the scales to fall from her eyes. Over the next 17 years Kim discovered a Russia few tourists see. She ate some of the world's worst food, went to places few of us would venture, made good friends and met a lot of seriously dodgy people. On collective farms and on 40-hour train journeys, at red carpet parties and in marriage agencies, on nuclear bases and in the frozen wastes of Siberia, she navigated the country's changing fortunes, bearing witness to the horrific events of war, nuclear accidents, drug and alcohol addiction and ethnic rivalries. She even tried to make herself into a good Russian woman, abandoning her uniform of jeans, boots and Russian prison coat for heels and a skin-tight dress. RED SQUARE BLUES a full-blooded charge through a crumbling empire as it lurches from dark power to open society and back again. It is an eye-opening portrait of an eternally surprising country, leavened with the kind of bone-dry humour only life in a repressive police state can produce.