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Russia - A Journey With Jonathan Dimbleby season 1 episode 1
Breaking The Ice
Jonathan Dimbleby explores ten thousand miles of one of the world's most awe-inspiring countries.
If the action in today's Russia is in the cities, the eternal spirit of Russia is in the countryside. Jonathan finds himself at a reception for a Madonna concert, attended by anyone who's anyone in Moscow. But the next day he takes the train to a different world - the family estate of Leo Tolstoy, arguably the greatest of all Russian writers.
Further south he comes to the reality of farming in Russia today, where families struggle to survive after the ending of state subsidies. Voronezh is in the middle of Black Earth country, named after the rich soil that surrounds it. This part of Russia bore the brunt of Stalin's brutal project to bring all farms under state control. Millions died in the famine that followed, and in the purges he later inflicted on the survivors. In the woods nearby, Jonathan comes across a memorial to some of the victims.
Pyatigorsk is a spa town, and Jonathan decides to sample the warm sulphur springs. Just above are the great mountains of the Caucasus, the scene then and now of fierce fighting between Russian armies and the local tribesmen. Jonathan gets a chance to ride one of the famous Kabardin horses whose bloodline is prized by breeders all over the world.
Jonathan's route takes him past Beslan where 331 people died, over half of them children. He visits the ruins of School Number One, preserved as a memorial to them. Further on he comes across another side of the story, a Chechen village whose entire population was deported to Central Asia in 1944 on Stalin's orders.
Finally he reaches the Caspian Sea, under the huge walls of Derbent, an ancient city built by the Persians to defend themselves from the peoples of the north.
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