The White Birch: A Russian Reflection
The birch - a pioneer species and Russia's unofficial national emblem - is one of the most widespread and easily recognisable of trees: able to thrive in an array of different environmental conditions across the northern hemisphere. In The White Birch , art critic Tom Jeffreys grapples with the riddle of Russianness through numerous interlocking journeys, encounters, histories and artworks that all share one thing in common: the humble birch.
From Catherine the Great's garden follies to 19th century birch paintings; from online brides to a drunken Moscow dinner with art-activists Pussy Riot; from Tolstoy's favourite chair to the Chernobyl exclusion zone; from the Trans-Siberian railway to the Mongolian borderlands, in The White Birch Tom Jeffreys explores, encounters and observes, all the time questioning the role played by Russia's vastly diverse landscapes in the formation and imposition of its national identity. And vice-versa: how has Russia's dramatically shifting self-image informed the way its people think of nature, land and belonging?
Revealing, surprising, idiosyncratic and richly entertaining, The White Birch is a unique journey into Russia and the Russian people through its nature and landscape, art and architecture.
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