100 years after the Russian Revolution, Simon Reeve embarks on an extraordinary journey across Russia.
Setting out amongst the active, snow-capped volcanoes of Kamchatka, over 4,000 miles from Moscow, Simon explores one of the remotest regions of the country. The population of Russia’s far east has fallen dramatically in recent years, but travelling by chopper and skidoo, Simon finds indigenous reindeer herders who are still eking out a fragile existence. In the port city of Vladivostok, Simon visits a newly built mega casino, designed to attract high rollers and tourists from neighbouring China. Deep in the forest, Simon meets the inspirational conservationist who has created a sanctuary for the country’s most iconic predator, the giant Amur tiger. Simon ends his journey on the rim of a giant crater that has emerged in the Siberian landscape – chilling evidence of the impact of global climate change.
The second leg begins in Siberia and takes him to Russia’s far south west and the majestic Caucasus Mountains. From Lake Baikal, the oldest and deepest lake on Earth, Simon takes the Trans-Siberian Railway to the city of Krasnoyarsk, the scene of brutal violence in the 1990s, and now the location of a cafe paying homage to Vladimir Putin. Simon is introduced to a Siberian community that worships a former traffic cop they believe to be the reincarnation of Christ. Along with a rare interview with the messiah himself, Simon meets some of the daughters of his followers being educated to become future brides of worthy men. After encounters with Tuvan throat singers and Cossack street patrols, Simon visits Dagestan, a largely Muslim region that has been scarred by jihadist violence. He meets security forces who use highly trained dogs to tackle the terrorist threat, and villagers attempting to keep their ancient tightrope-walking traditions alive.
The third leg takes him from the illegally annexed peninsula of Crimea to the historic Baltic city of St Petersburg. Crimea is part of neighbouring Ukraine but was annexed by Russia in 2014. President Putin’s government is investing heavily in the illegally occupied territory – building a huge bridge linking Crimea to Russia. Simon meets the eccentric and fearless owner of a safari park who likes to get up close and personal with his pride of lions. The owner is struggling to get water to his park after a canal that supplied much of Crimea’s water was shut off by the Ukraine. And it is not just the lions that are affected – the diminishing water supplies are now beginning to threaten a humanitarian crisis.