Archive for the 'Russian Books' Category


Man and Animals-Yuri Dmitriyev


Published in Moscow by Raduga in 1984, translated from the Russian into English by Raissa Bobrova, “Man and Animals” is an out-of-print book on man’s relationship with animals through the ages. I recently spotted the unforgettable cover featuring a giraffe, a sea serpent or kraken, a mythical Arabian Nights type bird (Rukh) carrying an elephant, a schooner, a butterfly and an anachronistic helicopter, on an Ebay listing for “Rare and antiquarian literature”. Though I was tempted to buy it, the book wasn’t cheap at thirty dollars. A brief search later, I found it on Amazon for four dollars and it is now sitting on my bookshelf, between a Harry Potter and a Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Like many Russian titles from the Soviet Era, the author remains largely mysterious; is he a zoologist, a wild life writer or just someone who happens to love animals? The back cover is blank, except for a small sticker in the bottom left that has the letters, “Imported Publications” on it with an Illinois address underneath. In this post-glasnost era, there still exists a limited market for Soviet relics, including Fairy Tale Books, Matryoshka dolls, communist propaganda and other items that are slowly vanishing into obscurity. As a result, thousands of excellent Russian books on a variety of subjects from Mathematics to Culture have been relegated to flotsam after a wreckage.

russianbook2041 Next to an outline of a sea populated by even more fantastic creatures, the author gives a brief description and I am quoting from it :

One book is not really enough to tell about the many different relationships between Man and animals. Nor have I tried to embrace the subject in its entirety. I wrote this book for children, striving, above all, to make them understand how important it is to know, love and protect animals”.

Indeed, the author’s passion is manifest on every page. In lucid prose, he brings together history, zoology and anthropology, re-iterating how dependent man has been on animals for survival. Almost encyclopedic in scope, the book is rich in content, including in its pages prehistoric cave paintings, animal legends, Gerald Durell, Martha-the last passenger pigeon, the coelacanth and numerous black and white photographs, drawings and reproductions so that even if a child was reluctant to read, it could spend hours staring at the pictures, like I once did.

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Remembering MISHA



Back in the 1980s, Misha (which translates to bear in Russian) was the most popular children’s magazine in India published in English. Within its glossy pages, you were treated to folk tales, science fiction, riddles, photographs,


pen pal sections, puzzles and illustrations. As an added bonus, it smelled awfully good. Unfortunately the collapse of the USSR spelled death for many Soviet publishing houses (Raduga, Mir and others) and Misha soon became extinct. For years I searched for magazine back issues in second hand stalls all over Bombay finding a tattered copy every once in a while. Even expert book sellers who run bazaars such as the ones in the Fountain area hadn’t heard of the magazine. In the beginning of 2003, I found a man on the footpath in Dadar T.T. (next to the fly over) selling old novels and as I have a nose that is particularly sensitive to valuable and out-of-print literature, I spotted or rather, sniffed a stack of Mishas containing several issues that had been published through the 80s and 90s.


The moment was, needless to say, exhilarating. At that time I had 120 rupees with me, (roughly the equivalent of 2.5 dollars). I offered the man 100 rupees and he happily gave me the stack without making me resort to haggling. Even If I’d had a 100 dollars, I’d still have given it all to him. The seller had no idea how rare the magazines he was selling were. They were moreover in excellent condition with barely a few creases here and there. No dog eared pages, no silver-fish damage or greasy stains. I really have no idea how much the magazines are worth and don’t plan on ever selling them. For those of you keen on obtaining actual copies, I only have one word of advice- persevere. You never know when you might strike gold. As one of the commentors aptly mentioned, famous second-hand book sellers may not have the rare gems decaying in smaller, more perishable establishments. Before I conclude, I request you to not entreat me to send you a physical copy of the magazine as some have-I do not need your money nor your gifts. Some things just cannot be bought, no matter how trite that sounds.

Update (December 5, 2008) : Thanks to Javi, the Argentinian guy who commented on this post, I will be using ISSUU as a platform for upoading MISHA. It’s fast, convenient and makes for easy reading online by allowing a magazine format. The September 1987 copy is a little tattered as can be seen from the scan. I assure you that most of the other magazines in my possession are in a far better condition considering their age and the abuse wrought on them by the elements of nature and careless vendors.

March 1984:
September 1987:


Sorry it took this long!



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