I was denied access to the regions treasure-trove of energy assets and resources by suspicious, perhaps guilty authorities. But would a guided tour by an oil or mining company’s public relations team have gotten me any closer to the truth? I doubt it. I felt a wry touch would yield better results and explain the region and its people equally well. Unencumbered with any knowledge of the Russian language, my blundering itinerary brought me to places I would never have found the official way. I began to enjoy my role as a sort of reverse-Borat.
A bit like an uncontrollable giggling fit at a funeral, I find serious people funny. And very serious people even funnier. And Russians have a reputation for being very very serious.
So this is what I saw.