DRINKING AND DRIVING IN CHECHNYA
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It is the mid-1990s, and ordinary Russians are reeling from the collapse of the Soviet Union. Old habits clash with new money, and war rages between Russia and the breakaway Chechen republic. Leonid, a hard-luck lorry driver, lives with his senile, military-veteran father in Moscow and ferries shipments of illicit goods all over Russia for his Mafiya bosses. He nurses a single wish: to leave behind the country of his birth, for which he feels nothing but disdain, and immigrate to the United States - the land where dreams come true. During a haul to the Caucasus with a cargo of vodka intended for parched soldiers on the front line of the campaign against Chechnya, Leonid and his dim-witted sidekick take a wrong turn. They wind up in the centre of the Chechen capital Grozny, at the height of one of the cruellest bombardments of the twentieth century. What follows will shock Leonid into a confrontation with reality, which has always played out just beyond his averted gaze. His well-honed cynicism will be tested to the utmost, along with the survival skills he has accumulated over the years. Destined to become a cult classic, this short, biting debut is also a heartfelt contemplation of how we engage with our worst instincts and - sometimes - rise above them. Leonid is a hard nut with a soft centre, and however amoral his behaviour, even he cannot fail to be moved by the events he witnesses, which will change him beyond recognition.