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Searching for love in The Madness of Moscow

Thatcham journalist's book tells of life and love in Russia

AN award-winning journalist from Thatcham has written a book on his search for love and the realities of living in Russia.

The Madness of Moscow tells Cary Johnston’s journey of life and love in Russia, based on his time anchoring Russia Today’s morning show.

Mr Johnston, who now works for ITV News Meridian, said: “Most books about Russia seem to be boring political or academic essays.

“I just thought it was about time the world saw how things are ‘on the street’.

“Muscovites’ daily lives I suppose, not just the bad things, but also out on the town having fun. They are human just like us.

“Also, I was hoping to find my perfect partner or ‘Russian bride’ I suppose, so dating in Russia was always going to be an interesting prospect.”

Mr Johnston, the winner of the first Royal Television Society’s Young Journalist of the Year award, started at newspaper and ITV News channel.

He then spent 10 years with the BBC before moving to Moscow to anchor the morning show for the international Russia Today network.

What started as diary snippets about modern-day Russia developed into a fully-fledged book.

Mr Johnston said: “Sitting in your Moscow apartment looking outside at 10 feet of snow in minus 25 degrees Celsius and grey skies – there’s plenty of time to contemplate.”

He said that the western view of the Russian state is not half the picture.

“Russians just have a very different view of the world,” he said. “They told me that if you see President Putin on Russian TV for several hours, we in the West all say ‘Oh look, that TV station is a Kremlin puppet’.

“Yet their view is that no one blinks an eye in the UK when the BBC (a state-funded broadcaster) covers Royal weddings wall-to-wall, with no dissent allowed. ‘What’s the difference?’ Russians would ask me.”

Mr Johnston said that his experiences of Russia were “good and bad, with nothing much in-between.

“If you go for a night out in Moscow you could either end up being invited to an oligarch’s party in the penthouse of a five-star hotel, swilling buckets of Champagne, or you could end up beaten up and abandoned in the gutter somewhere on the edge of the city.

“There’s no safety net. So although I don’t miss the biting cold, the rudeness of shop assistants or the fairly bland food, I do miss the adrenalin and the strangeness. I miss the madness of Moscow, so to speak.”

The book tells Mr Johnston’s bittersweet search for love with a Russian bride, with things on the dating front being “very different”.

“The man pays for the taxi, the meal, everything,” he said. “There is no thought of going Dutch. The woman expects this and if she ever offered to pay half, a Russian man would be hugely insulted.”

When asked why people should read on sale on Sunday, Mr Johnston said: “If you want to know what Moscow is really like, minus the politics, the media hype and the cliches, then this is it.

“Whether you are a man or a woman, the dating scene out there is fascinating too. I won’t tell you if I eventually found my Russian bride, you’ll have to read the book.”

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