PERSONAL: Married; husband's name Charles. Education: London University School of Slavonic and East European Studies, M.A.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 5 Upper St. Martin's Lane, London WC2H 9EA, England.
CAREER: Journalist, historian, author. Foreign correspondent for the Economist and Daily Telegraph, Kiev, Ukraine, 1993-95.
Borderland: A Journey through the History of Ukraine, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1997, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 1999.
The Shaman's Coat: A Native History of Siberia, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 2002, Walker (New York, NY), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: British journalist Anna Reid lived in Kiev, Ukraine, as a foreign correspondent from 1993 to 1995, and then wrote Borderland: A Journey through the History of Ukraine. This land, when ruled by Poland, was called "Eastern Little Poland," and when the Russians were in charge, they named it "Little Russia." The Ukraine was invaded as far back as 1240, when Kiev was burned by the Mongols. Five million of its citizens died during World War II, sixty percent of the Jewish population of Soviet Ukraine. Reid documents other disasters, including Chernobyl and the millions who died in rural areas under Stalin's agricultural collective plan, and notes that free elections did not finally come to Ukraine until the end of the twentieth century. Iain Elliot wrote in the Times Literary Supplement that Reid "has sharp vision and an enquiring mind which launched her on a journey through the country's history to help her make sense of what she saw. Often controversial, but never stuffy, she takes her reader at the same time on a tour of Ukraine, relating past events to a modern context."
Reid's second history, The Shaman's Coat: A Native History of Siberia, was written after she traversed the frozen and desolate lands of Eastern Russia, a vast frontier of five million square miles, largely unpopulated, that represents one-twelfth of the world's land mass. Reid reveals its history, from the Russian invaders in search of furs in the sixteenth century, to the present-day culture of its diverse peoples, descendants of the more than thirty ethnic groups that lived in Siberia before the invasion of the Russians. Like the First Tribes of the American West, they were slaughtered from the time of the czars until that of Lenin and Stalin, when non-Russian native cultures were attacked and the influence of the Buddhist lamas broken. Even into the 1970s, followers of the lamas were institutionalized in Siberian psychiatric hospitals. This volume is a study of how the Russian conquest impacted the lives of the aboriginal population until present time.
Benson Bobrick wrote in the New York Times Book Review that Reid "is no ordinary journalist. . . . She sets out on her travels determined to bring the land of her reckoning alive. In this she is aided by her acute curiosity, fine descriptive gifts, and delight in detail. The result is almost always to give us, in her own wry way, an indelible sense of place." "But it is the plight of the indigenous peoples that is Reid's chief concern," continued Bobrick. "Like other conquering powers, the Russians insisted on their colonial right to civilize the 'savage' and make the wilderness their own. Ultimately, their way was cleared by slaughter, alcoholism, and disease. Reid's account of her own journey—part history, part travelogue, part excursion through the outback of Siberian lore—more or less follows the progress of Russian domination eastward as the Khant, Buryat, Sakha, Ainu, Chukchi, and other peoples are subdued." Bobrick noted that "the history of their obliteration has since been obliterated."
An Economist contributor noted that Reid "traces the scars of Stalinism on native peoples: the mass slaughter of lamas and shamans, collectivization of reindeer herds, theft of sacred fishing grounds. Traditions are almost gone." This process was accelerated when native children were taken from their families and placed in Russian schools.
Sam Phipps wrote in a Spectator review that "the chapter on the Buryat, who dwell around Lake Baikal, makes particularly harrowing reading. By 1917 they had thirty-seven Buddhist monasteries and 15,000 lamas. After a campaign of systematic destruction and murder that started in the 1930s and was referred to only as the 'forced reduction of lamas,' until as recently as fifteen years ago, the Buryat's spiritual and cultural heart was ripped out. Reid's poignant encounters with elderly survivors show a people still brutalized."
"This is a marvelous book," wrote Peter Gordon in an online review for Asian Review of Books, "a combination of history, anthropology, and travel book, erudite and witty, weaving four centuries of history with present reality, into a readable and educational narrative."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 1, 2002, Donna Seaman, review of The Shaman's Coat: A Native History of Siberia,
Canadian Slavonic Papers, December, 2000, Paul du Quenoy, review of Borderland: A Journey through the History of Ukraine, p. 580.
Economist, August 3, 2002, review of The Shaman'sCoat.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2002, review of TheShaman's Coat, p. 1106.
Library Journal, October 1, 2002, Mari Flynn, review of The Shaman's Coat, p. 119.
New York Times Book Review, December 15, 2002, Benson Bobrick, review of The Shaman's Coat,
Publishers Weekly, August 19, 2002, review of TheShaman's Coat, p. 77.
Russian Life, September-October, 2002, review of TheShaman's Coat, p. 47.
Slavic and East European Journal, spring, 2001, Catherine Wanner, review of Borderland, p. 165.
Spectator, June 8, 2002, Sam Phipps, review of TheShaman's Coat, p. 51.
Times Literary Supplement, February 6, 1998, Iain Elliot, review of Borderland, p. 26.
Asian Review of Books,http://www.asianreviewofbooks.com/ (March 27, 2003), Peter Gordon, review of The Shaman's Coat.*