St. Petersburg Bay Blues is Douglas Buchacek’s account of serving in Western Russia from 2001 to 2003, in what ultimately turned out to be the final Peace Corps cohort to serve in the country. He has documented his service, which began three weeks before 9/11, up through the ultimate closing of the program in February 2003, amidst accusations of espionage against Peace Corps Volunteers. The Russia he lived in was a world caught between worlds — the after effects of the end of the Soviet Union, the chaos of the 1990s, the beginnings of Putinism — and that struggle affected his service, and everyone he encountered . . . Russian and American.
The book is also a story of youth, of growing up, of friendship, of curiosity. It is a meditation on the joy of adventure, as well as on sadness and loneliness, and a portrait of a society that at once seemed to be opening up to the world, as well as reverting to its own history of isolation and separation. At the book’s heart is Buchacek’s lifelong fascination with a country and culture that he still feels a deep affection for, despite its often troubling history and present.