Black earth cityCharlotte Hobson spent her gap year as a student in Voronezh, in deepest provincial Russia. Her arrival coincided with the collapse of this society, as initial optimism about the fall of communism gave way to disillusionment and uncertainy. These feelings are mirrored in the doomed love affair she has with the vodka-swilling Mitya. They too started out in a mood of wild optimism, and felt that anything was possible. Until in the spring the snow thawed, and revealed the black earth beneath.