National Geographic Explorer: Volga, The Soul of Russia (TBS, 9-11 p.m.): The Volga snakes its way across about 2,300 miles of Russia and is the longest river in Europe. This program takes a journey to some of the cities and villages that line its banks. We meet a captain who spent most of his life directing cruise ships along its surface. Residents of one city talk about how they're coping with the sharp rise in street gangs and lawlessness since communism's demise. The program provides an interesting p eek into different slices of Russian life. * MONDAY

Rough Guide (PBS, 10-11 p.m.): No touring buses and trips to typical tourist haunts on this travel series. "Rough Guide," which airs on eight consecutive Mondays, heads to offbeat and unlikely destinations. In the first segment, hip British hosts Sankha Guha and Magenta De Vine - the latter never takes off her trademark sunglasses even in dark, dreary catacombs - explore Australia. They start in Cairns, home of the Great Barrier Reef and an area where local students learn Japanese in order to cater to th e exploding Japanese population. Then on to the Outback, where female ranchhands - known as jillaroos - perform many of the same duties as men, except that the women have the additional task of cooking and cleaning at days' end. The final stop is ethnically diverse Melbourne, where a group called the Cave Clan holds meetings in the city's underground maze of drain tunnels. "Rough Guide" is a fast-paced program geared to a younger audience. Although it sometimes gives short shrift to a subject just when a vi ewer's interest is starting to pique, the program is full of unexpected and interesting travel tidbits. Future destinations include Sicily and New Zealand.

Please check local listings for all programs, especially the one on PBS.

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