The first 25 episodes from the landmark BBC Radio series. Martin Sixsmith brings his first-hand experience of reporting from Russia to this fascinating narrative, witnessing the critical moment when the Soviet Union finally lost its grip on power.
Power struggles have a constant presence in his story, from the Mongol hordes that invaded in the 13th century, through the iron autocratic fists of successive Tsars. Ivan the Terrible, Catherine the Great, Peter the Great – all left their mark on a nation that pursued expansion to the East, West and South. Many Tsars flirted with reform, but the gap between the rulers and the ruled widened until, in 1917, the doomed last Tsar, Nicholas II, abdicated. The first part of Sixsmith’s history ends with Lenin and the Bolsheviks forcing through the final Revolution and paving the way for the Communist state. Eyewitness accounts and readings from Russian authors and historians, from Pushkin to Solzhenitsyn, enhance this fascinating account, as well as music taken from a wide range of Russian composers including Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Borodin and Shostakovich. Martin Sixsmith traces Russia’s turbulent 1000-year history from its founding to the Revolution.
©2011 Ladbroke Productions (Radio) Ltd. Text copyright © Martin Sixsmith (P)2011 AudioGO Ltd
There are two important things to keep in mind if you are planning on purchasing this book. This first one being that the author is not a historian. He is a BBC correspondent. The second thing to know is that the entire book is centered on a single idea. That idea being his theory, which is shared by many people, that Russia's default position is always authoritarian rule. Their history has destined them to always be under an authoritarian government.
This idea is not completely unfounded, but it spoils the entire story. The author picks events and aspects that support his thesis and speeds past everything else. It seems like every five minutes or so he reminds the listener of his theory. He picks events in Russia's history, portrays them in a way that supports his views, and then say, "I told you so". If you are looking for this kind of thing then I guess that is fine, but if you are searching for an unbiased, all-around look at the History of Russia then this book is comically bad.
Sixsmith's version of Russian history is a classic example of western bias when it comes to telling the history of an eastern country. Here is an affluent British man viewing the history of an eastern land through the lens of his current time and place. He does not compare Russia to other countries of it's time, no, instead he compares it with the western democracies of today and he never hesitates to criticize it. His criticism can be summed up in one sentence, "Russia simply isn't enough like US to ever be as good as US".
Many Russians have said that the west will never understand them and if works like Sixsmith's is anything to go by they might end up being right.
I would also like to point out that it is painfully obvious that for the revolutionary period Sixsmith rips off the work of Trotsky's A History of the Russian Revolution. This is hilarious because while Sixsmith rightfully accuses the Communist Party of misrepresenting history he, at the same time, takes Trotsky's work, removes his voice, and cherry picks bits and pieces of it to satisfy his own views.
Actually a collection of short episodes originally broadcast by the BBC: as such, it retains the dramatic flavor of a broadcast, with narration taking place in echoing hallways and outside in public squares and gardens; with different speakers for quotes (and sometimes, once it reaches the 20th century, the actual voices of participants like Lenin); and with tons of dramatic, thundering Russian music.
This is my first exposure to Russian history, so I have no opinion about its accuracy or scope. (The scope is epic in scale, like the country itself.) I enjoyed it, and it made me want to learn more about the subject, so I got what I wanted from it. Part 2 of the series beckons, as does the Great Courses offering on Russian history.
Top level,great insight from a reporter that covered Russia.
Great insight,easily understandable
Read the Part 2 to this, also excellent !!!
I would the man knows what he's talking about.
The whole thing.
He didn't perform them realy, but I loved it the same.
Paul I dies, tear jerker.
Great for Russian history buffs to start with.
"Good overview, but it was made for tv"
As a previous reviewer has stated, the problem with this audiobook is that it was made for tv. It simply doesn't have the same effect when you don't have the visuals corresponding to the narration. This becomes very clear when, for example, Martin Sixsmith is in a library and therefore has to lower his voice. If we could see him sitting in the library with a huge history book, this would work much better. It simply works better on tv, when we can see people talking about different things in the corresponding locations. Instead, we just hear that he is in a library, but couldn't he have taken notes, and then recorded the audiobook in a studio? It feels unneccessary.
But with all that said, I really enjoyed this first part of the audiobook. It tells some very interesting tales - whether it's filled with facts, or if most of it is a bit vague, I don't know. But I do know that I was very enjoyed. However, as I said, I would have liked it even better if it was simply recorded in a studio. There's nothing wrong with using sound effects, but at times it can actually be confusing having all those sounds in the background with no visuals.
"Excellent - Explains why Russia is the way it is."
Clear and eloquent.
This is a clear and highly listenable history of Russia. History repeats itself and never more so than in the case of Russia. It helps explain the mind-set of modern Russia today.
"Russia in colours other than red"
Enjoyed the insights that Martin brings. He does throw light onto subtle motivations behind seismic events that I was never aware of when grappling with these century-shaping things. As such, you donw have to be a History bore to appreciate the passion and life in this great country's story,
"BBC Standard Documentary - Very Lightweight"
This is not serious history, it is dumbed down history for children. There is nothing wrong with the facts (what few there are) it is the style and presentation that makes this "audiobook" frustratingly poor. It is obviously a BBC documentary meant to be narrated with pictures and context and shown on TV, the sing song style of narration is direct from the BBC school of "how to make a program on anything bland and samey", and as I already am forced to pay for this via my license fee I am not best pleased, especially as I would be very happy to have Mr Sixsmith, a very knowlegable guy, do a proper history of Russia and not waste his talents on this guff..
This is because like all TV documentarys the actual guts of the program - in this case the history of Russia are padded out by interminable flowery descriptions of places and tiny snippets of factoids before we go somewhere else for some other "interesting" description of a church or a field or something - and another factoid, done so that 20 minutes of actual material can be stretched into an hours worth of TV.
This book in my opinion is made for TV and just does not work as an audiobook.
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