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Publisher's Summary

From the Oval Office to the streets of Moscow, world leaders and ordinary citizens alike share interest and concerns about Russia. Can democracy survive there? What does the future hold for the once expansive and still powerful Russian nation? Is Soviet Communism truly dead?

These are the kinds of questions diplomats struggle with every day. And now, through this series of 16 incisive lectures by an acclaimed scholar of Russian history, you can begin investigating them for yourself as you take a probing historical journey through the recent history and near future of a key world power. Whether your chief interest is Russian or world history, political theory, or international relations, you'll take away fresh knowledge and insight as Professor Hamburg examines the improbable origins of Communist rule in Russia, the ascent of the Red Star to its zenith, and its decline and apparent end in the wake of 1989's events.

Using new material from previously sealed Soviet archives and covering recent controversial findings by both Russian and Western scholars, he begins with the failures of the czarist regime and the horrors of the First World War, then takes you through the bloody era of Josef Stalin's purges and beyond to Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika to offer you a thoroughgoing analysis of the Soviet experiment.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©1996 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)1996 The Great Courses

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Prof. Hamburg Randomly Picked Topics

Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor Gary Hamburg?

I may pick other Great Courses but I will be more careful to see when the actual date that the lectures were taped. Bill Clinton was still president of the United States and Yeltsin was President of Russia when these lectures were taped. Professor Hamburg was given his predictions on what would happen in Russia after the fall of Communism. More than 14 years have gone by since they lecture were taped and much has happen. As a result, the last lecture was very out of date and gave no preceptive what Russia has actually become under Putin. The "release date" stated 2013 but this is obviously meaningless because it has no relation to when the lectures was actually taped.

What could The Great Courses have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Discussed the date that the lectures were given.

What character would you cut from The Rise and Fall of Soviet Communism: A History of 20th-Century Russia?

N/A

Any additional comments?

It does not appear that the professor actually tried to explain why the USSR fell. He randomly picked topics to include but skipped crucial events. He did not include Poland and East Germany's efforts and final success in breaking away from the USSR and the USSR's decision not to send in troops to stop them from breaking away as a prellude to the USSR republics also seeking to break with it. He did not even discuss the USSR's defeat in Afghanistan as a factor in the eventual breakup of the USSR. Not really a good effort.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Lance
  • Maryland, United States
  • 11-13-13

Great introduction but leaves lots of questions

I really enjoyed the professor and the course. It is a very historical overview of the forces that drove acceptance of Soviet communism, an overview of its decline, and some background behind where it may be headed.

Highly recommended as an introduction to this material.

Reasons why I dropped a star. I didn't get a sense as to what the people did, who the people were, who the people became as they progressed throughout what was about a 100 year window of Russian history. I get that Communism minimizes individual contributions and thus this is not necessarily noteworthy, but I would have liked to see a more systematic analysis of how the culture of the country changed as the years progressed. Another reason is the course seemed to stop somewhere in the 1990s. Ok, great but I feel like I need to read alot more about Yeltsin and Putin to understand where Russia is today and what its prospects are. The professor I think could have accommodated more discussion about the Russian people and culture but sometimes gets sidetracked on points that were interesting but somewhat academic. Great I know and get that he is a teacher but for an intro course, I'd rather be focused on some key themes and keep the the academic / pedantic stuff to a minimum.

Loved the course. Really liked the teacher. This is highly recommended for those looking for an introduction to the rise and fall of Soviet Communism. There may be better intros out there but this worked well for me.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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One of the best of the Great Courses

Thorough, exhaustive, and very analytical re Soviet history. My two degrees in History say: "Great"

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Introductory to Early Uprising

It's a good primer for sure, wanting to know more about early communist uprising. This is a good start. I enjoyed it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Interesting

Good information. Good concepts. Not super exciting like the other Russian history book I listened to but i recommend for people who wish to understand Russian history more

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Disappointing

Some useful content but not up to the Great Courses standards. There was no real focus and the scope was too broad to be comprehensive in the time allotted.

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Bad day?

This is a fascinating story and appears to be fair and balanced but the reader seems terribly bored. Not that I need excitement but his voice rises and falls then sighs as though this is the 10,000th take.

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Wonderful overview

Definitely a wonderful overview of Russian history. Worth a listen for those unfamiliar with Russian history.

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Very disappointed

This started out slowly. The lecturer is pretty boring and takes some getting used to. It starts to get good but then it REALLY speeds up. I'm a single lecture he goes from the demise of Khrushchev to the rise of Gorbachev. He speaks NOTHING of outside forces, which had as much to do with the end of the ussr as it's internal problems. Didn't even finish and have already traded it in.

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Great Review

As the title states, great review but there could have been so much more to these lectures. Something on the working class, the KGB, even the cold war information was scant. easily could have been a 24 hour lecture.

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  • Benno Boyo
  • 11-09-17

Hopelessly biased

Is there a more partisan 'The Great Courses' series as this? The lecturer makes no effort to hide his admiration for the Tsarists, even going so far as to label their downfall 'a tragedy'. Meanwhile, his descriptions of Bolshevik political actions are almost always accompanied by a condescending chuckle, while any description of Bolshevik violence is condemned in the snootiest terms. Of course violence will naturally be criticized, but it's never Tsarist violence that's criticized. He even goes so far as to defend the Tsarist's benevolence, to the point where you wonder if the man is a descendent of the Romanovs.

Huge swathes of history are completely glossed over, including Germany's involvement in the delivering of Lenin to Russia, foreign involvement in the fall of the USSR, and all history between Stalin's death and Gorbachev's rise. The amalgamation of a skewed and sporadic history and the boringness with which it's delivered makes for a highly unlistenable experience, and fans of The Great Courses series can safely skip this one.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Thomas
  • 05-14-17

excellent overview of Russian history

excellent for anyone wanting to get an overview of a vast and complex history. speaker is clearly an expert in his field..

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-22-17

Good, but showing its age

A competent but brisk narrative of the Soviet era that focuses on the early period (pre-1941) to a great extent. The age of the recording is conspicuous, however, as the lecturer opines on what developments Yeltsin's leadership *might* bring - an update that expands on the influence of the Soviet experience on Putin's Russia would be very welcome.

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  • Eliel Cohen
  • 04-23-16

Good lectures

good and informative lectures but it did seem to be in that awkward middle ground where a decent amount of knowledge was often assumed but then at other times left you wondering why more depth was not offered. It should have probably been about 10 lectures longer to be honest. the political analyses of pre-revolutionary Russia was probably most insightful moment.

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  • mr
  • 12-06-14

Really very good

Exactly what I wanted, if you are interested in this period I would definitely go for it.

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  • ben
  • 01-13-14

Packed full of relevant and useful information

What did you like most about The Rise and Fall of Soviet Communism: A History of 20th-Century Russia?

The saturation of useful information for either Degree qualifications, A-level and GCSE.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

The abdication of the Tsar in March 1917.

Which character – as performed by Professor Gary Hamburg – was your favourite?

...

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It's educational.

Any additional comments?

May be a bit to much information for a GCSE student or even an A-level student which I am. I find some parts irrelevant for me or in other words an A-level student. Some of the grammar used may be a bit confusing for anyone under the age of 18 trying to gather knowledge of Russia from 1900-1991.

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  • joshua
  • 05-10-16

The Rise and Fall of Russia in The Soviet Era

This was a passable history, but just like most American Great Courses accounts of the history of Marxism and socialism there is an implicit pro-market ideology permeating through the narrative. Also, this was 90% about Russia, 5% about Ukraine, and 5% about just a few of the other thirteen constitutive states that made up the USSR: a bit disappointing for me, as I was wanting to hear about the Soviet experience in the Baltic and Caucasus more than just Russia. Given that the last lecture focuses on Yeltsin and the beginnings of Russian market capitalism, I would hazard a guess that these recordings are from the 1990s. Much has changed in the post-Soviet world since then, including historical perspective. It would be useful for The Great Courses to note the date of recording for their courses, and it would also be great to have a course that isn't ~20 years old on rotation.

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  • Kenneth K T Tse
  • 03-22-16

The sad Soviet story of the recent past well written and related

A wonderful story extremely well told! I enjoyed all the chapters especially the professor's personal stories!