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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 listeners say about The Rise and Fall of Soviet Communism: A History of 20th-Century Russia

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

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 As a result, the last lecture was very out of date and gave no preceptive what Russia has actually become under Putin.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.

39 people found this helpful

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What happened to Brezhnev!?!?!

The 20 or so years that Brezhnev was in power accounts for about 27% of soviet history and almost half the Cold War but he scarcely got 15 minutes of the total lecture! If you blinked you would have missed him!

8 people found this helpful

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Good, but a little incomplete

Professor Hamburg's work is engaging, in conversation with the scholarship around him, and is a fine example of the historian's task. This latter is by virtue both of his willingness to offer insightful assessments where he can, and by being modest where information is lacking. There are two drawbacks. The lectures, recorded and published around 1997/1998, are now (September 2016) feeling a little dated in not continuing on to the Putin years, which are a continuation of the aftermath of the Soviet story. The other drawback is the feeling of disproportion in the series. Out of sixteen lectures, twelve are devoted to the period of the Revolution through the end of Stalin's reign in 1953. That leaves three lectures for the post-1953 Soviet Union, and one for the post-Soviet era, thus four lectures covering 43 years, after having had twelve lectures covering a comparable stretch of time. The Cold War is therefore treated hastily, more attention to internal Soviet life in the later period would be welcome, and details of the complex Soviet relationship to Europe are lacking. (For example, there is no mention of the Solidarity movement or the rise of John Paul II in Poland.) If the Teaching Company can give Dr. Hamburg the opportunity to add to and revise the latter part of these lectures, that would be an easy and welcome fix.

3 people found this helpful

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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.

9 people found this helpful

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Great

My dad has a master degree in Russian history and we talk about it at dinner time, when I tell him what I learn from the Great Courses.

It's very detail. Some people think this course should talk about Putin. It doesn't need to. Putin has nothing to do with the fall of the Soviet Union. Soviet Union collapse was happen because of Gorbachev's decision.

This course doesn't need to talk about Communist Germany or Cuba, or North or South Korea as some suggested because it has nothing to do with Soviet Union.

This course is about how Russia became the Soviet Russia and how it collapse. I don't know why some think this course has to go off topic This course talks about the poor choices of Nicholas the Second, because of his choices Russia became the Soviet Union.

Now, I know why my Russian friend who is now an American tells me nothing in Russia has change. The Russians haven't learned their lesson. And you will understand why. From the politics during Nicolas's time.

I suggest people after getting done listening to this course to do more reading on the Soviet Russia if they want more information.

1 person found this helpful

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Usual Cold War story

It is interesting to hear this same old story, but nothing new here. 30 years after the disappearance of the USSR there does not seem to be any attempt to explain how this could have happened. The criticism of who we are now is not even perceived. Sometimes the lecturer is being cynical and doesn’t seem to have any empathy for the communists as if they were not humans. When he mentioned that the bread that the people of the Soviet Union had to eat during WWII, would contain saw dust, I almost expected him to say that they could have eaten cake instead. It was almost as if Marie Antoinette was telling us about the history of humanity.

1 person found this 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 person found this 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 person found this helpful

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Fascinating subject, but comes up short

This is just Ok

The subject is fascinating, so this series of lectures should have been better than it was. And while I do believe this series is still worth listening to, there were some issues that we very hard to ignore:

To begin with, a word of warning: although the Audible release date is 2013, these lectures were actually recorded about 1995-96 (Yeltsin was still in power when this series ends) so the discussion of post-communist Russia is hopelessly out-of-date. An update is badly needed.

The discussions of the Lenin and Stalin periods were pretty good, if basic, but there was a sharp decline after that. For some inexplicable reason, the lecturer virtually ignores the Brezhnev era. Incredibly, that entire period, almost two decades, is glossed over in a small portion of just one lecture. Very disappointing, given all that occurred in those years.

Although Professor Hamburg is clearly knowledgeable, he is also very opinionated and his personal views color too much of the material he delivers. Indeed, the final lecture, which is billed as a discussion about post-communist Russia, is essentially an anti-Yeltsin rant. There is undoubtedly plenty to criticize about Yeltsin, but this was supposed to be an academic lecture series, not an editorial.

Having said all that, the subject matter alone makes this worth the time.

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Dated and superficial

Story ends in 1995. Note, this course is a review, there is very little detail or analysis of causes. You can find much more comprehensive work.

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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.

26 people found this 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..

3 people found this helpful

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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.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Tommy
  • 09-21-19

Rich with insight and wisdom

An excellent series of fast-moving lectures, rich with insight and wisdom Really enjoyable and very informative.

1 person found this helpful

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  • John
  • 08-09-18

Excellent

Very interesting summary of Russian Communism. lecture format makes it easy to listen to. I recommend it.

1 person found this helpful

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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.

1 person found this helpful

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  • W Scott
  • 08-16-21

More Rise than fall

Very interesting with a lot of detail about the rise of communism - including the lead up to the 1917 revolution. I would have liked as much detail about the decline.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-25-18

Political history in easily understood terms

Good introduction to Soviet history. No branching off on to sidetracks, it does what it says excellently

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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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  • 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.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Elena Sukhaya
  • 02-19-21

Brilliant! Well done, Gary Hamburg!

Enjoyed it, thanks! A note to future listeners: this is a series of lectures, not an ‘audiobook’ in the strict sense

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-06-20

Great classes. Very clear and entertaining!

Interesting, very clear and at some points funny. I came into this just wanting to join the conversation about Communism and finished it wanting to learn more about Russian History in general.
Also will be looking for more stuff by Gary Hamburg.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-10-19

I enjoyed the authors cynicism and sence of humour

I read it after reading the History of Russia great course and found it was a very interesting alternate perspective. Author seemed likeable

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Don Carbarns
  • 06-09-18

excellent book very informative

learnt heaps about Russian history. would recommend for anyone who wants to know what communism is about

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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!