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Russia: The Wild East

The Complete BBC Radio 4 Series
Narrated by: Martin Sixsmith
Length: 11 hrs and 18 mins
Categories: History, Europe
4.7 out of 5 stars (9 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Power struggles have a constant presence in Martin Sixsmith's story of Russia. Collected here in 50 episodes, he chronicles the Mongol hordes invading in the 13th century, through the iron autocratic fists of successive tsars, to the fall of the Soviet Union and Russia's re-emergence as a superpower.

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. After the whirlwind of the revolution, the Bolsheviks struggled to consolidate their victory. To rescue the economy and save the regime, Lenin made concessions to the people. But after his death, Stalin introduced forced collectivisation and industrialisation, condemning the Soviet people to conditions worse than those experienced under the tsars. Nikita Khrushchev reversed the worst excesses of Stalinism, and in 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev embarked on radical reforms of the communist system - unleashing unforeseen consequences that swept him from power and destroyed the USSR.

Martin Sixsmith brings his first-hand experience of reporting from Russia in the 1980s and 90s to his narrative, witnessing the critical moment when the Soviet Union lost its grip on power. He asks if the recurring patterns of Russian history can help us understand what has happened since 1991, when the promise of Western-style democracy aroused so many hopes for change. Eyewitness accounts, archive recordings and personal testimony enrich his narrative, as well as readings from Russian authors and historians such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Vasily Grossman, plus music by Stravinsky, Prokofiev and others.

©2017 BBC Worldwide Ltd (P)2017 BBC Worldwide Ltd

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What listeners say about Russia: The Wild East

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Outstanding

Having been quite a fan of Dostoyevsky's work I was very interested in learning more about Russian history. Michael Sixsmith has done a stellar job here in exploring the last 1000 years of this nation. What an incredible journey!

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  • mz
  • 27-03-2020

Brushed-Over Details, Sudden Increases in Volume

The short recordings of historical events, interviews, reading of excerpts are good. But the content just skims over the surface and skips a lot of details. This is a good surface introduction to Russian history in the past 1000 years, but for a more in-depth look, I'm going to find an actual audio book, not a radio program. The annoying part is that sometimes the volume would all of a sudden increase a lot, and it's deafening even when it's just on speaker in a large room. This happens when there is background music, or someone's performing a speech, etc. That makes the volume very inconsistent and not a smooth listen like a book would be. I only listen to it when I'm doing chores a bit far away so as to not get ear assaults.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Nathan
  • 12-09-2018

Best Russian history review book!!

best book about Russian history, culture and politics I've ever heard. it really digs deep into the ago old question of "The Russian Question?". for any one trying to understand Russia this is the book and it's well made with sound bites and music interlocked through the entire audiobook.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Joshua D. Dennis
  • 02-07-2018

An immersive experience of history and culture.

This book blew my already high expectations. Blending contemporary music, poetry and news with a compelling telling of history that ties together a rather broad history.

1 person found this helpful

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  • JB
  • 12-05-2018

Master class

Érudite and thoughtful. I did not know I could learn so much outside a university auditorium. The author’s enthusiasm is infectious

1 person found this helpful

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  • David
  • 01-09-2020

Riveting history in perfectly-sized chapters

World class, this series! I've studied Russian history in one form or another for much of my life and this presents it more clearly than anything I've read or heard to date. One reason is that it focuses less on minute details and more on the stories, sequences, and common themes. Plus, it does it in a bunch of small, focused segments of about 15 minutes each. If you're looking for dry, raw facts, look elsewhere. If you're looking for understanding and fascination, start here. Phenomenal.

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  • Timmy the G
  • 03-08-2020

I learned a Lot

This is a concise history of a big country. It gave me a mental framework to put all of the various bits and pieces of Russian history that I've heard about over my life. The author/narrator seemed to know his stuff having been a reporter in USSR for decades. I didn't mind that it was less an audiobook and more a news documentary with clips of Russian speakers and Russian music. The translated quotes of Russians spoken with British accents was a little weird, but I suppose if you don't have voice actors that can do good Russian accents that's what you have to do. My American brain , though, kept visualizing the Russians as the cast of Monty Python, and I swear one of them sounded just like Pete Townshend of The Who. This takes you up to the first 10 years or so of Putin's reign. Will have to get another to book to catch up on his more recent shenanigans.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 21-08-2017

fantastic

this is a comprehensive personal history illustrated with clips of music, film soundtracks and bbc news reporting. it was originally on bbc radio 4 in 15 minute parts. each part on this version is introduced so that you know exactly where you are.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Leonard Turton
  • 21-10-2018

Excellent Retrospective

Want to understand Putin? Needs some pre Putin background and a fascinating survey of centuries of Russian political history? This series offers 50 short but surprisingly comprehensive episodes that do all of this admirably. Highly recommended. Very entertaining.

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  • Kenneth
  • 04-11-2018

Like a quick reference and a roller coaster ride

Compelling. Take this ride before reading the usual, dryly presented, pedestrian, historical reference book alternatives.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Beetle
  • 15-08-2020

Excellent introduction

Excellent introduction to Russian history. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Great performance all round. Thank you

1 person found this helpful

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  • The king David
  • 14-06-2020

Insightful and essential to understand how and why Russia operates as it does.

A well constructed and entertaining account of Russian development over a 1000 year’s. I’ve listened to it twice now. Deep enough to understand the key events and characters but not too complex to get lost in the weeds. Factually important for everybody, especially if you are interested in politics, history, the military, international relations or travel. If you have even a minimal interest in Russia then this will be great for you.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-05-2020

Fantastic book!!

A complete view of the history of Russia to understand his current challenges and positions. Very well written/ read....

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  • Elaine
  • 19-12-2019

Inteteresting

As an introduction or a brief overview of Russian history this is an excellent listen. Informed and informative. One negative is the musical interludes. These are intended to give historical context I'm sure but they merely seared into my skull with high pitched wailing. But maybe that's just me!!!

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  • Juliet
  • 08-12-2019

Fabulous insight into the idiosyncrasies of Russia

Fabulous insight into the idiosyncrasies of Russia in comparison to Western development. A considered and educational work.

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  • DippersNest
  • 27-09-2019

Great introductory overview

This gives a good introduction to Russian history. Not without some contentious moments, but this is history, after all. It seems to be written with genuine affection and respect, as well as being critical.

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  • Mr. R. Jarmain
  • 15-09-2019

A masterly history lesson! Absolutely riveting.

I loved this. The history is fascinating and the presentation faultless. I was sorry to reach the end. Highly recommended.