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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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  • 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.

5 people found this helpful

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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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  • 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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  • R
  • 19-09-2021

Superb, best title I've had on audible.

Covering the great swathe of Russian history with a balanced engaging style. I liked Mr Sixsmiths narration, pronunciation of the Russian and the confidence in his subject. And of course the history is fascinating, particularly the links or patterns between centuries the author highlights. I will listen again in the near future, which is a first in this format.

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  • William
  • 25-08-2021

Pleasingly coherent at cost of oversimplification

The division into radio-friendly format makes for easy listening. The author has witnessed, indeed occasionally taken an active role in the history of the last 3 decades, and relates events with clarity.
The major weakness is espousing the belief that Russia is eternally committed to autocracy. The country has had multiple close encounters with more democratic forms of government, but historical destiny has prevented it from taking root, we are told. This provides a coherent narrative and gives the reader a satisfying sense of grasping political reality, but the argument is spurious. Russia may have been unlucky many times, but eternal despotism is not an inevitable destiny.

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  • Michelle
  • 24-06-2021

Exactly what I wanted!

I wanted a really easy to understand history of Russia and this was absolutely perfect!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 30-03-2021

Superb

Written but also narrated by the same person is always a bonus. Thoroughly enjoyed this fantastic audio book. I'd certainly recommend it.

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  • Sean
  • 20-03-2021

Helps me learn about Russia in big brush strokes

Captivating and insightful connections. E.g. The Mongolian influence on Russian military strategy and the tension between autocracy and democracy. Especially when times of reform occur which can be either defeated or do overcome resistance to change.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • gayvampire
  • 13-02-2021

Excellent overview, well balanced and respectful

Martin is clearly a man with deep affection for Russia and the Russians. This is a carefully thought through introduction to Russia and why the Russians have the political system they do. If you are interested in world affairs, Russia, or just want to educate yourself about the fascinating and important country, this is a great place to start.

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