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Russia: The Wild East 'The Rise and Fall of the Soviets' Audio CD – Audiobook, 4 Aug 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: BBC Physical Audio (4 Aug. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408468530
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408468531
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 63.5 x 14 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 396,554 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4.7 out of 5 stars
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By S. J. Williams TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 20 Aug. 2011
Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
These 25 x 15 minute episodes present a history of Russia from the revolution of 1917 up to the collapse of the communist state in 1991, an anniversary currently being celebrated. It then covers Putin's rise to power and reflections on the direction Russia might take in the future in balancing autocratic and democratic impulses. This set is the second part of a larger work, the first part being "Russia: The Wild East 'From Rulers to Revolutions' ".

The five cds comprise: 1 The Rise of the Bolsheviks; 2 Stalin's Iron Fist; 3 War and (uncertain) Peace; 4 Cold War; 5 Collapse.

Sixsmith, an experienced correspondent and 'Russia watcher' for the BBC in the 80's and 90's, as well as a civil servant Director of Communications for Downing Street in the early 2000s, has written and presented a fascinating, if inevitably highly abbreviated account of this complex subject. (He was reputedly 'gagged' by the government following the Jo Moore/Steven Byers debacle in 2001 and unable to present his version of events in book form. Clearly he knows something of the machinations and manipulations in the corridors of power!) He has written extensively on the Soviet Union and Russia. He has a good voice for radio, writes well for that medium, and has his account interspersed with archive recordings, personal testimony and readings by actors from authors relevant to the various segments. This range of material and voices together with Russian musical extracts further add variety so that this is never a tedious listen.

I am not an expert on Russia: I do not doubt that there will be many who might challenge Sixsmith's interpretations of some of the political events and personalities on which he comments.
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Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As a lover and long-term student of Russian and Soviet history, I came to this with some skepticism but I was pleasantly surprised.

Firstly Sixsmith has a very easy manner and is both easy to listen to and knowledgable on the subject - two key elements in making this work. He maintains an interest in what he says and allows the reader to become involved as well which is key to this as he covers a tremendous amount of Russian/Soviet history in a relatively short amount of time and does it with an ease rivalled only by the best audio-books I've listened to (Stephen Fry's Harry Potter and Rob Inglis' Lord of the Rings).

The collection comprises of 5 CDs:
1 - Rise of the Bolsheviks
2 - Stalin's Iron Fist
3 - War and Peace
4 - Cold War
5 - Collapse

These cover a huge amount of histoy in a relatively short period and in doing so provide a decent overview of the events and touches on many of the key points during these periods, however, due to the need to cover so much in so short a time, he often misses the intericate nuances which are fundamental to really understanding this period of Russian/Soviet history.
In addition to the superficial nature of the history, it is also skewed quite considerably by the interpretations of Sixsmith who, having been present in the Soviet Union during its collapse, struggles to go beyond his own perceptions at times. Whilst this may make for suitable radio, I felt it was too influential in the portayal of events and whilst historians cannot be totally objective, it strayed too often into wholly subjective analyse.
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By Thomas Pots TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 23 Aug. 2011
Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This 5-CD set is a summing up of Soviet history from 1917 through to 1991 and beyond, as researched, written and narrated by Martin Sixsmith for BBC Radio 4. It is the second part of the series, but you won't need to have heard the first part to pick up the story. It condenses a huge amount of history into a few hours, but makes gripping and at times horrifying listening.

Sixsmith moves quickly through revolution, Bolshevism, Stalinism, world war, and eventually to Gorbachev and Putin. It is a history punctuated by ambition, power and death on a huge scale, which Sixsmith tells with passion, often aided by actors who read translations of notable speeches and declarations. It is further enhanced by interspersed sound effects and archive recordings that help to conjure up the mood of the time.

Sixsmith tries to be impartial in his narration, but the history he recounts is often so dark and terrible that his voice tends to come down upon events in pithy style, painting the villains as they deserve, and telling of heroics on all sides with equal engagement. At times the whole thing is so intense and tragic that it is hard to listen to. He spares us little in the telling as he covers each regime, with their high ideals and monstrous outcomes, their policies, purges, fanatical loyalties and impossible expectations, show trials, lost causes and executions. Sixsmith changes up a gear when he reaches the period that he reported upon personally. From the Gorbachev and Yeltsin years onward, he reflects upon the times and the men in question with greater fluidity, especially during the final CD of the set. He met many of these figures, of course, and had a better understanding of their views and the societies and people on which they tried their policies.
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