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Russian History - an overview
on 21 November 2011
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. This was especially so of the Stalin period in which Sixsmith far too often merely continues the 'western' liberal philosophy in relation to Stalin and fails to dig under the surface to explore both the man and his time as the leader of the Soviet Union.
Whilst this is less of an issue for the last couple of discs in which Sixsmith deals with the more recent developments in the collapse of the USSR, it is still present and left me slightly uneasy about the conclusions he was drawing for these events given the nature of his work on the earlier events of the creation of the Soviet state.
That is not to say that this is not a good series, however, and for those who have little background in Soviet history, this would be a good introduction. Personally though, I felt it lacked sufficient depth and far too often strayed into subjective 'western' liberal ideology for those looking for a thorough and deep study of Russian/Soviet history.