Russia: Part One: From Rulers to Revolutions

  • by Martin Sixsmith
  • Narrated by Martin Sixsmith
  • 5 hrs and 37 mins
  • Radio/TV Program

Publisher's Summary

The first 25 episodes from the landmark BBC Radio series. Martin Sixsmith brings his first-hand experience of reporting from Russia to this fascinating narrative, witnessing the critical moment when the Soviet Union finally lost its grip on power.
Power struggles have a constant presence in his story, from the Mongol hordes that invaded in the 13th century, through the iron autocratic fists of successive Tsars. 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. The first part of Sixsmith’s history ends with Lenin and the Bolsheviks forcing through the final Revolution and paving the way for the Communist state. Eyewitness accounts and readings from Russian authors and historians, from Pushkin to Solzhenitsyn, enhance this fascinating account, as well as music taken from a wide range of Russian composers including Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Borodin and Shostakovich. Martin Sixsmith traces Russia’s turbulent 1000-year history from its founding to the Revolution.


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Customer Reviews

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Very biased history based on western views.

There are two important things to keep in mind if you are planning on purchasing this book. This first one being that the author is not a historian. He is a BBC correspondent. The second thing to know is that the entire book is centered on a single idea. That idea being his theory, which is shared by many people, that Russia's default position is always authoritarian rule. Their history has destined them to always be under an authoritarian government.

This idea is not completely unfounded, but it spoils the entire story. The author picks events and aspects that support his thesis and speeds past everything else. It seems like every five minutes or so he reminds the listener of his theory. He picks events in Russia's history, portrays them in a way that supports his views, and then say, "I told you so". If you are looking for this kind of thing then I guess that is fine, but if you are searching for an unbiased, all-around look at the History of Russia then this book is comically bad.

Sixsmith's version of Russian history is a classic example of western bias when it comes to telling the history of an eastern country. Here is an affluent British man viewing the history of an eastern land through the lens of his current time and place. He does not compare Russia to other countries of it's time, no, instead he compares it with the western democracies of today and he never hesitates to criticize it. His criticism can be summed up in one sentence, "Russia simply isn't enough like US to ever be as good as US".

Many Russians have said that the west will never understand them and if works like Sixsmith's is anything to go by they might end up being right.

I would also like to point out that it is painfully obvious that for the revolutionary period Sixsmith rips off the work of Trotsky's A History of the Russian Revolution. This is hilarious because while Sixsmith rightfully accuses the Communist Party of misrepresenting history he, at the same time, takes Trotsky's work, removes his voice, and cherry picks bits and pieces of it to satisfy his own views.
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- Doug


Actually a collection of short episodes originally broadcast by the BBC: as such, it retains the dramatic flavor of a broadcast, with narration taking place in echoing hallways and outside in public squares and gardens; with different speakers for quotes (and sometimes, once it reaches the 20th century, the actual voices of participants like Lenin); and with tons of dramatic, thundering Russian music.

This is my first exposure to Russian history, so I have no opinion about its accuracy or scope. (The scope is epic in scale, like the country itself.) I enjoyed it, and it made me want to learn more about the subject, so I got what I wanted from it. Part 2 of the series beckons, as does the Great Courses offering on Russian history.
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- Tad Davis

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-14-2011
  • Publisher: BBC Worldwide Limited