Rated 4.1 out of 5 by 55
Rated 5 out of 5 by Jacqueline A top-down story all the way.
Russia is back in the news. This year, after hosting a very expensive Winter Olympics, Russia saw the modern image it wished to project shattered by the Ukraine crisis. The impression one gets of Putin is of an intelligent, articulate man deeply aggrieved by his country's fall to second-tier status ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the mid-90s.
Dr Steinberg's A HISTORY OF RUSSIA describes the trajectory of Russia's political and social elite between Tsar Peter the Great and Gorbachev, from 1680 to 1991. It is a description of their evolving mental image of Russia — its strength and weaknesses, the path it must follow to modernize, etc. — not a blow-by-blow account of its political or military history.
It is therefore a story of warring ideals and changing sensibilities, not short-term decisions. Objective events such as assassinations and military setbacks are mentioned, of course, but primarily as factors in the ever-shifting climate of ideas within Russia.
Are we stronger than we were? More respected? More advanced? Or are we falling behind our peers in Europe? Is there a uniquely Russian way forward, or are there better foreign models that could propel us into a more enviable position?
More bluntly, the first 2/3 of this course is about a tiny, albeit growing elite up to 1917 talking to itself, alternatively worshipping and demonizing ordinary Russians, the "wise" peasant masses especially.
The last 1/3 describes a much more repressive reality under Lenin and Stalin where the masses become the experimental play thing of another, more meritocratic elite.
Either way, average Russians had very little say in defining their hopes, fantasies and self-image. It's a top-down story all the way.
The PRESENTATION and course guide were fine. The selected images were good, but few in number. Audio platforms are therefore a good choice if you make use of the guidebook.
RUSSIA is a good companion course to TTC's excellent CLASSICS OF RUSSIAN LITERATURE. Both are about self-image in a fast-developing society leaping from medieval to modern belief systems without the benefit of a Renaissance or an Enlightenment.
The toughest challenge for us in RUSSIA is the weird social context. Our European ancestors barely settled in for a generation or two before moving to cities in large waves. They were temporarily "farmers" without ever becoming "peasants" with millennial traditions. Russia, like most of Europe and Asia, had peasants. Change did not come easily.
Strongly recommended for fans of Russian literature and thought.
May 25, 2014
Rated 1 out of 5 by Filmprof1 The title is a misnomer:
This is a historyof Russia with all the history squeesed out of it. He spends more time discussing a Symbolist painter than the war against Napoleon, and significant people and movements, such as Kerensky and the Petreshevsky circle, are never even mentioned.
May 14, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Armrod Informative
The professor's presentation was very clear and easy to follow. The information was comprehensive and provided a great background on Russian history. I've now listened to it twice and enjoyed it each time. Highly recommended.
April 29, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Madison Great Intro to Russian History and Culture
Prof. Stein berg's enthusiasm for his material and the clarity of his presentations made this course a pleasure. He frames Russian history as a history of ideas and emphasizes the importance of ideas in shaping history. Although the course was clearly taped some years ago, one can see these ideas playing out now in Putin's annexation of the Crimea and his efforts to have Russia recognized as a great power with it's own, not necessarily Western, culture and ethos.
April 19, 2014