History of Russia: From Peter the Great to Gorbachev

Course No. 8380
Professor Mark Steinberg, Ph.D.
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
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Course No. 8380
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Course Overview

It’s difficult to imagine a nation with a history more compelling for Americans than Russia. Yet many Americans have never had the opportunity to study Russia in depth, and to see how the forces of history came together to shape a future so different from the dreams of most ordinary Russian people, eager to see their nation embrace Western values of progress, human rights, and justice.

This course focuses on 300 years of Russian history from Peter the Great to Gorbachev by examining the lives of the men and women who, in fact, were Russia. This is history told through biography.

Now a much-honored teacher has created a series of 36 lectures designed to give you one of the deepest glimpses into Russia you’ve ever had—a vivid journey through 300 years of Russian history as seen through the eyes of her own people.

In this course, you'll examine key individuals and groups, the contexts in which they thought and acted, and their driving ideas.

Topics include:

  • the revolution of Peter the Great,
  • Catherine the Great,
  • the Decembrist Uprising,
  • Belinskii and the early years of Russian Socialism,
  • Alexander II,
  • Nicholas II,
  • Stalin, Gorbachev, and Communism, among others.

Discover historical themes made clear not by discussing treaties, war declarations, or economic statistics —but by examining the lives and ideas of the men and women who were Russia: tsars, emperors, Communist Party leaders, writers, artists, peasants, and factory workers.

Grasp what Russian life was like as Professor Steinberg analyzes ideas of power not only from the viewpoint of its rulers, but also from that of the ruled; the theme of happiness and its pursuit that resonates throughout Russian history, and ideas of morality and ethics as wielded by both the Russian state and its critics.

Professor Steinberg draws on his own years of experience as an author, a student in the Soviet Union in the 1980s, and, more recently, as a world-class historian granted access to once-secret government archives. Listen as he brings alive the vibrant Russian imagination—so willing to visualize a different kind of life for its people, yet so burdened by its darker sides of doubt and pessimism that those visions were rejected.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Understanding the Russian Past
    This lecture introduces the course's focus on human experience, ideas, and values as manifested in the lives of Russian people, and discusses why Russia's own history is significant as both a shaper of world history and a story of human experience. x
  • 2
    The Russia of Peter the Great's Childhood
    Did Peter the Great single-handedly make Russia a part of the West, or did he further a transformation already underway? This lecture explores the Russia into which Peter was born, efforts to modernize the state and its laws, the Westernization of everyday life, and how all this affected Peter. x
  • 3
    Peter the Great's Revolution
    Who was Peter and what did he accomplish? This lecture examines the possibilities he inherited as Russia's tsar, his contradictory personality, and the major reforms he instituted, as well as the vision of progress that motivated them. x
  • 4
    The Age of Empresses—Catherine the Great
    After Peter died in 1725, Russia was ruled by women—Peter's daughter, Elizabeth, and Catherine the Great—for most of the rest of the century. This lecture discusses their efforts to continue Westernizing reforms and the ethos of power in each of their reigns. x
  • 5
    Social Rebellion—The Purgachev Uprising
    This lecture examines the conditions that led to the serf uprising led by Emelian Pugachev during the reign of Catherine the Great, as well as the ideas and language of the uprising's leaders and the groups that followed them. x
  • 6
    Moral Rebellion—Nikolai Novikov
    The development of secular higher education for Russia's elites and the emergence of an educated public and even an intelligentsia paved the way for the first critiques of autocratic despotism in Russia. This lecture focuses on one of the most influential of those critics. x
  • 7
    Alexander I—Imagining Reform
    A complex ruler—variously called a "sphinx," an "enigma," and even a "crowned Hamlet"—Alexander I exhibited many contradictions, including his ideas about power and order and their role in ensuring happiness; his sincere embrace of Enlightenment values; his love of military culture; his limited conception of constitutionalism, and his eventual retreat into mysticism and doubt. x
  • 8
    The Decembrist Rebellion
    This lecture provides a look at a remarkable event in Russian history: the unsuccessful armed uprising against autocracy in December 1825 by groups of educated nobles belonging to secret societies. x
  • 9
    Nicholas I—Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality
    The image of Nicholas I is that of one of the most reactionary rulers in modern Russian history. This lecture examines that image and the personality, ideas, and beliefs that helped create it, as well as the official ideology he created for the Russian state and how its tenets help us understand Russian state politics in the 19th century and beyond. x
  • 10
    Alexander Pushkin, Russia's National Poet
    This lecture looks at the life and powerful myth of Alexander Pushkin, Russia's most beloved writer, and the meaning of Pushkin as a symbol of the Russian nation. x
  • 11
    The Birth of the Intelligentsia
    This lecture examines the emergence of one of the most important social and cultural groups in Russian history—the intelligentsia—and the characteristics that united them, with special emphasis on the arguments of a single individual, Petr Chaadaev, whose ideas about Russia's past and future both shocked and inspired many educated Russians. x
  • 12
    Westernizers—Vissarion Belinskii
    The life and ideas of a single exemplary Westernizer intelligent spotlights the passion with which he and other Russian intelligenty struggled to find the meaning of life. This lecture explores Belinskii's ideas about the dignity and rights of the individual and how these ideas were used to critique serfdom, autocracy, and social injustice, and concludes with a comparison of how Westernizers and their rivals, the Slavophiles, viewed the individual. x
  • 13
    Alexander II and the Great Reforms
    Made painfully aware by the Crimean War of Russia's backwardness, the new tsar embarked on a series of reforms, including the abolition of serfdom and the reform of major institutions, that reflected his persistent desire to balance progress with power and change with order. This lecture looks at Alexander's political personality, its role in those reforms, and the crisis that marked the end of his reign, when he was assassinated . x
  • 14
    This lecture looks at the continued growth of dissent by educated Russians, this time an organized student movement in the 1860s and the appearance of a new kind of intelligent, the "Nihilists" whose criticisms of tradition seemed so uncompromising as to be a rejection of everything. x
  • 15
    Populists and Marxists
    Two major intellectual and political movements emerged in the final decades of the 19th century, spurred by populist ideas such as those of Petr Lavrov, and the "to the people" propaganda movement of the summer of 1874. These were the rise of terrorism as a political and social strategy, and the reasons for the emergence of Marxism in Russia. x
  • 16
    Paths to Revolution—Lenin and Martov
    This lecture examines the two most influential Marxists—Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin and his rival, Menshevik leader Iulii Martov—and the implications of their differing views on democracy, consciousness, and violence. x
  • 17
    Lev Tolstoy
    One of the most remarkable men in modern Russian history, Tolstoy was notable as both a famous writer and a public voice of morality and conscience. This lecture considers the widely varying stages of his life: aristocrat, novelist, and religious and moral prophet. x
  • 18
    The Reign of Alexander III
    The reign of Alexander III has often been described as an "era of reaction." This lecture examines the beliefs and influences that led to his efforts to limit civic liberalization, his turn to the past for inspiration, and the deep pessimism that colored the views of his closest advisers. x
  • 19
    Nicholas II, The Last Tsar
    Notwithstanding the widespread belief that Nicholas II had no interest in governance or ideas about rulership, this lecture explores the essential political beliefs of Russia's last monarch, including his embrace of autocratic authoritarianism, his ideal of the tsar as the loving ruler of his people, his deep religious belief that God acted through him, and his relationship with Rasputin. x
  • 20
    The Revolution of 1905
    The strikes, demonstrations, and public demands that the tsarist government accept civil rights and democratic rule became a signpost moment in the nation's history. This lecture explores the forces that brought it about, the revolution itself, and the shape and meaning of the reforms in its aftermath. x
  • 21
    Peasant Life and Culture
    This lecture considers the lives of Russian peasants who formed the vast majority of the population in the late 1800s and early 1900s, including traditions of community and the role of religion; "land hunger," and signs of cultural changes such as the growth of literacy and the impact of migration to the cities. x
  • 22
    The Modern City and Its Discontents
    This lecture looks at the changes in urban life from the 1890s to the eve of World War I: a flourishing public sphere that included a growing press, voluntary associations, and public entertainment counterbalanced by growing anxieties about the dangers and harm of modern life, including hooliganism, murder, suicide, disease, and industrial exploitation. x
  • 23
    Fin-de-Siècle Culture—Decadence and Iconoclasm
    Was Russia heading toward crisis and even revolution on the eve of World War I? This lecture explores that still-debated question by examining two major cultural trends that surfaced between the 1905 revolution and the war: decadence, as evidenced by new attitudes in literature, art and entertainment; and futurism, with its willingness to "shock the philistine" in style and art, its attraction to primitivism and abstraction, and its embrace of modernity. x
  • 24
    Fin-de-Siècle Culture—The Religious Renaissance
    The decades before the war saw a widespread religious revival. This lecture looks at the nature of Russian Orthodoxy, the ideas of religious philosopher and poet Vladimir Soloviev, and new spiritual movements such as mysticism and the occult. x
  • 25
    War and Revolution
    This lecture looks at the Russian experience in World War I and the coming of revolution, including growing disenchantment with the war, terrible conditions at the front and at home, and the growing disorder that culminated in the collapse of the monarchy and the ascension of a liberal democratic government. x
  • 26
    Democratic Russia—1917
    This is a close look at why the new government failed, from the fall of the monarchy in February to the coming to power of the Bolsheviks in October of 1917. In particular, the lecture explores four central ideas of the time: the love of freedom; the need for a strong and progressive state; distrust of the rich and powerful, and the centrality of moral feeling and ethical judgment. x
  • 27
    Bolsheviks in Power
    Focusing on the first months of Soviet power, this lecture considers the actions and motivating ideas of the new Communist rulers, including their thoughts on both democratic emancipation and participation, authoritarianism, repression, and violence. x
  • 28
    Civil War
    The Bolshevik victory over an impressive array of opponents in the Civil War of 1918-1920 shocked many people and both shaped and revealed the role of Communist rule. This lecture explores why and how the Bolsheviks managed to win and examines both the growing centralization and militarization of Bolshevik rule and the persistence and intensification of emancipatory and utopian idealism. x
  • 29
    Paths to Socialism—the 1920s
    In the 1920s the Soviet Union still faced enormous issues of backwardness. This lecture focuses on the debates of that time that offered socialism as a remedy, with emphasis on the New Economic Policy (NEP), troubling social conditions, and the conflicting arguments of Lev Trotsky and Nikolai Bukharin. x
  • 30
    Joseph Stalin
    This lecture examines the roots and political development of the man who would dominate Soviet life for more than a quarter-century, including his attraction to the Bolshevik ideology, his rise to power in an increasingly centralized Communist party, and his discontent with the NEP, which he would eventually cast aside. x
  • 31
    Stalin's Revolution
    The Soviet Union's first five-year plan (1928-1932) marked an era of radical industrialization and social transformation. This lecture considers why Stalin chose this course, the military atmosphere of the campaign and the politicization of economics, forced collectivization of the peasantry, and the social radicalism known as the "cultural revolution." x
  • 32
    Joy and Terror—Society and Culture in the 1930s
    Political, cultural, and social life during the years of high Stalinism may well be the most enigmatic period in Soviet history, with overwhelming authoritarian power and the death of millions sharing the stage with a public face of glittering night clubs, new public spaces, and Stalin's new guiding slogan that "Life has become more joyful." This lecture explores how both these histories could co-exist. x
  • 33
    The "Great Patriotic War"
    This lecture examines the Soviet experience in World War II, beginning with expectations and fears in the years prior. Discussions include the USSR's lack of preparedness for war, Stalin's relationship with his military experts, and the national resources and values around which resistance to the Nazis could be rallied and eventual victory achieved—helped in no small part by the Nazis' own practices. x
  • 34
    The Soviet Union After Stalin
    This is a look at the politics and experiences of Soviet people during the decades after the war and before Gorbachev's reforms, beginning with Stalin's return to the harsh order of the past (including what many saw as a new purge and terror prevented only by his death in 1953) and continuing through an examination of his successors, most notably Leonid Brezhnev, and the major changes in everyday society. x
  • 35
    Private and Public Dissidence
    This lecture covers the alienation from and resistance to the Soviet system during the years before Gorbachev, examining both conformity to the system and the many ways in which demand for change was made apparent. x
  • 36
    Mikhail Gorbachev—Perestroika and Glasnost
    The course concludes with a look at Mikhail Gorbachev's recognition of the many problems of the system and his efforts to make Communism work. It focuses on his notions of democracy and authority and his preoccupations with moral order, examines why he failed, and concludes with a consideration of the situation now left after Communism's collapse. x

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Your professor

Mark Steinberg

About Your Professor

Mark Steinberg, Ph.D.
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Dr. Mark Steinberg is Professor of History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is also the Director of the Russian and East European Center, designated as a national resource center by the Department of Education. Professor Steinberg completed his undergraduate work at the University of California, Santa Cruz and earned his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to taking his post at the...
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History of Russia: From Peter the Great to Gorbachev is rated 4.0 out of 5 by 98.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Old style but very engaging! Could get away with audio only but some good portraits. Nice context - both intellectual & cultural - good overall overview for a very complex set of circumstances- lecturer keeps you engaged with salient details. Recommend!!
Date published: 2019-01-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent, lucid well paced course. Dr. Steinberg is a skillful lecturer. Presentations are clear, organized, well paced and engaging. More background information on influence of the Russian Orthodox Church, infrastructure such as transportation, education, communication networks and on alcoholism would provide additional context. This additional information might deepen our understanding of the Russian character and the persistent characterization of Russia as "backward.".
Date published: 2019-01-11
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Less about the intellectual maybe. More about the facts, please. More about the events, please. More about the institutions, please.
Date published: 2018-12-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dynamic and Thoughtful Professor Steinberg's dynamic method of stimulating lectures held me from the very first lecture through the concluding one. He skillfully interwove the more familiar "political history" -- the necessary material dealing with rulers and heirarchies -- with intellectual, cultural, and societal insights. One of the reasons I have always found Russian history so fascinating is its ever present tension between order and top-down control, the wish of most people for a "normal life," and the often quite idealistic hopes of a minority of intellectuals and elites for a more just and truly human society. From Peter the Great on -- the period studied by this course -- the rhythm of Russian life was significantly impacted by the advances realized by reforming tzars, the surge of hopes for even more significant changes that were a response to these reforms, and then the inevitable retrenchment by subsequent tzars and their governments to rein in advances before they became uncontrollable. There is much heroic drama as well as incredible suffering and hardship to this Russian story, and Professor Steinberg does a marvelous job of bringing it all to life. As this course was filmed in 2003, Dr. Steinberg closes his final lecture with expressions of hope that, this time (i.e., in a Russia after the Soviet Union) hopefully the long unrealized wishes of the Russian people for a "normal life" would at last be achieved. As we know, in a sadder 2018, once again the Russian people have been disappointed as crony capitalism and effective one-party rule have once more risen to control the Russian state.'' The tale continues! Simply put: one of the finest courses (of more than 100) that I have taken from The Teaching Company!
Date published: 2018-10-17
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Waste of time and money No real content, completely irrelevant subjects dealt ad nauseum , no historical facts about the politics, economy or anything, I own 60+ lectures, easily the worst, Great courses need to have this important topic revisited and a new set of lectures about Russia narrated. Money back would be appreciated
Date published: 2018-10-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and eye-opening I have read a great deal about the history of Russian and was familiar with many Russian authors from Tolstoy to Solsenitzen (sp). Nevertheless I found these lectures very interesting. The author does touch on major historical events (leaders and wars, for example) but concentrates on the culture, the mood, the existence of the Russian people themselves. Thus h e provides a background explaining some of the key events, such as the revolution of 1905 or the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991. One takeaway is that the 1991 breakup is seen as a continuation of ideas and motivations of the Russian people themselves continued over centuries to its modern form. Hence, although economic problems played a role, one sees a frustration of the Russian people with the repressive Soviet regime as the major driver for the events of 1991, not the policies of Western nations toward the USSR, as the cause of the failure of the USSR. When I read about Russia I see frequently ideas about new ideas or new circumstances, while this course suggests that the attitude of Russian have formed over centuries and have retained their personal characteristics. The Decembrists in 1925 were concerned centrally about very similar things that motivated Russians in 1991. This sense of continuity that the presenter discusses, with plentiful specific examples, gives one a fresh attitude about events in the Soviet Union. I enjoyed the talks and found them to motivate me to study other sources about Russian history, and it makes me think that I need to learn a great deal more about the other great power of recent times, China. Strongly recoommended.
Date published: 2018-09-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I have not had a chance to listen to it yet.but expect it to be very good.
Date published: 2018-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good information about the complex nature of Russ I use these lectures for my classes. I am glad I bought these videos.
Date published: 2018-05-16
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Worse course yet I won't repeat the comments about boring professor or the amazing neglect of so many great events in Russian history. What prompted me to write this brief review is that he almost apologizes for Stalin, who killed so many people. He almost calls him 'heroic'- unbelievable. Personally I think Stalin was worse than Hitler but he certainly was not heroic. Don't waste money on video.
Date published: 2018-04-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Mis-Titled Course I can't start anywhere else but mention that this course is mis-titled. It is focused more on the history of political/philosophical thought, culture, and the lives of famous Russians from the very late 17th century to the late 20th century and less on historical events: Military history and empire expansion were barely mentioned in favor of discussion of the lives of specific people and political thought/ideas. For example wars are rarely mentioned and when they are, few contextual details are provided. While I acknowledge that war and high political life don't comprise a nation's entire "history" it is a bigger part that what was afforded in this course. Despite most of the content not being all that engaging, I still wouldn't have a problem with this course if it was titled something like "History of Russian Political Thought and Culture". But I'm sorry: when a course is named "History of Russia" people will expect at least some coverage of that country's geopolitical history including expansion, wars, and diplomacy. Even after I accepted what the course wasn't, I still had a hard time getting into what it actually was: the political or philosophical discussions of the first half or so of the course all seemed to sound the same retread over and over again: movements by people to see Russia more westernized, more European, and more modernized (often leading to rebellion) but the state essentially resisting, refusing to give up autocratic despotism and crushing revolutions. It seemed like a lot of time was spent on the same story that never seemed to change (just different names of the people involved) vs. covering other stories or themes. I suppose I could label the course's review of Russia’s emperors and empresses from the very late 17th century to the overthrow of the monarchy in 1917 as adequate. But again alot of people who purchased this course probably expected more geopolitical discussion than the history of the lives of these leaders. Despite all of that I will say that the highlight for me was Lecture 32 on World War II. It was a very good study into Stalin’s response to German aggression as well as a good look into the minds of the Russian population on how they viewed the war. The Great Courses have truly changed my life and provide such a broad spectrum of history courses on so many time periods and regions of the world. But I find it a glaring gap that the Great Courses catalog does not offer a course encompassing the entire history of Russia. And the only one that touches on anything before the 20th centry is more political thought and culture than "full" history. To the great people at TGC: Please rectify!!
Date published: 2018-04-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An Overview of Russian History Have been watching this and am about half-way through. Am enjoying it and learning a great deal I didn't know before so am very glad I bought it. This is a survey course so it makes me want to know more which, I guess, is a positive thing. Overall, well presented and organized.
Date published: 2018-02-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fascinating history Great content and presentation. Audio is a little low.
Date published: 2018-01-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very well presented From ally to enemy to rival, our interaction with Russia has been complicated. I wanted to know more about how all that happened and this course answered most of my questions. I told a Russian friend that, when I was in grade school, we were taught how to hide under the desk in case they bombed us. She said "so were we." A great course, well worth your time!
Date published: 2017-10-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from His tory of Russia Professor is dull and boring! He uses few props and visuals, just his dull boring monotone that puts you to sleep.
Date published: 2017-07-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Astonishing history I have a good deal of experience in Russian history, but this course reviewed and added to it. It's a wonderful summary that puts a lot of developments and narratives in perspective, both events and political /social movements.
Date published: 2017-05-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A solid overview I bought the course two weeks ago and devoured it quickly. I enjoyed the professor's presentation and found the content of the course perfect as an introduction to modern Russian history.
Date published: 2017-04-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Useful but limited The overriding question in my mind about Communist Russia for decades has been 'Why'? Marx seemed to have somewhat predicted the push toward socialism in modern Europe though he was incorrect in many of the particulars. He certainly seemed to see the rise of industrial capitalism and a world of 'wage slaves' as a prerequisite for the rise of socialism. Russia had none of these criteria. It was barely industrialized, mostly rural and the peasants who were the backbone of the country were far closer to actual slaves than wage slaves. Yet this is where socialism gave birth to communism and the ideas of Marx were realized in a sense. This course goes a long way toward answering that question. Early on it focuses on the 2 steps forward, 1.75 steps backward approach to modernizing Russia as various Czars often tried to reverse the direction of the Czar that had gone before or even seemed to reverse themselves. The resultant slow freeing of the serfs in fits and starts led the rise of communal if limited government and communal farming. These attempts in retrospect seem like the beginning of some worker ownership of the means of production. Then we start seeing the growth of cities and the intelligentsia and dissidents rising to create a discontent and longing that would eventually lead to the overthrow of the Czars and for about 8 months an actual attempt at a freely elected government. As we get to the later part of the course, the Reds hijack the entire process and turn Russia into a de facto dictatorship and one party state after they crush the Whites and then annihilate vast portion of their own people. I must admit as I watched the disaster that was Stalinist Russia what aging Stalinist apologists must feel as it has become obvious that Stalin was not only Hitler's biggest rival for villain of the millennium but also shown to be utterly incompetent as the failed five year plans indicate. The course than does a solid job of tracking Communism and the party through its various leaders until the fall and desolation of the USSR. What is missing is a historical sense of where Russia came from before Peter the Great along with virtually any military history. The revolution necessarily gets a bit of explanation but the Russo-Japanese war and the two World Wars seem like blips on the screen and are barely covered. The Crimean War, Catherine the Great's Wars or the Coalition wars? Forget about them. Overall this is a course worth taking and simply getting something of answer on the conditions that led to the rise of Communism alone make the course valuable. However the exclusion of the country's background and military history does make this a course of too limited scope.
Date published: 2017-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent overview of difficult subject Covers a lot of ground, so necessarily somewhat thin. But it's a great panoramic view of Russia from Peter the Great to the present (almost) day. Good lecturer, who is very much of the "on the one hand, on the other" style.
Date published: 2017-03-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great learning experience Excellent presentation by Professor Mark Steinberg. My wife and myself really enjoyed this course. It is a detailed history of Russia and its people covering everyday life, politics, religion, literature and the country's economy. Since Professor Steinberg lived there and received part of his education there, he had real life experiences and spoke the Russian language. He added an element to the course one could not get just by reading a book. We would loved to have to sat in his class and met Professor Steinberg, but since we could not, this is the next best thing. The last disc in part 3 was especially interesting because it took place in our life time. Thank you Great Courses for your excellent choice for teaching this course.
Date published: 2017-03-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting History This is a good course covering modern Russian history. The professor does a good job sequentially walking through the development of Russian history between Peter the Great and the early 1990s. He provided a good blend of political history and cultural and social history. My one criticism is that there are several places in the course where the professor describes a place or an object without providing a picture. This is not a problem if you are listening, but it would be nice to see a picture when watching. I feel that my historical knowledge is more well-rounded thanks to this course.
Date published: 2016-12-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A good survey My knowledge of Russian history had mainly been limited to the country’s interactions with Western Europe with only a passing glance at internal events. This course focuses almost exclusively on internal events and perspectives and was thus tailored to what I was looking for. This course (along with Professor Hamburg’s Rise and Fall of Soviet Communism) has given me tools to better understand Russian thinking both in my interactions with the country as well as when following current events. I listened to the audio version and found the professors presentation good. One can feel his deep affection for the subject matter. I recommend this course as a prerequisite to “Rise and Fall of Soviet Communism: A History of 20th-Century Russia”.
Date published: 2016-11-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Somewhat disappointed I found the course disappointing in several respects. First of all, as others have noted, I was disappointed by the fact that the course starts with Czar Peter the great – almost eighteenth century. I think that considering the fact that this is the only course in the TGC that discusses as its central subject Russia (except for a course dedicated to Communist Russia), the scope should have been wider. The only other courses in the TGC that talk about Russia in earlier periods are some of Professor Harl's courses such as "The age of Byzantium", "Vikings", and "The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes" all of which I found absolutely wonderful. Their interest in Russia, however, was only tangential and they did not satisfy my curiosity. Another aspect I found disappointing was that most of the first twenty-four lectures were centered around central figures of Russian history, almost all from them from the elite and most of which were Czars. The lectures seemed more of a set of biographies and did not form a coherent narrative or thematic picture of Russia as it was evolving in the modern era. It was not all bad however, and as the stories of the various Czars or important poets were being told, one could get a grasp of the paradigm shifts that were taking place, as well as the narrative context in which these figures were operating. From lecture twenty-five, the course shifts perspective altogether. This last third of the course covers Communist Russia. I found this part of the course to be much more rounded in its perspective, explaining well the narrative and the thematic aspects of the period. I enjoyed the lectures in this part and learned quite a lot, though this is a period of Russian history I knew quite a lot about already. The two parts of the course – the first twenty-four lectures and the last twelve - were strikingly different in their focus, methods of analysis and scope of interest, and felt like two mini-courses packaged rathter arbitrarily together into one course. I found Professor’s Steinberg’s presentation fine, but not particularly thrilling. Considering how important a role Russia has played in the Twentieth century, I was eager to get a solid understanding of its earlier history. I feel that this was only partly achieved in this course.
Date published: 2016-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hisotry of Russia Comments Very well done course. Professor Steinberg's passion for the Russian people and the often turbulent history of their country is quite evident in his presentation. I highly recommend this course to anyone with an interest in Russian history.
Date published: 2016-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I liked it, even if it was not what i expected Very interesting course. I enjoyed it a lot. What i liked: - the details about the life style of different social classes throughout the entire time period covered - the obvious interest and passion the professor had for what he was teaching - the different insights into the internal politics, ideas and culture What i didn't like: - a big time period is missing. I was also hoping this would pick up where the vikings course left Russia of. I wonder how did various tribes got to the society that Peter inherited. - very little details about external affairs and politics. Napoleon attacking Russia was a footnote. Holodomor got one or two sentences. Almost no mention about how Russia affected Eastern Europe. Russia's influence on the world is at least just as important as it's internals affairs. I gave it 5 starts because i get the feeling the parts missing from the course were never meant to be covered, and the parts that got covered were done so very well. When he got to the turn of the century i couldn't stop listening. Cant believe they had such a bright future ahead of them between the February and the October revolutions and yet things ended up so badly.
Date published: 2015-12-26
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not impressed This is one of the least useful history courses I have listened to. It concentrates on footnotes of history, e.g. peasant literature, suffering of peasants in first world (don't need a whole 30 minutes on this). The course does not adequately cover (entirely fails to mention or covers only cursorily) important aspects of Russian history - e.g. expansion of Russia by Peter and Catherine, effect of Napoleon’s war on Russia; role of Alexander I in Congress of Vienna; causes, course and outcome of Crimean war; the effect of Berlin treaty on Russia; Russia's involvement in Balkan issues before World War I, and many more.
Date published: 2015-08-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from It's a fine course if you are interested in the human interest side of Russian aristocrats, intellectuals and peasants. I'm not. It leaves a big void that Teaching Company has yet to fill. Such a course should start where the course on Vikings left off as a collection of principalities in the Ukraine and go all the way to the last czar. I want to know how Russia became such a vast territory. Surely there has to be some professors out there equal to the ones who taught Chinese history.
Date published: 2015-06-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from For this course on Russian history, I was disappointed that Professor Steinberg presented his material in a post-modern fashion, repeatedly citing the feelings and passions that Russians experienced over the past three centuries. Much of this was actually fascinating, and likely was not material you would learn in a more standard class on Russian history. However, the professor used this tactic far too much. Russians, and human beings in general, are not merely driven by emotions. Ideas and actions are at least as important, but these were commonly undermined or omitted throughout this course. I'll address omissions later, but my point here is that the teacher put too much weight on the emotions of Russians, as if they did not know how to think or choose for themselves. I strongly urge the TC to reproduce this course with a second professor offering a more intellectual and political history of modern Russia in half the lectures, and letting Professor Steinberg give his psychological history of Russia in the other half. I think 48 lectures in this case would be brilliant! Second, any teacher must choose to omit certain material, but this course missed or skimmed far too many crucial points. Perhaps this was due to the professor's angle noted above, perhaps it was due to the limitations of 36 classes. But I think any course on modern Russian history should include more than two or three sentences on people like Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and more than two or three sentences on the Russo-Japanese War of the early 1900s (which another Great Courses professor calls a key turning point in modern history!). Most glaringly obvious of all, this course contains only one or two sentences on America and the Cold War, even all the way down to the fall of the Soviet Union! My final, and smaller, complaint is about Professor Steinberg's presentation. Again, the course has lots of interesting information, and in general I like how the professor shared it. But unfortunately, he utters a large amount of um's and uh's. Perhaps a second edition (hopefully alongside another professor!), could reduce this distraction. I am seriously considering returning this course at present. But if the TC makes these changes, I will eagerly repurchase it, and probably recommend it left and right! Thank you, and God bless!
Date published: 2015-05-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from History of Russia; From Peter the Great to Gorbach A course with so many Russian words and concepts in Russian needs captioning.... Prof. says the Russian words and phrases too fast to catch.
Date published: 2015-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A wonderful presentation of modern Russian History Professor Mark Steinberg held us spellbound throughout these lectures! His presentation is truly unique; he draws the listener into the characters and events of this period of modern Russian history. One actually experiences the events and becomes familiar intimately with the characters making that history! He is an amazing lecturer and gives a unique presentation. He makes you feel like you were present at each and every event of this period of Russian history! We were so impressed with this series that we were prompted to purchase "The Russian Primary Chronicle" to fill in the early years of Russian History!
Date published: 2015-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fills a void in my knowledge. Excellent organization and presentation. The outline follows the lectures for easy review. I would highly recommend it for those wanting to learn about this time in history. It also explains the origin of the Russian mind set and the difficulties the Russian people are experiencing now.
Date published: 2014-11-29
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