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Understanding Russia

A Cultural History
Narrated by: Lynne Ann Hartnett
Length: 12 hrs and 56 mins
4 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)
Regular price: £32.09
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Summary

From the earliest recorded history of the Russian state, its people have sought to define their place in the world. And while many of us look to make sense of Russia through its political history, in many ways a real grasp of this awe-inspiring country comes from looking closely at its cultural achievements. 

The 24 lectures of Understanding Russia: A Cultural History survey hundreds of years of Russian culture, from the world of Ivan the Terrible to the dawn of the Soviet Union to the post-war tensions of Putin’s Russia. Blending history with cultural studies, they are designed to bring you closer than ever before to the Russian people - not just the authoritarian rulers like Peter the Great, the Romanovs, and Stalin but the everyday men and women who sought their own meaning in the poetry of Pushkin, the comfort of early folk tales, the faith of medieval iconography, the avant-garde films of Eisenstein, and more. 

You’ll discover surprising insights into centuries of cultural history, including peasant superstitions, such as avoiding whistling indoors, and the culture of queuing for goods and services that defined everyday life for ordinary Soviets. You’ll also spend time in the company of novelists, painters, poets, filmmakers, impresarios, composers, revolutionaries, and intellectuals who shaped Russia in myriad ways, including The Five, a group of composers who created a distinctly national sound based in part on Russian folk music; and Sergei Eisenstein, the filmmaker whose Battleship Potemkin revolutionized the language of cinema. 

In a time when the eyes of the Western world are constantly drawn to Russia, it’s amazing how little we really know about its culture. These lectures will help you finally understand that complex, thrilling, and undeniably fascinating spirit. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.  

©2018 The Great Courses (P)2018 The Teaching Company, LLC

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Not a great Great Course

I will admit it upfront - I am judging this on only the first seven chapters. But that's because I have handed it back after enduring only the first seven. Its the 8th Great Course that I have taken. Six were brilliant and I reviewed them positively. One was acceptable, but I am not a fan of the first seven chapters of this course. I have two main reasons for giving it a poor review. Firstly, while it provides a linear narrative of what happens when, it is very light on how and why, which is, in my view, what is really important. There is little analysis or opinion. Secondly, it is delivered as a reading it a way that I find quite disengaging; a bit sing-song, a bit over dramatic. A teacher at the front of the class reading from a textbook rather than engaging with the audience and the material.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Jeffrey L. Smith, PE
  • 21-10-18

Good American overview of Russia

Professor Hartnett does a good job of going through much of Russia’s long history. She hits all of the most important points and brings in some interesting points too.

The one weakness in her approach is her almost exclusive reliance on modern American academics for interpretation of Russian events. I get that she publishes in American journals and so she both wants to cite to cite the American academic colleagues she knows and quote them to advance her own career (it’s academia, that’s how it works), but it gets to be a bit jarring that after quoting a Russian novel, poem or speech, she turns to an American academic to put the work in context. Didn’t RUSSIANS have anything to say about their history? Quoting modern scholars from USC, Villanova, or the Library of Congress gives the whole affair a “modern American” interpretation, rather than hearing how Russians (contemporary or modern) view their own history and culture. A stronger approach would use less (perhaps none?) academic commentary and more first hand accounts (both Russian and non-Russian) of how actions and decisions affected them.

55 of 57 people found this review helpful

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  • Platooo2002
  • 28-01-19

I learned a lot!

Well researched and organized in a way that made understanding easy. I thoroughly enjoyed this course.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Curtis
  • 08-03-19

Tends to get hung up in minutiae.

The professor is very knowledgeable but can get bogged down in miner stories while the big picture can at times get glossed over.

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  • Alek
  • 23-02-19

informative, but repetitive

An informative, interesting read, but the professor repeats a lot of information in every lecture

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  • GogolGirl
  • 18-02-19

Good overview/info with increasingly annoying delivery

Enjoyable enough material covering wide range of topics and broad timeline. The course was easy enough to listen to several hours at a time with varying levels of attention without feeling lost. Narrator wasn’t terrible (at first) but was neither a joy to listen to. I like it when narrators don’t sound like they are reading every word from a script (this one does) and have a more natural and engaging delivery. At around the midpoint of the course, the vocal repetitive habit of putting emPHAsis (and raising pitch in addition to volume) on random sylLAbles got VERY annoying (as did the overuse of emphasis for no reason, sounded very unnatural). Bizarre use (and overuse) of the term, “elites.” No/few interesting tidbits, a pretty straightforward history review.

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  • Jonathan Edwards
  • 14-03-19

Topical, circular, repetitive, childish

The History of Eastern Europe got me excited to listen to this. I was very disappointed.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Cg West Sayville
  • 03-01-19

Russia without the emotion

this is strictly lecture and rather dull.naturally the facts are here but there is no soul. frankly a bore

1 of 7 people found this review helpful