Another old school podcast – starting in 2010 inspired by long running podcast The History According To Bob, podcaster Mark Schauss’ personal family links to the country, and his old college professor Paul Avrich. This may sound like a backhanded compliment, but the best thing about this podcast is the short episodes. With episodes typically lasting fifteen minutes, this actually breaks down the hundreds of years of Russian history in something easier to digest (as a beginner to the topic).
Schauss tries to add variety to the show with an extra section at the end of each show – listing events on this day in history, or reading parts of a primary source. None of this really works. When he gets to the Soviet era, he goes with a short biography of a lesser figure of the time (Fritz Platten, Felix Dzerzhinsky). That works slightly better, but can still feel like a unnecessary break. Ultimately he drops it in the race to the end of the Soviet Union.
The reading is history focuses mostly on a chronological narrative (largely derived from a favourite set of sources – Robert Massie, Duffy and Ricci’s Czars, Mark Steinberg). Schauss’ delivery is fairly straightforward, but the script portrays the drama well. We get a little of a analysis seeping through over the whole series as Schauss identifies some of the bigger turning points in Russian history.
The show is a good take on Russian history for beginners (like me). I find Russian history to always have an agenda or a spin, and Schauss remains cautiously neutral: ignoring Yeltsin’s later career as too recent to comment on, and giving a bare set of facts on Putin. This is fine. But it could be a little more daring and a little more polished.