by Rebecca Cleary
Following recommendation from my history teacher, I read "Russia: A 1000-year chronicle of the Wild East" by Martin Sixsmith over the summer holidays. When I ordered the book, I foolishly did not take into account how long it was, so when it arrived, I was taken aback by the brick-like appearance of it. Once I had got over the 624 pages and the realisation that I’d undertaken the task of reading 1000 years of history in a few weeks, the prospect of reading this book became rather exciting.
Now, when seeing the title, it is pretty obvious what the book contains, and if anyone has heard anything about Russian history, they can assume that what is included will be a lot of struggle, strain and anger of the masses mixed with the frustrating and explosive responses of the leaders. What struck me most, however, was how accessible Martin Sixsmith makes this; some of the complex areas of Russian history are explained simply and clearly, allowing the reader to understand every aspect of it. As I amusingly noted after reading the book, Sixsmith writes as though he is walking around Russia, giving a documentary on the history as he goes. Of course, I wasn't wholly wrong on that; the book compliments a BBC Radio 4 series.
The book is an enjoyable read, with a few anecdotes and dramatic cliffhangers that wonderfully link together the political and social issues of the time. I particularly enjoy the fact that Sixsmith weaves all the different strands of history together, putting old Tsars with modern Communist Leaders, allowing an ironic comparison that demonstrates how very little has changed. The broad understanding of Russian history that I gained after reading this book has definitely helped when exploring the finer details in my lessons, as I know the timeline of what happens. Hence, I would highly recommend this book to A Level history students studying Russia, as it gives great context of the country before the time period studied, and also gives comparisons that are useful for the A Level itself.