Film series: Power and authority in Russia and the Soviet Union

From Alexander II to Boris Yeltsin | New film series for 2024

Published: 23rd January 2024

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We are delighted to launch a new film series examining leadership in Russia and the USSR over the course of the twentieth century.

Russia and its history often fascinates the rest of us in Europe as well as horrifying us. She has been our friend and ally, and our physical and ideological enemy. As the largest country in Europe but also a country of Asia, Russia represents a cross section of identities, cultures, customs and ideas.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Russia was a country of Imperial growth and domination. In the twentieth century it became the centre for a new ideology whose imperialism took on a different guise, only for that new (ish) identity to be destroyed almost as quickly as it had appeared. Now that we are in the twenty-first century we have a new version of Russian expansion and a new set of ideological identity building.

How much of who Russia is today, how its people behave, and how they are perceived is dependent on its history and those that have led it? Was it the first melting pot of the world? Do its broad range of cultural traditions and diversity play a part in its external persona as well as creating a strong set of identities? Have its leaders in the twentieth century really been the idealogues and monsters the west portrayed them as? Could those at the top be the instruments of a changing Russian identity moulded by their diverse peoples of the Empire/USSR? And how much was the period that they lived in important to their success as a leader of a one of the most powerful nations in the modern world?

In this new series running over the course of 2024, some of the leading historians working on Russia have contributed their expertise to build a clear understanding of the leaders of modern Russia and how they have shaped their country and the rest of the world through it.

Each of the experts will share their incisive knowledge of Russian history through the motivations and actions of its leaders. This series will help students and people of all ages to understand how Russia (and the Soviet Union) has been led during the twentieth and early twenty-first century.

These powerful films are an impressive journey through Russian history, that will help all those watching to unpick the background to a bear that occasionally naps but never hibernates.

The first two sets of films, on Mikhail Gorbachev and Joseph Stalin, are available to watch below: