Stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean, Russia spans 11 time zones and two continents—making it the world’s largest country by area. Villanova’s Lynne Hartnett, PhD, had a lot of ground to cover in a new video course on Russia’s history she developed for The Great Courses.

A 24-lecture series, “Understanding Russia: A Cultural History” explores the political, cultural and social fabric that weave a history as sprawling as the country’s geographical magnitude. “Russia developed as an empire, rather than as a culturally homogeneous entity, and so the effort to define what it meant and means to be Russian was just as relevant in the era of Ivan the Terrible as it is in Putin’s Russia today,” says Dr. Hartnett, associate professor of History and director of Villanova’s graduate program in History.

In exploring Russian identity, she examines the lives of everyday Russian people alongside the contributions of historical and cultural Russian figures like Leo Tolstoy, Peter Tchaikovsky and Mikhail Bulgakov. “We miss out on key aspects of Russian history if we limit ourselves to the study of rulers and revolutionaries,” she says.

For more than a decade, Villanova students have delved into these intricacies and nuances in Dr. Hartnett’s classes. She was excited to share some of her scholarship with a wider public through The Great Courses, an online streaming service that gives more than 4 million learners access to college-level courses that fulfill curiosity rather than credits.

Producing 24 video lectures that cover 1,000 years at once compelled Dr. Hartnett to think about the arc of Russian history in a different way. “I found commonalities across time that proved quite surprising,” she says. “As a result of finding links I hadn’t searched for before, my teaching at Villanova has even greater nuance.”

Did You Know?

An internationally recognized expert in modern Russian history and culture, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Adele Lindenmeyr, PhD, shared her expertise on the podcast “What Really Happened” with Andrew Jenks. The episode titled “The Boris and Bill Show” took a look at the relationship between US President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin.