Russian history class: Perestroika and the dissolution of the USSR

Today’s lecture in my Russian history Delphians’ class was about the perestroika and the dissolution/implosion of the USSR. One of the students did a wonderfully touching paper on the Chernobyl catastrophe based on Svetlana Alexievich’s book. We talked about Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaign, “acceleration” (ускорение), glasnost’, the rise of Boris Yeltsin, the independence movement in Ukraine and the Baltics, the August Putsch, and more. Below is my visual “Table of Contents” for the lecture.

I closed with a quote from Norman Davies’ Vanished Kingdoms (pp. 724-725):

The Soviet system was built on extreme force and extreme fraud. Practically everything that Lenin and the Leninists did was accompanied by killing; practically everything they said was based on half-baked theories, a total lack of integrity and huge, barefaced lies […] When a general secretary finally came along who was no longer prepared to perpetuate the fantasies and the coercion, all the circuits fused, and total paralysis rapidly ensued.


Experiencing Russia through film: “Cranes are flying”

Today’s film in my Russian film class was “Cranes are flying”.


It’s a powerful masterpiece! I had several students crying right after the film. We had a fascinating and enthusiastic discussion afterwards. Many of the students noticed things that I wanted them to notice, particularly some symbolic imagery and links between scenes, and some even saw things I never picked up on. One of the students remarked that, coming from an American perspective, it was amazing to see a Soviet film that is so nuanced, so complex and so artistic. I am ever so pleased with the class!