The Symbols of Stalin’s Henchmen
- Understand the brutality of the Soviet regime under Joseph Stalin.
- Examine the role of the NKVD in the Soviet Union and then in occupied and liberated territories during World War II.
- Consider Stalin’s need for the NKVD.
Stalin’s utilization of the NKVD, the governmental body charged with internal security, gave him the power to eliminate all perceived and real enemies with the Soviet Union. This force held the power to arrest, detain, sentence, and even execute individuals with little or no concrete evidence. All Soviet citizens, including Communist Party members, ultimately feared the far and sometimes indiscriminate reach of the NKVD. During the war, first in Poland in 1939 and then throughout Soviet-occupied Eastern Europe, the NKVD arrested, deported, and executed thousands whom they perceived as anti-Communist or a threat to Soviet domination. Additionally, NKVD units served behind Soviet lines to discourage troops from retreating. Those caught doing so, were shot. Only after Stalin’s death in 1953 did the NKVD tone down its activities. For this lesson, students will select objects to symbolize the NKVD’s power and influence and present them in a creative manner.
- Create an exhibit of three to five objects that symbolize the NKVD’s impact on the Soviet Union and the occupied territories. Objects should reflect events, ideas, or people in both the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe during and after the war.
- Justify the inclusion of each object by describing what it symbolizes and what, if any, specific historical significance it has.
- Showcase the objects in a physical or digital presentation.
- As a class, discuss the role of a secret police in a totalitarian state - the Gestapo in Nazi Germany and the NKVD in the Soviet Union. For background information read Stalin’s Spies and Secret Police. Show the Gulag system map to students and talk about the extensive camp system. Include the fact that after World War II, many Eastern Europeans found themselves in the Gulag system.
- Next, inform students of their task: finding or creating three objects that symbolize the terror inflicted by the NKVD’s policies in the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe.
- Provide time for students to review the provided resources about Stalin’s policies, the Gulag system, and the NKVD policies across the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
- Have students create a physical or digital representation of the selected objects. They should include their justification for the inclusion of each object, either in the form of text or audio. Tools that could be used for this presentation include:
- Blogs ( Wordpress , Blogger , etc.)
- A class wiki ( Wikispaces , PBWiki , Google Sites , etc.)
- Online Video ( Jumpcut , Jcut , etc.)