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My Perestroika

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Learn About Life in the Former Soviet Union

The portrayal of life in the Soviet Union through the characters of My Perestroika sometimes challenges the images and lessons supplied in American history textbooks. Learn more about life in the former Soviet Union, the Cold War and the lives of Russian immigrants in your own communities.

  • Compare experiences of people in the film with your school district's textbook descriptions of Russia. Work with teachers and school officials to ensure that the information that students receive about Russia is accurate and complete.

  • Convene a study group on the history of propaganda, including U.S. and Soviet propaganda used during the Cold War, as well as current examples of propaganda. You might begin your study by looking at the examples available at Russian Archives Online. Consider creating a public display of propaganda art with commentary by members of your study group.

  • Conduct oral history interviews with immigrants who lived in the former Soviet Union (including Russia and now independent nations such as Ukraine, Latvia and others) and find ways to share the interviews with your community. Compare the immigrants' recollections with the accounts of the people featured in the film.

 

Get informed about the issues in the film and lead a discussion in your community.

Discussion Guide

Discussion Guide

My Perestroika follows five ordinary Russians living in extraordinary times — from their sheltered Soviet childhood, to the collapse of the Soviet Union during their teenage years, to the constantly shifting political landscape of post-Soviet Russia. Contemporary interviews, along with footage rarely seen outside of Russia — including home movies from the USSR in the 1970s — paint a complex picture of the dreams and disillusionment of current Muscovites who were raised behind the Iron Curtain. As an outreach tool the film provides viewers with an opportunity to go beyond sound-bite news coverage or politcal propaganda to look at what happens to ordinary people when their society is turned upside down.

Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students will watch first-person accounts of what it was like to live in Moscow when Mikhail Gorbachev led the Soviet Union, including how the policies of perestroika and glasnost changed everyday life and what it was like to demonstrate against the August 1991 coup attempt by Communist hardliners. After discussing these events, students will consider what role the Internet might have played during this time and create social media samples with historically accurate details of the foiled August 1991 coup.

Reading List

Delve Deeper

This multi-media resource list, compiled by Gina Blume of the Monroe Township Public Library, includes books, films and other materials related to the issues presented in the film My Perestroika. Examine propaganda, the Cold War, and the fall of the Soviet Union.

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My Perestroika gives you a privileged sense of learning the history of a place not from a book but from the people who lived it. Watching it is a little like attending a party in an unfamiliar city and discovering the place's secrets from the guests.”

— Stephen Holden,
The New York Times

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