Here are some suggestions for teachers and students:
With paper or online maps review the Soviet Union's changing borders and geopolitical situation in the 1940s. On world maps review the countries allied with the United States and those with the USSR five years after war's end.
Remind students that different nation's have different experiences that condition how they respond to events. To acquaint students with the heavy toll World War II took on the Soviet Union, ask students how many of them had a close relative who died in uniform or as a result of enemy action in World War II. Explain that in their peer class in Russia, virtually everyone would raise their hand. Mention that the Soviet Union lost some 27 million people in the war; have students guess
what U.S. deaths amounted to... If no one knows, assign a student to research the question.
Review with students the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan; review the breakdown of the wartime U.S.-Soviet alliance.
Ask students what they know about the Chernobyl atomic power station and the MIR space station. Use this as a starting point for discussing their perceptions of Soviet technology. Ask students to explain the pictures that pop up in their minds when you mention the Soviet Union and its
technology; and manufacturing. Lead a discussion on stereotypes of a foreign culture. How do underlying stereotypes alter perceptions? [A stereotype is a culture's standardized mental picture or series of pictures, representing an oversimplified opinion. This integral part of a cultural code feeds on uncritical judgment. It is staggeringly tenacious in its hold over rational and popular (mass) thinking]. Remind students of Walter Lippmann's notion that Americans
comprehend foreign affairs through pictures in their minds. Read this quote from Public Opinion (NY: Macmillian, 1922) where Lippmann wrote, "The subtlest and most pervasive of all influences are those which create and maintain the repertory of stereotypes. We are told about the world before we see it. We imagine most things before we experience them. And those perceptions, unless education has made us acutely aware, govern deeply the whole process of perception." Ask students to discuss its meaning. Ask them
what helps them understand a foreign environment as if they were inside the other side.
Discuss how history must be understood in time; how historians need to understand not just facts, but must mentally try to recreate the thoughts, feelings, and
fears -- real or imagined -- that lay behind and inside thinking of a bygone time. Discuss how something looks and feels different in hindsight than during its experience.
Ask students to explain what role the military played in the Soviet Union's rise and fall as a space-exploration
Discuss the advantages and disadvantages a closed society has in conducting complicated experiments, such as launching rockets into outer space.
Ask students to explain why the Soviet Union won the race to put the first satellite in space, the first dog in space, the first man in space, and the first woman in space. Why did they lose the race to put a person on the moon?
Reinforce the idea that even after it gained socialist satellite countries as buffer zones in the wake of World War II,
for geopolitical reasons, the Soviet Union felt vulnerable. Inquire of students
"What was the Iron Curtain"? Why wouldn't an Iron Curtain stop American bombers? Ask students to explain what an ICBM
is. Why did Soviet leaders believe their country was more secure if it had rockets that could deliver nuclear weapon
over American cities at a time when the U.S. counted on airplanes to nuke Soviet cities?
Request students designate the best, the second best, and the very worst paper airplane makers in the class. Also ask them to select the most peaceful, innocent person. Ask the best and worst paper folders to sit side by side in one corner of the
classroom; designate that corner MOSCOW. Ask the innocent character to sit in the furthest opposite corner-label it WASHINGTON (or your locale). In space between the two extreme corners, about a quarter of the way across the room ask the second best airplane maker
to sit, under a sign labeled LONDON (or France, or Norway, or Japan). Ask each plane maker to make his or her most airworthy craft. Tell the second best that on Washington's command
"Fire", to fling his/her plane against Moscow. Ask the best to retaliate by trying to loft her/his craft to hit Washington. Now tell the worst
maker -- quick technology, change! Flatten out your paper. Crumble it into a
ball, toss it across the room at Washington. The bigger the room, the better the exercise.
Ask students to explain, in the context of the Cold War, how a race for nuclear protection turned into a public relations campaign.
Inquire how many students own a dog. Ask if they saw any value in sending their dog into space, if like Laika, there was no hope of the animal returning alive. Why was Laika sent into space? Was there any scientific reason behind
his orbit or was it just a cruel propaganda stunt?
Students have already watched the segment on the Soviet nuclear bomb.
Spies played a large role in the Soviet Union's rapid development of the atomic bomb. Discuss why espionage was not important to the work of Sergei Korolev. Why didn't the United States turn the tables on the theft of atomic bomb plans by ordering spies to steal Korolev's secrets? What does this tell you about the dangers of living in an open society versus a closed one? Remind students that you only get one chance to make a first impression. Only
one person can go first.
Ask them to explain the difference between fame, celebrity, and significance. Yuri
Gagarin was the first man in space and is world famous. Sergei Korolev was, and is, virtually unknown outside of
the Soviet Union. Ask students to explain who is more important to the conquest of
outer space. Have students compose a "top five 'outerspacemen' list" ranking in order of importance Gagarin, Korolev, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and John Glenn,
adding anyone else they think is important, Have the
students explain why they are included in a particular order.
Explaining Sputnik: John Foster Dulles was the Secretary of State at the time Sputnik shocked America. His brother served as Director of the CIA. The Dulles brothers were supposed to be well-informed. Read the statement Dulles sent to the White House Press Secretary (it is in the public domain http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/sputnik/15.html)
and write a critique of the draft. Where is Dulles factually off base? Where is he "spinning" the American position of noting being "first into space." Imagine you are Sergei Korolev
and you have obtained a copy of the Dulles memo. You have just launched Laika into space. You relax and dictate a memo to Nikita Khrushchev evaluating and commenting on the Dulles memo. What do you say?
Conduct a quick oral history of reactions to Sputnik;
take notes on what three people over 50 years old remember about the news of
Sputnik. Think of a list of questions to ask
them. If there are any former Soviet citizens living in your area ask them. Compare the different recollections.
History is more than government documents and acts of officials. Popular reactions are important too. For a report on American responses to Sputnik ask students to read your local paper, back issues of popular magazines such as Time, Life, Look, Newsweek, US News,
or Reader's Digest from October through December 1957. How well did the press understand what was happening in Russia? How can the Sputnik
"hysteria" be explained? Do you think Cold War
Zeitgeist is at work? How much can be blamed on Soviet secrecy? Students may want to touch on how the media manipulates public
opinion. In hindsight, fear of Soviet technology appears foolish, but in the context of time how would you explain the reasonableness of the post-Sputnik
Sergei Korolev almost died in a Stalinist labor camp, yet even as a prisoner he worked diligently for the Soviet State. Moreover, according to those who knew him best he believed in Stalin, respected him, and never complained to him when they met. How can this be explained? Assign advanced students to read the first hundred pages of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's The First Circle which features a sharashka very much like the one in which Korolev worked. Ask them to imagine they were a zek, a Gulag prisoner living right next to Korolev. Their assignment:
write a letter to their great-grandchild (not yet born) honestly explaining why he and his hero Korolev work for the state that had enslaved them. Aggressive students may want to
also read also passages in Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago and look at the chapter "A Time of Troubles" in Fitzpatrick's Everyday Stalinism (see recommended readings). If there are Soviet émigrés who lived through Stalin's great terror in your school region
(who speak English) invite them to explain the loyalty and patriotism of men like Korolev.
Korolev's daughter, Natalia, remembers reading Jules Verne's Voyage to the Moon in 1946 and her father saying,
"Iin 30 years men will walk on the moon." Ask students to read Verne and report (or present drawings) on how much the spacecraft he depicts look like what the Russians used (and now use). Ask them to discuss what they think the relationship of science fiction is to science. If they have read science fiction recently what does it predict about the future that might interest their classmates.
Russians have three names. What looks like a middle name is not a given name but a
patronymic: a derivative of the first name of the person's father. Hence all siblings will have the same patronymic. Korolev's father was named Pavel. So his son is Sergei Pavlovich Korolev. If the Chief Designer had had a brother named Pavel he would have been Pavel Pavlovich Korolev. The masculine and feminine forms of the patronymic differ slightly. If the Chief Designer had had a sister Natasha she would have been Natasha Pavlovna Koroleva. He did have a daughter Natalia Sergeevna Koroleva. [Note that Russian women can and do keep their
"own" last names; children sometimes choose to take their mother's last name if it is prestigious or if they want to hide a connection with their father, but the patronymic remains a life-long reminder of their father.] In polite address people always use the first two names. Every one of the 30,000 people who worked for Korolev would address him as Sergei Pavlovich. People address their peers and most members of their family just by a first name or a nickname. But elders and people in authority are always addressed by the first two names... Many times the last name of a person is not used in conversation. Thus if a Professor is named Ivan Nikolaevich Sandrov his students would say to him "Ivan Nikolaevich! Please tell me where I can find
XYZ book". When he got home he might tell his sister Natalia-"Hey Natia, guess what? Ivan Nikolaevich gave me a great book I needed for free."
If your teacher's name is Boris and his father's name is Nikolas you should address him as Boris Nikolaevich (the middle syllables
are swallowed and only the ich part is pronounced.)
What would Chelsea Clinton's name be in Russian? What would your name be? How should you address your teacher?
These suggested questions help educators move towards meeting national standards. Consult:
Science and Technology
- Understands the nature of scientific knowledge
- Understands the nature of scientific inquiry
- Understands the scientific enterprise
- Understands the relationships among science, technology, society, and the
- Understands the nature of technological design
- Understands the nature and operation of systems
- Demonstrates competence in speaking and listening as tools for learning
The World in Spatial Terms
- Understands the characteristics and uses of maps, globes, and other geographic
tools and technologies
- Knows the location of places, geographic features, and patterns of the
- Understands the characteristics and uses of spatial organization of Earth's
Places and Regions
- Understands the physical and human characteristics of place
- Understands the concept of regions
- Understands that culture and experience influence people's perceptions of
places and regions
United States History Standards
Era 9 - Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)
- Understands how the Cold War and conflicts in Korean and Vietnam influenced
domestic and international politics
- Understands domestic policies in the post-World War II period
World History Standards
Era 8 - A Half-Century of Crisis and Achievement, 1900-1945
- Understands reform, revolution, and social change in the world economy of the
early 20th century
- Understands the causes and global consequences of World War I
- Understands the search for peace and stability throughout the world in the 1920s
- Understands the causes and global consequences of World War II
- Understands major global trends from 1900 to the end of World War II
Era 9 - The 20th Century Since 1945: Promises and Paradoxes
- Understands how post-World War II reconstruction occurred, new international
power relations took shape, and colonial empires broke up
- Understands the search for community, stability, and peace in an interdependent
- Understands major global trends since World War