After World War II, political leaders of Great Britain, Russia, and the United States redraw the map of Europe, displacing millions of people and forcing millions more to live within new borders. At the same time, the Cold War begins to divide the world into two camps.
Unit Themes and Topics:
the Cold War
values and popular culture
Connections Across History connection: when: where: program: birth of communism in Russia 1917-1940 Russia "Red Flag" postwar economies 1945-1973 Great Britain, France, Italy, United States, West Germany "Boomtime" collapse of communism in Eastern Europe 1971-1991 Soviet Union "People Power"
"We knew our society was just and that capitalism was terrible and people were exploited. That's what we were taught. It didn't matter how badly I lived now, I hoped it would get better. I believed in Stalin and knew that life would improve."
1. What does the statement "History is written by the winners" mean? How might people who experienced an event describe it differently from each other? What are some events in U.S. history that have been "written by the winners"?
2. As students watch the program, have them takes notes on how some events are described from more than one point of view.
1. What events in the program are described from more than one point of view? In each case, how did the views differ and why? How might a historian determine which view, if any, was accurate? How might this program be different if the Soviet Union had not been dissolved?
2. What aspects of American culture did the Soviets perceive as subversive and why? Why did both Americans and Soviets consider the free exchange of ideas dangerous? How did they respond to that danger?
3. Based on stories in the program, how would you describe the human costs of the Cold War?
4. Compare what you know about communism to the impressions created by the American government and media during the Cold War. How and why have Americans' views of communism changed?
Have students brainstorm ideas for their own American expositions. First, discuss which innovations were highlighted in the 1956 American exposition to the Soviet Union and why. Then divide the class into small groups to discuss the accomplishments they think currently represent the best qualities of American culture. Ask each group to present creative ways that three innovations could be showcased in an exposition that they might organize today.
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The following lesson focuses on a program segment about the propaganda war within and between the Soviet Union and the United States. Citizens from both countries reflect on their experiences and beliefs.
approximately 14 minutes
The Krakow Philharmonic Orchestra plays the Stalin Cantata.
A Wisconsin town stages a mock communist coup.
1. What does Tamara Banketik's quotation tell you about life under Stalin? How might an American who grew up during the Cold War describe communism?
2. As students watch the program segment, have them write down what people in each country believed about themselves and about citizens of other countries, and how information from the government supported those beliefs.
1. What impressions did Soviet citizens have about life in the United States? What impressions did U.S. citizens have about Soviet life? What parallels do you see between tactics used by the Soviet and U.S. governments to influence public opinion during the Cold War? How did each government try to appeal to the hopes and fears of their citizens?
2. What do you think students learned from the mock communist coup of the Wisconsin school? Do you think it was an effective way to teach national pride? Why or why not?
Have students gather recent newspaper or magazine articles about one country that poses a military, ideological, or economic challenge to the United States. Countries could include China, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Japan, or North Korea. Then divide students into small groups to analyze the clippings. Ask them to consider the following questions in their analysis: What aspects of life in the country do the news articles highlight? What are the journalists' sources? Which adjectives does the writer use? What is the writer's tone in each article? Are there similarities in the articles' tones? How might these articles help to encourage or discourage mutual respect and understanding between the United States and the other country?
To follow up, have students work individually to explore life in these countries. Ask them to choose one country that interests them and write three to five questions about daily life in that country. Then have students research the answers to their questions.
Imagine you are a young person in the 1950s and have been transplanted from the U.S. to the Soviet Union or vice versa. Write a letter to someone "back home" about your new country. How is your life the same or different than it was before? How has your new country matched or challenged your expectations, based on your previous impressions about it? Would you consider staying in your new country? Why or why not?
Use the following information to assist in finding specific segments within the program. The times listed on the left indicate minutes into the program.
1:00 Post WWII euphoria among the allies, and desire to re-build respective nations.
5:00 Results of Conference at Potsdam, 1945.
7:50 America's response to end of WWII.
9:40 Winston Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech in the spring of 1946, which laid groundwork for Cold War and the Soviet Union's response.
12:20 Living conditions in the Soviet Union from a Soviet citizen's perspective.
14:00 Berlin Crisis: June, 1948 - May, 1949.
18:00 Censorship of news in Soviet Union.
20:20 1949: China becomes communist; Soviets support and desire for world revolution.
21:50 Dire living conditions in Soviet Union.
22:40 Information about the west controlled by eastern socialist governments.
24:00 Soviets build up their defense.
26:00 1949: Soviet Union develops atomic bomb. US response.
27:40 Paranoia of communism begins to spread in the US.
32:00 Korean War generates more fear of communism in the US; Soviets have a different version of the war.
34:10 Propaganda wars in the US and Soviet Union.
37:00 Stalin dies in 1953. Nikita Khrushev takes over while eastern European countries want more independence from the Soviet state.
38:00 1956: Hungarian Revolution and the response of the west.
43:00 The Berlin Wall is erected and the border is closed in the summer of 1961. East Germans try to escape over (and under) the wall. Ideological rivalry between east and west builds into the Cold War.
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