How does nostalgia for the USSR manifest itself in Russia today? Discuss three examples of this raised by Alexievich in her introduction.

How does nostalgia for the USSR manifest itself in Russia today?

Instruction: In this file you will find 4 separate assignments. Each assignment has questions that you need to answer, using the article, book, movie attached to it. Usually, questions say how many sentences you need to write for each answer, but roughly it should be around a paragraph.

There are three articles, that have their PDF files uploaded with the assignment (total of 5 pdf files, as one article is uploaded as 3 separate files with their page numbers as a title). There is one assignment with 2 articles (with their links), and also one movie (also with its link) down here.

Timothy Ryback, “Rock around the bloc”

1)      Name and discuss in 1-2 sentences each three features of pop music, and especially rock and roll, that made it such an important challenge to the Soviet system.

2)      Name three ways that late 1960s Soviet authorities tried to control access to what they deemed decadent forms of popular Western culture.

3)      Name three forms of resistance to official efforts to ban or clamp down on access to Western music/rock and roll in which Soviet citizens engaged during the late 1960s.

4)      Name three things about the Soviet rock scene of the 1970s that you found interesting, and discuss why.

5)      How did detente and the 1975 signing of the Helsinki Accords change the music scene in the USSR? Be specific!

6)      Ryback argues that the Soviet rock music scene changed in fundamental ways in the 1980s. Discuss 3 ways this happened in 1-2 sentences each.

Secondhand Time – 2 articles

Two excerpts from Svetlana Alexievich, Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets: An Oral History. Tr. Bela Shayevich, (NewYork: Random House, 2016). and from The New Republic (May 2016)

1)      In the introduction to Secondhand Time (excerpted in the Times Literary Supplement), Svetlana Alexievich asserts that Homo Sovieticus (the Soviet person) found it difficult to make the transition to life in Russia after the USSR was disbanded. What factors made this transition so hard? Discuss three points she makes.

2)      How does nostalgia for the USSR manifest itself in Russia today? Discuss three examples of this raised by Alexievich in her introduction.

3)      The breakup of the Soviet Union meant that, suddenly, people from non-Russian republics found themselves stranded in Russia. Gafkhar Dzhurayeva, the Director of Moscow’s Tajikistan Fund, discusses this in his interview with Svetlana Alexievich. Discuss three things that you learned about the experience of Tajiks in post-Soviet Moscow from this interview.

4)      Racism in post-Soviet Russia is rampant and often directed at Central Asians. Describe and discuss three examples of this raised in the Alexievich piece.

5)      In the excerpt of Secondhand Time featured in the New Republic, 35 year old Alisa Z, contrasts her parents’ life under the Soviet Union with her own. Describe three examples of this.

6)      How does Alisa Z describe “happiness” in the new Russia? Discuss this in 2-4 sentences. Then assess whether you think she is happy, and why you arrived at this assessment.


Michael McFaul, “Eurasia Letter: Russian Politics after Chechnya”
Peter Baker and Susan Glasser, “Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the End of Revolution” pp. 15-37, 99-120, 156-178.

1)      Why did the first Chechen War break out in the early to mid 1990s? What was happening in Russia and in Chechnya that precipitated this intervention? Also, what was the response to it? Additionally, what was Yeltsin really trying to achieve when he decided to get involved in this situation, according to Michael McFaul?

2)      Sketch out in 3 or 4 sentences what happened in Beslan in September 2004.

3)      Baker and Glasser assert that Russians see this event as their “9/11” and “an extension of the international war on terrorism” (20) but that, despite similarities to this, there are some fundamental differences at play. What factors make it similar to the “international war on terrorism”? What critical distinctions do Baker and Glasser point to that make this something very different from that?

4)      How did Putin respond to this crisis and why was this response such a problem? Pay attention here to his immediate response and then his attempts to address the country on TV in its aftermath.

5)      How and why was the war in Chechnya that Putin undertook at Prime Minister in 1999 becoming such a nightmare for him? Sketch out the argument about this that Glasser and Baker make (pp. 99-120) in 3-5 sentences.

6)      What happened in the Nord-Ost theater in Moscow in October 2002? Also, what similarities did it bear to the Beslan hostage siege? Lastly, what were some of the differences from it?

7)      What larger points do Baker and Glasser and Michael McFaul want us to take away from their assessments of the Russian government’s intervention into and treatment of the Chechen crises from 1993-2002 and beyond?

Firstly, what were some of the “clues” that something was “off” (as in: not right) in Pripyat in April 1986? Name and discuss three “clues”.

Secondly, how did the Soviet government initially respond to the meltdown of the reactor at Chernobyl? How did it deal with the actual meltdown? With the advice given by experts (like the Byelorussian physicist interviewed for this documentary)? Discuss this response in 4-6 sentences.

Thirdly, what does this reaction reveal to you about Soviet leadership (local, and central)?

Fourthly, what is the filmmakers’ perspective on Gorbachev’s role in this tragedy? Answer in at least 3-5 sentences and provide examples.

Further, how did the meltdown of the reactor at Chernobyl become known to the West? Discuss in at least three sentences.

Additionally, why did the meltdown happen? How is this meltdown related to larger problems in the Soviet Union (economic, political, etc)? Discuss in 4-6 sentences.

Finally, what were some of the long-term implications of the meltdown in Chernobyl? Discuss five.

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