Stalin's USSR
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Court of the Red Tsar


The Court of the Red Tsar: Overview of the CD Audiobook

A grid summarising the main themes and personalities covered in each section of the audiobook.


A. Rise to Power

1. Worksheet - Divisions in the party before 1924
2. Interactive Running Dictation Exercise: The Last Years of Lenin
3. Worksheet - Lenin's Testament
2. Worksheet - Who should succeed Lenin?

4. Interactive Collapsible notes

The Rise of Stalin: ideal as a revision / consolidation activity


B. An Introduction to Stalin's USSR

Interactive Interview with Josef Stalin
Allocate out a different topic from those listed in the drop-down menu to each student. In a subsequent lesson, each student then does a presentation to the class based on their findings. Best of all is if they choose the three most interesting questions and responses and memorise these. The questions are then given by each student to the teacher. Each student then has to sit in front of the class, and the teacher interviews each "Stalin" whilst the rest of the class takes notes.

Interview Josef Stalin
Soviet Economy Simulator
Students design their own "5-Year Plans" designed to prepare the USSR for war with the West. They can then compare the results with what actually happened in Stalin's USSR. Complete with worksheets, this is a fantastic way of introducing students to the concepts and events of the period.

C. Economic Policies: Agriculture

1. What were Stalin's Economic Objectives? [student worksheet] [teacher copy] [PowerPoint Presentation]
2. Collectivisation: Theory and Practice [student worksheet ] [teacher copy] [PowerPoint Presentation] [Interactive Running Dictation Exercise]
3. The Ukrainian Famine: Sources and Questions [student worksheet] [PowerPoint Show]
4. The Ukrainian Famine: Individual Research Task [student worksheet]
5. Collectivisation: How successful was it? [student worksheet] [teacher copy]
6. Collectivisation: Sourcework Test [student worksheet]
7. Agricultural Policies: A comparison of the Tsarist and Stalinist periods [student worksheet] [teacher copy]

D. Economic Policies: Industry

1. Introduction and Overview [student worksheet] [teacher copy] [PowerPoint Presentation]
2. Debate on the causes, course and consequence of the 5-Year Plans [student worksheet]
3. Assessment of the 5-Year Plans [student worksheet] [teacher notes]
4. Industrial Policies: A comparison of the Tsarist and Stalinist periods [student worksheet] [teacher copy]
5. Factual Test: Stalin's Policies for Industry [student worksheet and teacher answers]. Could be used along with, or instead of, this Keyword Challenge (rules of this game can be found here).

E. Economic Policies - General

1. Were Agricultural or Industrial Policies more successful? - [student worksheet / lesson plan]

Interactive Factual Tests:

Interactive quizzes: Stalin's Economic Policies [tips]

F. The Terror and the Purges

1. Introduction to the Terror - including an investigation of the key characters
2. Causes of the Terror - economic, political, diplomatic
3. Who Killed Kirov? - a sourcework investigation leading to a debate
4. Key Events, 1936-38 - political, economic and military victims
5. The Trials of Kamenev, Zinoviev and Bukharin - transcripts and discussion points
6. Effects of the Purges - on all levels of society
7. End of the Purges - including the assassination of Leon Trotsky
8. Conclusion Grid - to consolidate understanding

Interactive Factual Tests:

Interactive quizzes: Stalin's Purges [tips]

G. The "Social Revolution" and the "Cult of Personality"

1. The 1936 Constitution
Students consider the difference between the theory and the practice of the Stalinist Constitution of 1936.

2. The Stalin Cult
Students consider how Stalin used and abused cinema, art and music to develop his "Cult of Personality". They then produce their own flyleaf for a novel, a film poster or a poem in praise of the great Stalin. Here are some examples produced by students at the International School of Toulouse:
The Redfather / The Stalinator (film posters by June) | Stalin is God (film trailer by Chris)

3. The Social Revolution

4. Conclusion

5. Sourcework Exercise
Based on the format of the IB History Examination, but easily adapted for other syllabi.

H. Foreign Policy


Stalin's Foreign Policy, 1917-39
Students use a detailed timeline to produce a biased interpretation of Stalin's foreign policy from a communist and a capitalist perspective.

Interactive Running Dictation

The Great Patriotic War
Designed to help students identify some of the most important events of the period. Instructions included.


Why did the USSR win the Great Patriotic War?
Designed to follow on from the interactive exercise above. Students drag and drop factors to make connections and write up their findings.

I. "High Stalinism" - 1945-53

Collapsible Revision Notes


1. Stalin's USSR: 1945-53 - Society, Culture and Zhdanov -Designed to be used with the collapsible notes above.
2. Stalin's USSR: 1945-53 - Industrial and Agricultural recovery?

Interactive quizzes: High Stalinism, 1945-53 [tips]

J. Historiography of Stalin's USSR

1. Stalin's Legacy: Did he corrupt or fulfil Lenin's vision?
2. Stalin's Legacy: What was his long term impact on the USSR and beyond?
3. Recent Books on Stalin's USSR
A worksheet which provides an overview of the most recent books by Montefiore, Applebaum, Figes and others and sets a series of questions about the most popular themes that seem to be arising.

General / Revision

Splat the Stalinist!
Designed to help students learn about the significance of key characters of the Stalinist period in a fun way!

Fling the Teacher: The Rule of Stalin
I give students 10 minutes at the start of the lesson to try to complete the quiz. Anyone completing the quiz within the available time gets a score based on the amount of minutes left on the clock. They can then move on to the first lesson task, whatever that happens to be, whilst the other members of the class continue to play. I build up a 'leaderboard' of scores over the numerous lessons we have during revision time to build up momentum!

"Who Am I?" Challenge - The USSR under Stalin

Each team will be presented with a clue about a key historical figure. They get 50 points if they guess it correctly. If they wish to 'pass', they get further (easier) clues but the points available steadily decline. An incorrect guess at any point means they get zero points for that round. You can play as many rounds as you wish. It's a great way to revise!

History in the News for Stalin's USSR

1. Titanic star Leonardo DiCaprio wants to play role of Joseph Stalin  
2. Stalin digital archive nears completion #historyteacher Stalin digital archive nears completion
3. Orlando Figes to give away royalties from next book  
4. Brought to book with Orlando Figes It is ferocity and incompetence that have characterised Figes's own extraordinary war with academics, and dominated the headlines earlier this year. The stakes could not have been higher.
5. Stalin falls from grace in last bastion - his birthplace A statue of the former Soviet dicatator Josef Stalin was removed from a plinth in his birthplace in Georgia.
6. Incoming D-Day Memorial chief stands by Stalin bust While Mr. Reed said he can "appreciate the concern" of locals who have voiced their opposition to the bust, he said the bust can serve as a teaching tool to make visitors recognize the importance of Stalin as one of the leaders in World War II...
7. Destroying monuments to Stalin a silly attempt to rewrite history: Gorbachev Mikhail Gorbachev, whose attempts to reform the Soviet Union helped to bring about its demise, says he regrets the destruction of monuments to Joseph Stalin which he described as a “silly, anti-historical act”.
8. Stalin-era mass grave yields tonnes of bones Russia has uncovered at least 495 skeletons, many with head gunshot wounds, in a mass grave probably dating back to purges under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in the 1930s, municipal authorities said.
9. Russia says probe into 1940 katyn massacre can't be reopened A top Russian official says there's no legal basis for reopening an investigation into the Katyn massacres, when thousands of Polish officers were killed by Soviet secret police.
10. Artists take on the new cult of Stalin  

History weblinks for Stalin's USSR

1. How children's books thrived under Stalin | Books | The Guardian  When Stalin's great purges made writing dangerous, a group of avant garde artists turned their attention to children's books. Philip Pullman on a new collection that reveals a vigorous freedom in a time?
2. Stalin: Hero image gives way to the dark dictator   
3. Why Stalin loved Tarzan and wanted John Wayne shot - Telegraph   
4. George Orwell's 'Animal Farm' resonated with Ukrainian refugees   
5. The first ever altered images   
6. SPLAT the Stalinist (Interactive game) #historyteacher #sschat   
7. Soviet Women of WWII - Retronaut #historyteacher - Great photos   
8. The Stalin Project   
9. Seventeen Moments   
10. A Brief History of Photo Fakery - The New York Times   
11. RealUSSR: Brilliant blog about ordinary life behind the Iron Curtain (via /   
12. Stalin's Wars: An Interview with Professor Geoffrey Roberts #historyteacher (via /   
13. October: Ten Days That Shook the World - MPEG Download!   
14. Battleship Potemkin: MPEG Download!   
15. Alexander Nevsky: MPEG Download!   
16. The National Archives Learning Curve | Heroes & Villains | Stalin & industrialisation   
17. Siegelbaum, Stalinism as a Way of Life  This site contains original Russian documents used in the book Stalinism as a Way of Life in English translation.
18. In Soviet Russia, Lake Contaminates You   
19. Stalin's USSR   



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