Soviet Subject Lesson

Guiding questions: Is it ever possible to know someone’s real or true thoughts or feelings? Do our identities change over time?

These universal questions have particular relevance for the study of Russian and Soviet history. When studying the Soviet Union we hope to gain an understanding both of the Soviet state and political system, as well as the lived experience of individuals within it. Scholar Alexis Peri studies diaries from this period, and explores questions about whether we can separate the “true” feelings of Soviet citizens from the state’s expectations and individuals’ responses to those expectations.

These themes are both complex and intuitive for students. They are complex because students are asked to think meta-cognitively not only about the sources they are looking at, but about the recursive thinking of the person who wrote it. They are intuitive, as well, because students are already (although perhaps subconsciously) asking themselves these questions every time they decide what to wear to school, think about how to speak to teachers, and write an essay using different words than they would use to talk to their best friend.