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Cartooning the Collapse of the Soviet Union

1. Title of Lesson: Cartooning the Collapse of the Soviet Union. Created by Mary Bezbatchenko.

Download Cartoons and Descriptions
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Download Essay Scoring Rubrick

2. Grade Level/ Identify the content standard or standards that the lesson fulfills, and the relevant benchmarks (Ohio and national standards) 10 th grade, American History

Ohio:
Historical Thinking Content
Statements:
1. Historians develop theses and use evidence to support or refute positions.
2. Historians analyze cause, effect, sequence, and correlation in historical events, including multiple causation and long-and short-term causal relations.

Topic: Cold War Content
Statement:
22. The collapse of communist governments in Eastern Europe and the U.S.S.R. brought an end to the Cold War

National:
NSS-USH.9-12.10 Era 10: Contemporary United States (1968-Present)

1. Understands recent developments in foreign and domestic politics

2. Understands economic, social, and cultural developments in contemporary United States

3. Estimate duration of lesson: 1 class period

4. Learning objectives:

• The students will understand the events and issues leading to the collapse of the Soviet Union

• The students will be able to use a collection of primary sources to analyze a historic event and reach a conclusion.

5. Complete summary of the lesson:

Students will examine political cartoons from 1979-1990 and analyze the events and issues leading up to the collapse of the USSR.

6. Provide a pre-assessment/diagnostic and a scoring guideline:

Display the 1979 cartoon “See No…Hear No… Speak No…” and use the Cartoon Analysis worksheet to discuss the cartoon as a class to establish the state of the USSR in 1979. Students should understand the limits of citizen rights for Soviet citizens and the relationship between the USSR and Western countries.

7. Describe the instructional steps to implement the lesson

  • Lead students in discussion and analysis of the 1979 cartoon “See No… Hear No… Speak No…”
  • Create groups of 3 students and give each group 1 cartoon. Each group should have a cartoon from a different year-ranging from 1980-1990.
  • Groups analyze their cartoon using the Cartoon Analysis worksheet. They should understand the message and issues facing the USSR in their cartoon.
  • Create new groups of students containing 1 member from each of the previous groups. New groups should contain a member who has seen each cartoon.
  • Students present the message/issues of their cartoon to their group in the sequential order of the cartoons examined.
  • As a group, students create a list of issues or problems that led to the collapse of the USSR.
  • Groups share their lists of causes and problems with the whole class to create a class list.

8. Provide a post-assessment and its scoring guideline

Students write an essay answering the following:
Using evidence from the political cartoons, describe the causes for the collapse of the Soviet Union.
See attached rubric for scoring guideline.

9. List materials needed by teachers:

A variety of cartoons from 1979-1990 related to the USSR
Overhead protector or projector & screen to display images
Cartoon Analysis worksheet

*optional-large post it papers or butcher paper for groups to combine thoughts (Step 6 in instructions). You could also just have the students read their answers and write them on the board or computer.

10. List any materials needed by students: Pen or Pencil

11. Extension activities:

  • Students can find cartoons following the collapse of the USSR and see the changes and issues facing the new country.
  • Students can research and compare and contrast the problems that Russia faced after the collapse to the state of Russia today.
  • Students could research leaders depicted in the cartoons and their role in the breakup of the USSR.
  • Students can find and analyze political cartoons related to Russia today.

12. List of cartoons and other primary sources. Include for each:

All Cartoons were found in the series: Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year ed. Charles Brooks. Pelican Publishing Press, Gretna.


1978
Creator: Stephen Sack Title: See No… Hear No… Speak No…
Original Publication: Ft. Wayne Journal
Publication Date: Unknown, 1978-1979
Summary/Description of cartoon or source: The cartoon comments on the state of the Soviet Union in 1979. Leonid Brezhnev, depicted in the cartoon as an ape, was the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He presided over the USSR from 1964 until his death in 1982. Brezhnev took power when Nikita Khrushchev was removed from power and some of Brezhnev’s early changes were to remove the liberalizing reforms made by Khrushchev. Cultural freedom was limited and the secret service, the KBG, regained power. In 1973, the Soviet Union entered an era of economic stagnation which led to unhappiness among the Soviet people. Brezhnev continued the policy of détente with the United States, limiting arms but at the same time building up Soviet military strength.

Source: Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum: Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year ed. Charles Brooks. Pelican Publishing Press, Gretna, 1979


1980

Creator: Mike Keefe
Title: Untitled
Original Publication: Denver Post
Publication Date: Unknown, 1980-1981
Summary/Description of cartoon or source: The cartoon is referring to the 1980 presidential campaign between incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter and Republican candidate, Ronald Reagan. The election was held on November 4, 1980. Reagan won the electoral college vote by a landslide. In the Soviet Union, elections were held but for appearances only. Vladimir Lenin and the other Bolshevik leaders dissolved the Constituent Assembly in 1918. Under Stalin’s rule the position of General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party became synonymous with “leader of the Soviet Union.” In 1980 the government was controlled by nonelected Communist Politburo members, the Central Committee and a parliament type group called the Supreme Soviet, who only met briefly throughout the year. In Soviet elections, citizens voted for members of the Supreme Soviet but only candidates approved by the Communist leaders were listed on the ballot.

Source: Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum: Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year ed. Charles Brooks. Pelican Publishing Press, Gretna, 1981


1982

Creator: Jack Ohman
Title: Untitled
Original Publication: The Detroit Free Press
Publication Date: Unknown, 1982-1983
Summary/Description of cartoon or source: Leonid Brezhnev, leader of the Soviet Union, died on November 10, 1982 and was quickly succeeded by Yuri Andropov. Andropov was the former head of the KGB, the secret service in the USSR. During his time as leader, he continued the Communist hard line and dismissed those who violated part, state, or labor discipline. Also, during this time relations between the USSR and US deteriorated. It was during Andropov’s reign that President Ronald Reagan referred to the USSR as the “evil empire.” In 1983 Andropov suffered renal failure and died in February 1984, after just fifteen months in office. Konstantin Chernenko succeeded him, despite concerns for his failing health. Chernenko died after only a year in office and it was then the leaders of the Communist Party decided it was time for younger leadership and appointed Mikhail Gorbachev as leader.

Source: Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum: Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year ed. Charles Brooks. Pelican Publishing Press, Gretna, 1983


1987

Creator: David Horsey
Title: Untitled
Original Publication: Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Publication Date: Unknown, 1987-1988
Summary/Description of cartoon or source: On March 11, 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev was elected General Secretary by the Soviet Politburo. He instituted reforms such as glasnost (“openness”) and perestroika (“restructuring”) to fix the stagnating Communist Party and the economy. During this time there was less censorship and greater freedom of information. Glasnost did allow more discussion but Communist leaders still tried to control it. Those speaking out too loudly were harassed by hKGB or arrested. By 1989 the reforms had moved beyond what Gorbachev had expected and some of the Soviet states used glasnost to assert their rights. The media began to expose social and economic problems and the negative aspects of Soviet life were brought to light.

Source: Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum: Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year ed. Charles Brooks. Pelican Publishing Press, Gretna, 1988.


1989

Creator: Jim Borgman
Title: Soviet Economy
Original Publication: Cincinnati Enquirer
Publication Date: Unknown, 1989-1990
Summary/Description of cartoon or source: Along with the policy of glasnost, Mikhail Gorbachev also instituted the reform of perestroika or restructuring. It is mostly associated with the economy as Gorbachev allowed some market-like reforms. The goal of perestroika was to make the socialist system more efficient not to dismantle it. The 1988 Law of Cooperatives allows some private ownership of businesses but with high taxes and employment restrictions. The state decentralized some aspects of the economy but maintained price controls and control over the means of production. By 1990, the government had lost control over economic conditions and the reforms had created new problems in the USSR.

Source: Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum: Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year ed. Charles Brooks. Pelican Publishing Press, Gretna, 1990.


1989

Creator: Chip Beck
Title: Trick or Treat ‘89
Original Publication: Northern Virginian Sun
Publication Date: Unknown, 1989-1990
Summary/Description of cartoon or source: Mikhail Gorbachev took control of the USSR in 1985 and instituted reforms such as glasnost and perestroika. These reforms has unanticipated consequences, such as Soviet states and satellite countries began asserting their rights. Nationalist feelings grew and calls for greater independence grew louder. In 1989 semi-free elections were held in Poland and the Communists were voted out of office with Solidarity, trade union federation winning the election. Hungary and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania soon followed. Gorbachev abandoned the Brezhnev Doctrine and said he would not interfere in Eastern European countries.

Source: Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum: Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year ed. Charles Brooks. Pelican Publishing Press, Gretna, 1990.


1990

Creator: Robert Ariail
Title: Unknown
Original Publication: Columbia State
Publication Date: Unknown, 1990-1991
Summary/Description of cartoon or source: The USSR dissolved between 1990-1991. Many factors contributed to the collapse but failures of the Gorbachev reforms are a large part. It was difficult to control the changes within the confines of the Soviet Communist Party. In June 1991, Boris Yeltsin won the first democratic elections in Russia to become the president of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. In August, Communist hardliners, who wanted to maintain Soviet control staged a coup in an attempt to overthrow Gorbachev. The coup collapsed after three days, followed by the Soviet Union. The USSR officially ceased to exist on December 31, 1991.

Source: Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum: Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year ed. Charles Brooks. Pelican Publishing Press, Gretna, 1991.