Given my own penchant for sharing YouTube videos here at Russian History Blog and the recent posts from Miriam Dobson and Alison Smith sharing some phenomenal historical photographs, it seems appropriate to start gathering a list of everyone’s favorite online resources for teaching Russian history. Add your favorites to the comments, and I’ll start compiling them and create a separate page on the blog with a list of these materials. I would bet that a lot of us will find a great many useful resources for our classes.
Today marks the 66th anniversary of Victory Day. As Sean Guillory notes in a must-read post, victory, like so many other aspects of 20th century east European history, is remembered quite differently in many post-Soviet and post-Communist states. He writes:
Russia, with much justification, views this transformation of the memory of liberation into the memory of conquer as deeply insulting. Yet the whether one thinks about the legitimacy of these moves, they nevertheless raise some quite uncomfortable questions about the basis for history, memory and identity. How to reconcile all these memories of victimhood into a general narrative, where the field of victims in the war can be objectively be dispersed between the war’s winners and losers? Can it be done? Should it? Or is the European memory of the war, as Tony Judt suggests, ever to remain “deeply asymmetrical”?
Of course, it is not only in Russia where the war is fondly remembered and revered as unsullied victory. In addition to the beautiful sand art animation from Ukraine’s Got Talent that I shared previously, I can’t help but think of this video, which I frequently show to my post-1945 Soviet/post-Soviet history students. It was made for the 60th anniversary of Victory Day in Karaganda, Kazakhstan. It is another great way to get my students to think about the different degree to which World War II continues to matter in the United States versus the former Soviet Union (obviously, as Sean highlights for us, this memory is not always positive). All you have to do is pick the latest favorite hip hop artist and ask the students if they could imagine them rapping about World War II.
So, this week’s YouTube of the Week is perhaps of more interest to researchers than it is to students. This is just part one of a series of videos uploaded by the Iowa State University Library’s Special Collections. They include raw news footage of Nikita Khrushchev’s 1959 visit to Iowa. I have not yet watched all of the footage, but in the midst of a lot of dullness, many great moments and images often tell you more about American history than Soviet. Of particular interest are the Iowans lining the roads for Khrushchev’s motorcade and holding up signs, including slogans like “The Only Good Communist is a Dead Communist.”
Unfortunately, it seems the ISU Library has disabled the capacity to embed the video in a blog post, so you’ll have to go here. Khrushchev in Iowa
So, my YouTube of the Week feature would be better if it was actually a weekly feature. Unfortunately, a bit of illness has kept me offline for much of the last few weeks. So, when the YouTube of the Week last appeared, I shared one of my students’ favorites–I Want a Man Like Putin. I find when it comes to Putin’s “cult of personality,” that I have to stop myself from taking up an entire class period with all the great video footage. This was a new one for me last fall, though, that I just can’t help but share. As in many videos that I show in class, the students need no translation.
Students absolutely adore all of the fun you can have talking about the cult of Putin. Perhaps none are as fun as this well-known video of “I Want a Man Like Putin.” This particular version includes English subtitles.
I use the video every semester that I teach post-1945 Russian/Soviet history as it follows a few classes after other videos of Boris Yeltsin’s drunken and seemingly senile escapades. This video then encapsulates a part of why Putin and the sober, stable 2000s are so much more popular than Yeltsin and the drunken, chaotic 1990s.
One of the features I plan for the blog will be my “YouTube of the Week.” I will share many of the videos that I use in my course on the history of the Soviet Union and the post-Soviet world from 1945-present with just a few comments on how I use them. Teaching such recent history allows me to take full advantage of the multi-media available on the web. I use the videos for two reasons. First, I find their entertainment value helps refocus students in the middle of a long class session. Second, though, I use them for their ability to make a point about the history that I am teaching in a way that I cannot through words alone.
This week’s video is one many of you probably have seen, and it is the runaway favorite of my students each semester. It is a sand animation artist on one of those metastasizing reality shows–“Ukraine’s Got Talent”–creating a moving piece of performance art with themes around World War II. No video, no words, no images make clearer the continued importance of that war in the former Soviet Union than this one. The students will (or should) take particular notice of the emotional reactions of audience members. It’s a much longer video than I usually use, but it is worth every second.