For Discussion Forum 2, please address any of the questions below. As always: you are required to make a minimum of THREE (3) posts per module. At least one of your three posts should be your own original comment; at least one – should be a response to or comment on something another classmate has posted; the third post can be either your own original post or a comment on a classmate’s post. Keep in mind that your response should NOT simply be a summary of the assigned reading. A higher grade will be awarded to posts that demonstrate student’s ability to provide an original interpretation of the topic while also applying relevant concepts, issues, and theories covered in the module.
1. The Leningrad – Seattle spacebridge features a dialog between American and (still) Soviet citizens at the very beginning of Mikhail Gorbachev perestroika. Did any of the questions (or answers) that the spacebridge participants brought up surprise you? To your mind, what was the most memorable moment of that bridge? Keeping in mind that, obviously, Soviet television was not going to invite dissidents to such a program, did you get a sense that Soviet citizens were generally happy and content with their lives? Did you get a sense of antagonism towards Americans? (alternatively, did you get a sense of antagonism towards the Soviets from the Seattle crowd?). Give specific examples from the video. What questions do you think would have been discussed (and why) if a dialog of this type happened between Russians and Americans today?
2. In this module you have read quite a bit about the Gorbachev era that ultimately ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Did any of the readings or video materials you have seen so far illustrate (or contradict) anything that you read about the Soviet Union of that time? Give specific examples.
3. As you now know, after Gorbachev rose to power in the Soviet Union in 1985, the reforms that he put into place dramatically changed the lives of Soviet citizens. Watch this brief video clip (Links to an external site.) (length 6:32, excerpts from Robin Hessman’s 2010 documentary My Perestroika) in which several Russians describe their personal experiences during that turbulent time. In your opinion, which of the new freedoms enjoyed by Russians was the most important? Why? Why do you think one woman in the video called this period a “really confusing and difficult time for our country”?
4. Tapping into your imagination here (please do base your answer on what you have learned in this module). If you were born in the Soviet Union in the late 1960s and were about 17 or 18 during the beginning of perestroika, what changes do you think you personally would have welcomed most? What would have been most difficult to adapt to? If you were the Soviet leader in 1980s and your goal was to improve the existing regime, what policies or reforms would you recommend? Which policies and reforms that Gorbachev implemented would you have stayed away from? (E.g. would you have introduced the anti-alcohol campaign? etc.). Although this is a “what if” type of question, make sure to provide detailed answers backed with facts and data from this module’s materials.
5. For Russian / Soviet people of my generation, Gorbachev’s perestroika (and then the collapse of the Soviet Union) was definitely a profoundly life-changing event on every possible level. What events would you identify as the key political events for your own generation? Why did you pick this particular event? If you choose to answer this question, make sure to explain how are these events similar to / different from what Soviet citizens experienced in the late 1980s.