Skip to content Skip to navigation

Local teachers explore the Russian Revolution in Stanford professional development course

Teachers view soviet posters from the Russian Revolution

Participants in the Russian Revolution course view Soviet posters from the Hoover Library and Archive collection on display at the Cantor Art Museum.

Mar 19 2018

Posted In:

Global Perspectives Blog

“Alarming new rumors were in circulation all day yesterday,” said Marissa Rhee, project archivist for exhibits at the Hoover Institution. “The Bolsheviks are undoubtedly preparing something in Petrograd. But what? A bluff, or really the seizure of power?”

Rhee was reading from a recently translated diary entry written on October 25, 1917 (O.S.), as the Russian Revolution was unfolding. The diary was just one of several archival sources on display at the Hoover Library and Archives during a special course about the revolution for middle school, high school, and community college instructors. The course is one of many professional development offerings for local teachers developed by Stanford Global Studies and the Center to Support Excellence in Teaching (CSET), with partial funding from the U.S. Department of Education Title VI grant.

As part of the course, the participants received a private tour of The Crown Under the Hammer: Russia, Romanovs, Revolution exhibit at the Hoover Institution Library and Archive and the Cantor Art Museum, as well as a lecture about the revolution from Bertrand Patenaude, a Hoover research fellow and a lecturer in history and international relations at Stanford.

Marissa Rhee, project archivist for exhibits at the Hoover Institution Library and Archive, shows course participants archival materials that weren’t included in the exhibit.

Crystal Dunn, who teaches world history and AP European history at Madera High School, hoped to find new artifacts through the course that she could share with her students. She brought back pictures of the original letters written by the imperial Romanov children while they were in exile, which helped personalize their story for her students. “I was able to bring my own learning to a higher level through the lectures, and I left with resources, including formative assessments, which I was able to use in my classroom the next week — and my students were successful with them,” she said.

The class included a screening of October: Ten Days That Shook the World, a 1927 Soviet silent film by the renowned filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein. Afterwards, Pavle Levi, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies, spoke about the period’s flourishing art and cinema movement — Constructivism. Known as “art in the service of the revolution,” Constructivist works were machine- and engineering-inspired and focused on the process of assembly and montage. “Whenever there is revolution, there is not only destruction but also much construction. The art component really shows all the creative energy that went into building the new society,” explains Jovana Knežević, Associate Director of the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, who helped develop the course.

Participants view archival materials at the Crown Under the Hammer exhibit.

Knežević delivered the final lecture about the revolution in the broader context of the First World War and also discussed how both are commemorated in Russia today. “The centenary of the war and the revolution raises the question of how to remember these events today,” she explains. “In a turn of events historiographically, the current regime in Russia has embraced the Great War as a heroic sacrifice while marginalizing the commemoration of the Bolshevik revolution.”

Throughout the weekend, participants also attended pedagogical sessions that connected the film, exhibits, and lectures with their teaching. Specifically, participants selected sources from the lectures and archival visits and created their own formative assessments, which are activities teachers use to prompt student thinking and adjust instruction so as to maximize learning.“The inclusion of art in this particular course helped teachers consider how history can be taught using a variety of types of ‘documents’ — film and visuals included,” says Nicole Lusiani Elliott, an instructional coach at CSET who facilitated the course. “This is exemplary of the very best way we leverage all that Stanford has to offer.”

View additional professional development opportunities for K-14 educators offered through Stanford Global Studies and the Center to Support Excellence in Teaching, including a course on global migration in April.