Over the past few weeks, the world has watched while Egypt has been in the throes of a revolution. The story of a country beset by repression, poverty, and civil unrest, and ruled over by an immensely wealthy and out-of-touch leader, is not new. In fact, it’s a scenario that has occurred repeatedly throughout the centuries, and is likely fated to play again in the future.
In the early 20th century, Russia was a vast country with the third largest population in the world. Although the major urban areas were centers of rapid industrialization, much of the country was still an agrarian society where workers toiled under primitive conditions. The Russian people, too, were diverse, with great disparity in their economic, religious, and cultural situations. Presiding over the country was the middle-aged Imperial Czar, Nicholas II of the House of Romanov. The Romanovs had ruled Russia since 1613, but by all accounts (including his own), Nicholas had not been adequately prepared for the rigors of running a country. His reign continued a cycle of national repression, high taxes, food shortages, labor strikes, and deplorable working conditions, all of which contributed to growing public discontent, and anger towards the monarchy.
The Russian Revolution is often viewed as a sudden, climactic event, culminating with the brutal assassination of Czar Nicholas II and his family. In reality, the revolution occurred in stages, with long periods of civil unrest, repression, and public protests. Ultimately acknowledged as a kind and religious man by those who knew him, Czar Nicholas was nonetheless an ineffectual leader and uninspired politician. His country in shambles, he retreated to his palaces and a life of unimagined luxury. To critics of the czar, the famous jeweled Easter eggs created for the Romanov family by Fabergé came to symbolize the monarchy in their opulence, privilege, and utter uselessness. Forced to abdicate his throne during the first part of the Revolution in February of 1917, Czar Nicholas and his family were gunned down later that year by Bolsheviks, thus definitively ending the imperial era in Russia and casting the country into civil war. Preferring style over substance, and completely out of step with the needs of their country, the Romanov story is ultimately a tragic one.
The Russian Revolution was a pivotal event not only in Russian history, but for the world at large as well. Decades later, the Bolsheviks morphed into the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which lasted until the late twentieth century and whose political philosophies still guide some countries today. My picks this week focus on the Russian Revolution and the end of Imperial Russia, and the dichotomy between two very different worlds. Throughout the week, I’ll be featuring many additional resources on this topic on our Facebook and Twitter pages, so be sure to check those as well.
Russian Imperial Eggs
Subjects: Art, World History
This lesson introduces young students to Imperial Russia in the early 20th century. Each Easter, Nicholas II, the last czar of the Russian empire, gave his wife and mother each splendid jeweled eggs. Students will learn about the royal family’s Easter tradition (but not the family’s ultimate fate), and create their own jeweled eggs crafted in the style of Fabergé. This lesson was produced by Crayola, makers of the ubiquitous art supplies. Crayola also offers lesson plans, an online certificate maker, and other resources for educators.
The Russian Revolution
Subjects: Geography, World History, Government
In this lesson, students explore the events leading up to the Russian Revolution using online video clips and activities. Students also research the geographical and cultural effects of Russia’s expansion, and discover why the country entered a near-regressionist state as it emerged from absolute monarchy to communist state. This lesson was produced by the Core Knowledge Foundation, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that develops curricula, provides professional development for educators, and publishes educational books and other materials.
The Faberge Eggs: Mementos of a Doomed Dynasty
Subjects: English, Art, World history
What to the things we treasure tell us about ourselves and the culture in which we live? The significance of the Fabergé eggs can be interpreted in several ways. They can be appreciated for their fine craftsmanship and for the family memories they represented to the Romanovs. On the other hand, their fragility and extravagance can symbolize that family's world of insular, imperial privilege. In this lesson, students will create an exhibition of items treasured by their families and reflect on the personal and cultural significance of these items. The exhibition process can be divided into Social Studies, Visual Arts and Language Arts lessons, either by working with the teachers of each of those subject areas or by teaching as one unit. This lesson was produced by PBS Treasures, a series of videos and lesson plans that examine the stories behind masterworks of art and nature.
~Joann's Picks - 2/18/2011~