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Peer Review

Seventeen Moments in Soviet History



Overall Numeric Rating:

4.8 stars
Content Quality: 4.8 stars
Effectiveness: 4.5 stars
Ease of Use: 4.4 stars
Reviewed: Apr 19, 2006 by History Editorial Board
Overview: "Seventeen Moments in Soviet History" selects seventeen years during the reign of Communism in the Soviet Union from 1917 to 1991, to provide users with primary sources that are print, image, and video offerings in recreating the spirit and mentality of a nation emerging as a future threat, ally, and superpower to the western world.
Type of Material: Reference Material.
Recommended Uses: For use in a specialized course on the history of Russia and the Soviet Union.
To enhance a general course on Western, Modern European, and/or United States history in the Twentieth Century. The site is best suited for independent use.
Technical Requirements: Potential Users must register to access some of the materials, e.g. video clips. The latest version of RealPlayer is required to see streaming video.
Identify Major Learning Goals: To provide students with primary source material to understand how Bolshevism was established in Russia in 1917.
To enable students to understand the complexities of the Communism movement by studying leading figures of the movement and future governments.
To enable students to use primary sources to understand the nature of movement's successes and "criminal" activities.
To encourage student objectivity in evaluating the role of the Soviet Union in western and world history.
To enable student to judge the accomplishments and failures of the Soviet system.
Target Student Population: Primarily college level but could be successfully used for upper level, advanced high school courses on the Soviet Union.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Basic computer skills. Some background knowledge of European history.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4.8 stars
Strengths: One of the great strengths of this site is the array of learning materials provided. When a year is selected, an introduction to the year comes on the screen. To the right are a list of additonal resources for the selected year that include Texts, Contexts, Video, Images, and Websites. At the bottom of the Introduction is a list of more resources. When the images are clicked, the image comes on screen in the upper right side. A scroll down box in the middle of the page under the list of years running left to right, provides the user with even more detailed information on a variety of topics relevant to the year initially selected. Another nice feature is the appearance over the image on the left-side of a major theme for the year clicked. The materials selected are excellent. The introductory text is balanced and well written. It is clear that a great deal of thought was put into the materials selected and in designing the site.
Concerns: Potential users, particularly students, might be overwhelmed with the amount of material on the site. Subtopics are not arranged in chronological order. The site authors might consider a month by month listing for each year of seventeen for the subtopics to create some order by time. Print is small and may be a deterrent to users. There is no real attempt to tie together the subtopics within each "moment" or year. The result can be a fragmented viewing experience. If a student does not have prior knowledge to understand the relationship between events, the material could be confusing and/or overwhelming. Higher resolution files for the visual images is desired.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths: The site offers an excellent reference site on the Soviet Union. Further information is provided via Glossary and Biography categories organized by the letters of the alphabet. Faculty are free to use the resources as desired. It is understood that the site was proabably not designed for classroom use, therefore, there are no explicit lesson plans or assignments. The site is a rich array of diverse materials that a creative instructor could easily adapt for instructional purposes. The video clips are a unique resource.
Concerns: Site authors should be encouraged to consider the creation of a Users Guide for at least faculty. It would be helpful if the authors, given the extensive amount of material on the site, framed a series of issues or questions for teaching and learning.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.4 stars
Strengths: The site has a great deal of information. It appears that every attempt has been made to offer good organization of content. Most materials are available without registering. There are no fees. All the naviagtion elements work. Images come on screen when clicked. The materials are accessible from any point in the site. Users are free to explore a variety of subthemes using multi-media materials.
Concerns: When subtopics are selected, there is no obvious way to return to the previous page. Typeface is small. It might be better to have several pages for each year rather than small type and all the information on one page. There was an occassional file with a "not found" response. Information should be offered on site maintenance or a direct way to contact the authors for site problems and/or questions about the site and its material.

Other Issues and Comments: There is a possibility that objectives could be raised about its interpretative slant. The authors aspire to provide a "balanced" view highlighting both the positive and negative. The site does not dwell on the more well-known "crimes" of the Soviet Regime. This site centers on the daily life of the ordinary citizen. This approach might seem inappropriate to Americans who prefer the "evil empire" view of Soviet history. The information presented is detailed and accurate. No attempt has been made to conceal or distort facts unfavorable to the Soviet Union. Occassionally the topic headings and text content do not coincide, e.g. a sub-topic for 1968 is the "return of exiled peoples." The reader is directed to a section on the Crimean Tartars-a group whose rights were restored in 1968 but were not allowed to return to their traditional homeland.