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Lesson Plan September 12, 2015

Russia’s Rustbelt: The Decline of Monotowns



"Russia's Rustbelt":  The decline of Monotowns.

Standards: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.9

Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a 

coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

Objective:  This lesson is designed to help students understand the effect of the fall of 

the USSR from the practical perspective of the ordinary citizen of the former USSR.    

Essential Question; were ordinary people in the former USSR better off under 


Warm up

Have students watch this film:

And study this background:

single-industry-olympic-WTO, the map of Russian monotowns

Introduction:  This lesson will give students a chance to examine Russian monotowns  

(monogoroda).  Most of these 340 towns are products of Stalinist industrialization, so the 

architecture is of that era, especially the 

1930s. (Indeed, they  were often built by 

GULAG labor.)   Monotowns were 

organized around a single plant or factory 

and, in true Soviet spirit, the towns 

provided all social services-- clinics and 

schools, heat, water and electricity, for 

populations of 5,000 to 700,000.   As the 

articles below indicate monotowns have 

not fared well since the fall of the USSR.

Divide students into two groups:

Group 1:should read these carefully: Russia's Monotown of Asbest: The Town Asbestos 

Built, the "People of the Pit",  

Group 2 Will study two towns:  Baikalsk, which was once a thriving pulp and paper 

mill, responsible for a good deal of pollution and Vydrino, a former timber town, 

also on the shore of Lake Baikal.

Examine the slide show.

Questions for Discussion:  Have students compare the experiences of contemporary 

Russians in these "monotowns".   What is the history of these towns?  Why are economic 

circumstances so bleak?   Why don't people leave?   What other issues, such as health 

and safety are there?  One of these articles is called "Russia's Detroit".  What similarities 

and differences are there between cities in the US that have declining industries and cities 

in the former USSR?

Have there been efforts to revitalize these towns?  What has come of these efforts?

What else is notable?


homework students should examine at least three  of the following stories 

Shrinking Siberia plus slideshow 

Putin's Knack for Surprise

The Only Ballerinas in All of Abkhazia 

Reading Putin: The Mind and the State of Russia's President

Russia: Putin's Propaganda Machine still going strong.

Russia:  Death by Indifference

Marina Rikhvanova's Quest to Save Russia's Lake Baikal

Introduction to David Satter's It was a Long time Ago ….  Read the introduction

Explain in an essay of 250 words how at least two of the articles relate to the larger issues 

of the Monotowns.  Why isn't more being done about this problem in the former USSR?

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