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Looking at Russia and the Soviet Union with Maps101

Posted on September 04 2022

Looking at Russia and the Soviet Union with Maps101


Dear Educator,

The death of former president of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, was announced on August 30, 2022, by Russia’s state-run news. Gorbachev was the last of the Soviet leaders and has become one of the most important figures in the twentieth century. With the United States and the Soviets in a long Cold War coming out of World War II, his impact in breaking down the Iron Curtain cannot be overstated. And of course, Russia is in the news currently, making a global impact with its attack on Ukraine. Current Russian President Vladimir Putin is a major figure in today’s headlines. We will explore all of these topics as Maps101 takes a look at Russia and the Soviet Union this week.

We should first focus on Mikhail Gorbachev, as his death at the age of 91 is an extremely important current event. However, given the time that has passed since he ruled the USSR, today’s students may not be aware of his contribution to the current state of political affairs in the world. This exclusive Maps101 GNN biography introduces Gorbachev to new generations who can then contextualize events related to Russia in the news today.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is an on-going battle, continues to develop as a major news story. The news regularly provides us with updates on the latest in the region, as Russian President Vladimir Putin engages in a war to take over land in Ukraine that it claims has always been Russian. Students can read this GNN article to learn more about this conflict as it began.


The man behind the invasion into Ukraine is Vladimir Putin. Russia has also been accused of interfering in recent U.S. elections while Putin has been president. And there appears to be no end to his rule in Russia. Students will learn more about Putin from this GNN biography. Ask students to compare and contrast the last Soviet leader, Gorbachev, with current Russian leader, Putin. How have both leaders affected their era?


The U.S. relationship with Russia is a complicated one. During World War II, Russia was one of the Allied forces. However, disagreements at the end of the war sparked suspicion and competition between the two countries. The Cold War developed, in which rather than heated fighting, both nations built up arms in a competition for global power. This interactive Lesson Map provides full context for this era. There is a student edition and a teacher edition that includes numerous, levelled activities for each subhead in the student version.


During the Cold War, the arms race was not the only competition between the U.S. and the USSR. The Soviets were the first to send a satellite into space. It was called Sputnik, and its launch sparked a Space Race that would lead to the founding of NASA. This article looks at the role Sputnik had in the Space Race and the larger context of the Cold War.


Project this map in the classroom and have students read the callouts that explain the issues that took place at each location on the map. You may want students to conduct further research on each hot spot and present their findings in class. Divide the class into groups as needed for this activity. You can even conduct a school presentation on the Cold War, using this map as a jump start.


For more maps of this era, we recommend you peruse this exclusive collection. These maps explore the era of Soviet and Russian history when the Soviet Union, or USSR, broke apart, and the world was reshaped, as satellite countries reemerged from behind the Iron Curtain.


We hope you have enjoyed this mini-sample of Maps101 content about Russian and Soviet history. This is by no means a complete listing, but it will give you an idea of the type of content available with your subscription. We hope your weekly tour of topics in the GeoJournal helps not just inform you of themes you can focus on throughout the year, but that it also draws your attention to content you may not have realized is available. Happy hunting for more content that benefits your class this school year. And don’t forget to favorite to save what you use often for easy access.

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