Updated: May 7
A lesson that encourages critical and independent thinking for students. In this lesson you can use a ready-made presentation that includes rare video archives, to show how the Soviet media portrayed Jews and the problem of the Jews leaving the Soviet Union. (According to a statement from senior KGB officials: "There was no emigration problem because no one wanted to leave"), as opposed to facts and conclusive evidence for a different reality, a reality where millions were afraid to ask for an exit, and those who mostly sought and were refused.
The slideshow includes points for discussion and raises the main question: how can we recognize attempted brainwashing or “fake news” when it’s not about a subject that we are familiar with?
Students will understand the strong effect that the media can have on people’s opinion and learn how easy it is to twist the truth.
By understanding how this was done in the Soviet Union, we can learn how to recognize attempted brainwashing or “fake news” today.
For many decades, virulent anti-Semitic forms of ‘anti-Zionism’ were central to the cold war propaganda of the Communist states.
In the course of the campaign, hundreds of anti-Zionist and anti-Israel books and thousands of articles were published in the USSR, with millions of copies entering circulation in the country. Many were translated into foreign languages – English, French, German, Spanish, Arabic, and numerous others. In 1970 alone, the comparison between alleged Zionist and Nazi racism – just one of the campaign’s numerous memes – merited 96 mentions (Pinkus 1989:256). Demonization of Zionism continued in films, lectures, and radio broadcasts. Anti-Zionist cartoons, many of an obvious anti-Semitic nature, were a regular feature of Soviet publications. (*From article: Soviet Anti-Zionism and Contemporary Left Antisemitism)
The leaders of the Soviet Union declared to the world on multiple occasions that no one was leaving because no one wanted to leave Paradise.
But the truth was that the government didn’t allow people to leave.
It was impossible to fly or leave the Soviet Union without an official permit.
Most people would be denied, if they even had the courage to apply for a permit.
Before 1970, most people in the “free world”, didn’t know what was happening inside the Soviet Union.
The KGB controlled all the information for as long as they could.
Computer/projector/TV to screen pictures and/or videos with sound.
Slideshow materials include:
Video archive Khrushchev speech in the USA 1959. Source: “Let My People Go”, documentary 1971.
Video archive “KGB brain” Philipp Bobkov from 2004 about Jewish Emigration. Interview clip source: Foundation for Documentary Projects
Letter written by Andropov ordering to deny exit visa for a Zionist family in 1971. Source: Boris Morozov, Evreiskaia emigratsiia v svete novykh dokumentov, (Tel Aviv: Ivrus, 1998), p. 100
Soviet Anti Semitic cartoons
Video archive The Soviet Media’s Portrait of America. Source: Central Intelligence Agency.
Press HERE to download and show the slideshow that includes videos and pictures, and discuss each point.
Below are the written points of the presentation, with extra details:
Slide 1: Details & discussion ideas
Slide 2: Introduction
Slide 3: Read the translation from Hebrew first, then watch the video of Khrushchev’s UN declaration about Jewish Emigration (All the people in our country, including the Jews, live in equality, freedom and friendship.) https://youtu.be/s_2Zhi-XT_0?t=585
Slide 4: Watch from 9:45-10:27 (42 seconds) Show the 1 minute video of “KGB brain” Bobkov saying in 2004: There were maybe 20 people who were denied exit visas, over 15 years.” https://youtu.be/cYlTkQvaSx0
How can we tell the difference between truth and a lie? Sometimes the truth is not absolute, but sometimes it is.
In the case of Soviet leaders claiming that people didn’t want to leave – it is an absolute lie which can be proven with facts
Show slides 5+6 and ask the students:
Why do you think that KGB officials lied about the facts? Even Bobkov in 2004, which is 13 years after the Soviet Union collapsed, and the non Emigration policy was common knowledge?
Slides 7+8 Read the Andropov letter archive translation and discuss about the difference of how Soviets leader talked about the Jewish Emigration when they are interviewed to the West media, and how different they express when writing inside letters.9-12Show examples of anti Semitic cartoons from 1953-1972 and ask the students for their interpretation for each cartoon.
After discussing slide 12, ask: If you weren’t Jewish and you see those images in your school, TV, newspaper – would you believe it?13Watch parts of the video: The Soviet Media’s Portrait of America a. In this lesson we were talking about Soviet “fake news”, but some Soviet citizens believed that the American TV can’t be trusted. Watch the video Soviet Media's Portrait of the United States 1:21-6:46 https://youtu.be/n83EdAS1JRc?t=80
2. Is killing state officials considered a political act or terrorism? Why did the Soviet media calls him “political prisoner”? Watch the video Soviet Media's Portrait of the United States 6:56-7:54 https://youtu.be/n83EdAS1JRc?t=416
Where else did a government use media to encourage people with hate and fear?