Katia Raina

The Magic Mirror

A Research Question: Please Help!!

I asked my fifth-grader son, not too long ago, what do you know about the Soviet Union?

Here is what he said: 

“There was a king, and, these people who didn’t like his efforts — they came and killed him. Then, they tried to make their own government, but those Russian revolutionaries weren’t nice, so it didn’t work out.”

I don’t blame him for not knowing more. If someone asked me, about, say, the history of Venezuela, I’d probably have even less to say, and I am a grown-up, a writer, and a former journalist. His answer is kind of cool, actually — it sums up 74 years pretty neatly 🙂 (something that’s hard for me to do, a person, for whom this history had been too, well, personal).

But now, I’d like to ask anyone and everyone who happens upon this blog. What do you know about the Soviet Union? When you think of that country, what images come to mind? What do you think it was like to be a Soviet? Friends! Strangers! Be brave! Don’t censor yourselves! Give me some lists! Tell me what you know – or assume – or think you know!

I am not asking you this so I can make fun of your scant knowledge, I promise. I am simply doing what a writer does: writing and revising and researching. Both novels I have been/I am working on are based in the once mighty USSR. And I want to know what you know, so I can expand your horizons in my book in ways you would barely be aware of (if I do my job well, that is!)

Thanks!!!!!! 🙂


March 29, 2010 - Posted by | The U.S.S.R.


  1. WOW, I wish I had visited this site sooner. I am not sure how I feel about knowing less about the Soviet Union then your 5th grade son (who from what I could see did a very nice Kata on Saturday!).

    I picture it gray, cold and snowy …sort of like the north pole in those Christmas shows with rows of houses close together, while I know economically is was bad, my idea of life there is actually quite peaceful …the magic of TV I guess.

    Comment by John Holland | March 29, 2010 | Reply

    • Hey, he knows a little more, because I told him some stories — so he has an advantage!! 🙂
      Thanks so much for stopping by, John, I am honored to have you visit 🙂 Thanks for your feedback, too, that’s exactly the sort of stuff I’m looking for, by the way, I don’t want to be hearing from Soviet experts here!! (and, on a more personal note, I’ll tell Z you liked his kata – it’ll mean A LOT to him!)

      Comment by Katia Raina | March 29, 2010 | Reply

  2. Hi Katia,
    This is a thought provoking question. I remember a sense of fear associated with Russia and, of course, America’s relationship with Russia. Russia in my mind was drab, cold, gray and scary – a Orwellian society where people snuck around corners, fleeing from the watchful eyes of the KGB. But I also remember the nesting dolls and how fanciful they were. I wanted to know more about that tradition and if the people clung together like the dolls. Also, and this is most embarrassing, my sense of who Russians were came from the famous Wendy’s commercial and the movie with Mikail Baryshnikov (sorry if I’m butchering his name)…White Knights was it called. Hope this helps.
    P.S. I took a wonderful Russian history class in college and was completely enthralled, though I don’t remember a lick : (

    Comment by Toni | March 29, 2010 | Reply

  3. Cool perspective – I never quite thought of the dolls – matryoshkas – that way. That’s the thing, see, this is what happens when you take this stuff for granted. Thanks!!!
    Thanks for stopping by – a nice surprise 🙂


    Comment by Katia Raina | March 30, 2010 | Reply

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