CAS project 2021 / 22
A project created by four IB students — a series of interviews with teachers from the Letovo School covering a wide range of topics from childhood and adolescence to university years and independent life.

Initially, the project was conceived as a kind of love letter to history. Even though the vision of the project changed during the development process, the idea was to study how global historical events influenced the lives of ordinary people over the past few decades.

As its secondary goal, The Living Chronicles established a connection between IB and RF programs. It's no secret that at Letovo these two programs exist separately, with students and teachers rarely overlapping. The creators of the project hoped that talking with teachers about their life path would help them show teachers themselves and the whole school that teachers of different programs can have something in common.

At the planning stage, another interest of the creators became clear – comparing everyday life of that past and the present and drawing parallels with their own growing up and the growing up of their teachers. It is always interesting to compare your experience with that of someone else: people of a different generation, one might say, of a different era - this is not done very often. Thus, in the list of questions for the interview, there were questions about the little things of the daily routine and issues that are the most acute and important for people of our age. Involuntarily, global history faded into the background, but still manifesting itself in questions, for example, there were questions about changes in the 1990s. This gave us an opportunity to hear the stories of several people out of personal interest in them and in their life paths, trying to internalize these stories in order to understand the path you have gone through and the part of it that you still have to go through better.

Nevertheless, historical memory has also left an imprint on the project - it became a peculiar museum of that era, comprised of the memories dear to the interviewees, and the objects encapsulating the aspects of our teachers' lives that they consider to be the most noteworthy. This is a monument to the day-to-day lives of the people of both the previous and the current centuries. A monument to childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. A monument to love for the people, especially for those who thrive to make our world a better place. A memorial that depicts the magnificence, beauty and diversity of the humans' lives. With greatest pleasure and contentment, we invite all of you, our dear readers, to enjoy the outcome of our project with us. We hope that reading this longread would be as enthralling for you as it was for us to create it.

We decided to compare and contrast the data gathered in our interviews with the data from secondary sources that are being taught at schools, namely, student's books. Usually, school history courses cover everyday lives of ordinary people very superficially, rather covering in great details war and politics. But everyday lives of ordinary people are no less part of history than wars and politics. In a sense, everyday lives of people are the real history, as they depict how people actually lived. That is the grand value of our primary sources.
Furthermore, expanding on the idea of school history courses covering the everyday lives of ordinary people superficially, we have decided to correct this improperness by depicting what those lives were like through analyzing the everyday lives of people in the late 20th century by comparing and contrasting the lives of the people who lived in the Eastern Bloc (primarily, the USSR) with those who lived in the Western Bloc (primarily, the USA). In order to implement this, we have also been referring to other secondary sources, apart from school textbooks, in order to acquire a more wholesome image of the time periods.
Out of the textbooks on the history of Russia, we decided to analyze the one of A. A. Danilov. This choice was made for the two following reasons: to begin with, Danilov is the least subjective Russian history textbook author in Russia; and furthermore, this textbook is actively used in Russian schools, meaning that, having analyzed it, we would get a general image of how history is being taught in standard Russian schools. This would allow us to measure the extent to which the information that is being taught is true, objective, and representative.
Out of the textbooks on the history of the USA, we decided to analyze two different ones from two distinct high school learning programs that are prominent in the USA – the IB and the AP. The IB program has just a few student's books on the history of the USA of the late 20th century and early 21th century, so we have picked the one that covers the most of the time periods that are interviews cover – the textbook of Vivienne Sanders. The AP program has one course dedicated to the complete history of the US, so we have decided to take a look at Barron's textbook which is one of the most wholesome on the topic.


Danilov's textbook mentions an increasing demand for discussions and love for reading in the society in the 1980s which is supported by O. G. Zelova in her interview, 'Discussions and debates began at the university, interesting topics started being brought up.'

The textbook describes the deficit of books that existed in the soviet society in the 1960-70-s. This is confirmed in the interviews with V. V. Kornilov and O. G. Zelova. According to O. G. Zelova, 'There were queues in libraries; a book you required was hard to find. If a book or a magazine was purchased, it was not kept in a domestic library under lock and key, but it was passed on to neighbors, friends and so on.' Furthermore, O. G. Zelova says, 'Some books were rare – you had to be friends with the librarian to get them. There were queues for some books.'
Danilov's textbook portrays the spread of world literature which is supported by V. V. Kornilov who mentions J. R. R. Tolkien's books as some of his favorite.

It is difficult to either confirm or refute the reputation of the USSR as "the state of the most reading people" mentioned in Danilov's textbook, since, to begin with, there should be a comparison with every other state; secondly, it is nearly impossible to collect such statistics from every state of that time period; and finally, it's just a reputation, so it doesn't have to be true. Nevertheless, according to the interviews with V. V. Kornilov and O. G. Zelova, the citizens of the USSR did in fact read a lot during the Khrushchev Thaw. According to E. E. Urman, 'At the time we were studying, we had, indeed, a library ... There, we were meeting new people, exchanging signs of attention, writing our diplomas, and getting books.' The mere fact that people spend a lot of their time in libraries – a place intended for reading and acquiring books – says a lot.

Interestingly, in his textbook, Danilov claims that a significant part of the published literature in the USSR was socio-political. In her interview, O. G. Zelova emphasizes the significant influence of such literature, although she does not explain whether it comprised a significant part of the published literature. According to O. G. Zelova, 'We were getting in line at night in order to get a talon, and using this talon and, in addition, paying with our own money, we bought books. Additionally, you might have been given an edition of the 26th or the 27th Party Congress.')
Generally, this trend for widespread reading as can be inferred both from the interviews and other sources is diminishing in the 21st century.


For some reason, there is almost no information on the topic in school textbooks. Nevertheless, it is wrong to assume that westerners didn't read widely.

According to the interviews, westerners enjoyed reading as well. Alastair Budd, Jesse Mara, and Andy Stabellini have emphasized their passion for reading. As Jesse Mara says in his interview, 'I drink tea, I make some tea and I just read my books in silence and peace. Nobody's bothering me. I love that.'

That being said, the interviews did in fact indicate that there were some people who did not read. Speaking of his teaching experience in the beginning of the 2000s, Alastair Budd indicates, 'When you know that the vast majority of students in your class come from a family where there's not a single book in the house, it can be very difficult to cultivate the idea that they can improve their life through studying.' This in fact says a lot about the society of the 2000s, however, it is not sufficient to judge the society of the late 20th century.

There were researches on the topic conducted by the Pew Research Center and the Gallup Management consulting company, and summarized by The Atlantic magazine in the following diagrams [4]:
The topic of freedom is discussed in the Sander's book, however, the freedom of literature is only mentioned briefly. Sanders claims that there was a lot of freedom in the western literature. This is confirmed by Jesse Mara in his interview. Answering the question 'Do you remember any censorship in your childhood?', Jesse Mara claims, 'No, not really. When I was a kid growing up - I grew up in Canada, the United States, South America - it was just as free as it could possibly be. Freedom was the way it was. That was life. Life equaled freedom. Freedom equaled life.'

One of the most prominent genres in the west were comics, as indicated in the interviews. According to Andy Stabellini, 'And as well what I would buy if I could were books, comic books, quite a lot as well.'
There were no shortages of books indicated in the interviews, and in the textbooks.


While the ideological censorship in the east was limiting the amount of available literature, people living in the west were enjoying a freedom in the field of reading. Furthermore, while people living in the east were having significant book shortages, those living in the west do not seem to have been having such a problem. Overall, people were reading a lot both in the west and in the east in the second half of the 20th century, however, the amount of people who read a lot is diminishing in the 21st century both in the west and in the east.

Consumer goods


Danilov's textbook indicates that manufactured goods were identical in the 1960s. In his interview, V. V. Kornilov mostly confirms this, but adds a small detail by saying, 'Toys were all identical throughout the state. At that time, the main assortment of manufactured products was the same in all the stores. Yet, there was still some diversity.' This implies that there was indeed a trend for identical products, however it should not be brought to extremes, as some diversity was still present.
Danilov's textbook indicates that in the late 1970s, ordinary goods began disappearing from stocks, especially in small towns and in rural areas. V. V. Kornilov confirms this in his interview, saying, 'A loaf of gray bread cost 12 kopecks. The white one was rare – it was brought to us from another region and cost 44 kopecks each. If you manage to get home with some Shirinsky bread – that's it, you are the hero of your family.'
In his textbook, Danilov claims that in the early 1980s 'the living conditions noticeably improved', however, this cannot be inferred from the interviews. In none of the interviews, did the teachers who lived in the Soviet Union describe any major changes in the early 1980s. This does not disprove the textbook's claim yet, and furthermore, this may be a consequence of the interviewed teachers being too young at that time to remember or simply of them just missing some details in the interviews. Nevertheless, Danilov does not provide much evidence as well (she solely describes the disproportionate growth of the amount of money), and moreover, she even points out some facts that refute her claim ('An acute shortage of services became an integral feature of everyday lives in the 1970s and 1980s'). This implies that the claim that in the early 1980s 'the living conditions noticeably improved' is quite unfounded and is not confirmed by the interviews, so it should be treated with caution.

In his textbook, Danilov mentions that the Perestroika reform was a failure. Truly, the interviews do depict that the reform had a negative impact on the citizens of the USSR. O. G. Zelova says, 'For me, Perestroika is associated with completely empty stocks and crazy shortages.' E. E. Urman says, 'Then Perestroika, [when] everything was gone and we had to search for commodities.'
In his textbook, Danilov writes about barter, which was widely used in Russia in the 1990s. Barter also mentioned by V. V. Kornilov in his interview – 'Since we had our own farm, we always had our own meat, canned food, preparations, bread, eggs, and those products that we managed to get via barter.'


Sander's textbook briefly mentions that generally there was a great amount of diversity in terms of consumer goods in the west in the second half of the 20th century. The interviews do confirm that, but further specify thus brief detail from the textbook. According to the interviews, there was a general trend that the closer it got to the beginning of a new millennia, the more diversity there was in the consumer goods. According to Alastair Budd, 'I was a 1982 child, so the first toys I had when I was very young were the traditional ones that would be made locally – metal toy cars, wooden building blocks, and things like this. But when I started to get a bit older, about the age of eight or ten years old, I started to get the manufactured plastic toys that you would get from the very beginnings of a globalizing world.'

Overall, while there were significant shortages of consumer goods in the east, it was quite opposite in the west, as there was a great diversity of goods. This is largely caused by the ideologies of the Blocs, which is depicted by Soviet failed attempts to reform the state, while sticking to communism.

Film industry:


Interestingly, Danilov's textbook illustrates the emergence of a diverse domestic film industry (movies about the spiritual world and the contemporary civil thought; the first domestic television series; intellectual (auteur) cinema). At the same time, in his interview, V. V. Kornilov says, '[In the cinema, we] watched Indian movies about love. "Dance Dance", "Disco Dancer", "Dushman" and many, many others. Movies featuring Mithun Chakraborty.' Overall, these sources complement, rather than contradict each other, acknowledging that the textbook illustrates the life in Moscow, while V. V. Kornilov lived in a village in Krasnoyarsk Krai.

As briefly mentioned in the Sander's book, the USA had a well-developed film industry with Hollywood movies being prominent worldwide. This is strongly confirmed in the interviews. Alastair Budd who lived in the UK in his early years says, 'We had American movies in terms of global cultural connections, and there were regular American characters – in fact, most of the same ones that you like today with Marvel and DC superheroes.'

As indicated in the interviews and textbooks, there were domestic film industries established both in the west and in the east. Nevertheless, it can be reasonably inferred that while the American film industry became popular worldwide, reaching the UK, for example, the Soviet film industry did not gain such a widespread prominence outside the USSR. Furthermore, even within the USSR children were often watching Indian movies in the cinemas.

Political climate


The textbook mentions the wary and critical attitude of citizens towards the existing regime - this is reflected in the quotes of her father that O. G. Zelova provides in her interview.

In his textbook, Danilov writes that by the beginning of the 1980s, everyday lives of the ordinary people were noticeably at odds with ideological beliefs. Interestingly, O. G. Zelova who was born in the 1960s says, 'I don't recall our generation being bothered by the ideology.' This implies that the origins of what the textbook is describing started emerging long before the 1980s. Answering the question of whether the political ideology influenced her everyday life, Madlena Shaginyan says, «No, it didn't. I have always had my own opinion on what was going on and I lived in harmony… I didn't care. I was not interested. I somehow avoided it…»

The Sander's book describes the assassination of Martin Luther King, and Mr Kvietok emphasizes the significance of this event. According to Mr. Kvietok, 'we had to learn to question the status quo'.
In the Barron's AP US History textbook, the significance of the 9/11 is emphasized. Every single interview confirms that, as every interviewee has expressed his or her awareness and worry over the event and its consequences.

Overall, the textbooks and the interviews depict that the second half of the 20th century saw the emergence of greater critical thinking amongst populations of both the east and the west. It is never safe to deal in absolutes, but generally more people started questioning authorities than ever before.

Social life


Danilov's textbook illustrates that before the process of resettlement into communal apartments in the 1970s and 1980s, the khrushchyovka yard was the main space for communication, which is confirmed by O. G. Zelova in her interview, 'There was a cue sports table in our yard. The males were playing billiards.'
Interestingly, even though Danilov claims that, up until the end of the 1980s, the relations between the government and the Church were tense, some Christian holidays were nevertheless celebrated. For example, O.G. Zelova mentions the celebrations of Maslenitsa.

In his textbook, Danilov emphasizes that, in the 1990s, many people had gained the feeling of insecurity, and that the confidence about the future had disappeared. This is confirmed by the interviews with V. V. Kornilov, S. N. Kolyakina, O. G. Zelova, and E. V. Gvozdev. This period of time specifically was well remembered by the interviewed teachers who lived in Russia at that time. V.V. Kornilov says, 'It was scary [to live] in a hostel. Doors were knocked out every night. Violence, robbery'; 'In the nineties, you could only rely on yourself and your own legs – nothing else. A lot of the people I knew died, sometimes by accident.' Although, E.E. Urman says: 'We did not feel any danger at all,' she still recalls an incident when she was robbed in the street by a person who took her child as a hostage. E. V. Gvozdev says, 'At that time, many [people] were threatened – [especially,] small businesses, and medium ones'. E. V. Gvozdev also describes how 'downright criminals' threatened his own parents who had their own business. Furthermore, E. V. Gvozdev says that there were 'endless contract murders.'


In his book, Vivienne Sanders portrays the hippie generation of the mid-1960-s who expressed themselves through living an alternative lifestyle. This is supported by Mr. Kvietok's comments in his interview, 'I kinda grew up in the hippie generation. Long hair and so on. My closest friends and I decided to go to graduation barefoot, just as kind of a sign of the alternate lifestyle.' As Mr. Kvietok says, 'I'm a child of the sixties. That's a period of time when we, Americans, awoke to the fact that we had to learn to question the status quo.'
Sander's book mentions the Woodstock rock festival as one of the main events of American expression of alternative lifestyle which is emphasized by Mr. Kvietok as well, 'we celebrated things like the Woodstock concert; the explosion of rock music.'


The textbooks and the interviews depict that social lives in the east and in the west differed significantly. In the west, the social life was centered around self-expression which was depicted by social movements, such as the hippie movement. At the same time, there was no such trend in the east. In the 1960-1980s people tried to live their normal lives, felt safe and secure, and communicated freely with each other, which is contrasted to 1990s when people were struggling to survive. Social lives of the east and the west are truly difficult to compare, as they were drastically different



Danilov's textbook portrays the development of the 'large-scale sports, which was associated with the upbringing of a healthy generation, prepared to work for the good of the state and protect it.' According to Danilov, 'Sports achievements were becoming an increasingly vital component of the state's international prestige.' This is strongly supported by O. G. Zelova in her interview who says, 'Not being sporty was unfashionable. Sports was a prerequisite for the formation of a personality at that time."


Sport is discussed very in-depth in Sander's book – this textbook has an entire chapter dedicated to sports. Sanders claims that sports was extremely significant in the USA during the Cold War, and the sportsmen from the two superpowers of that era (the USA and the USSR) were constantly competing with each other. The interviews in fact almost fail to cover the topic at all, however, the information that is given, supplements the information from the textbook. As Alastair Budd briefly mentions, 'Very often having heroes is associated with liking sports …'

Overall, it can be reasonably inferred that sports was extremely significant both in the east and in the west. One of the reasons for this is that sports was a common tool for the two Blocs to compete with each other.


The Russian history textbook reflects many of the aspects mentioned in the interviews, and outlines the general image of how people lived in those periods of time, however, only in general terms. Some statements are quite unfounded (for example, that people's lives improved noticeably in the early 80s), and some details of everyday lives were not covered (for example, how schools ran or how celebrations were occurring). Obviously, a school history program is not designed to tell everything about the past, otherwise the students would simply be going crazy, studying the exact details of people's lives. In general, the textbook manages to cope with its task quite competently, although not flawlessly.
Regarding the American textbooks, for some reason, there was not much data covered in the interviews that was reflected in those textbooks. The American textbooks tend to describe the natures of the societies of those times, but miss out on what the people's daily lives were like. This is actually a significant outcome to consider – as it reflects the way school history programs are designed in the USA. Judging from our outcomes, daily lives of ordinary people should be discussed more in the USA curriculums, as they are lacking such data at the moment.
Overall, student's books illustrate general images of how people lived at different time periods. Nevertheless, school history is mostly focused on politics and wars, and does not generally pay close attention to how ordinary people lived. This is especially noticeable in the American textbooks where there is little attention paid to the everyday lives of the people. Furthermore, school history mostly covers how people lived in capital cities rather than at peripheries (E.g. Russian student's books mostly discuss the life in Moscow, rather than in any other cities which were and still are drastically different). Finally, there are occasional generalizations that lack solid argumentation in school student's books. Thus, student's books are more or less accurate, but mostly not wholesome which is a significant thing to consider, if we want to improve our society and the school history programs.

If we are to compare the lives of people in the Eastern and the Western Blocs, we can reasonably infer that the main differences arose because of the differences in the organization of the states, rather than because of the differences in the nationality. While the social lives, the amount of available consumer goods, the censorship, and the film industries, meaning the institutions dependent on the government, were different, the love for reading, the development of the critical thinking, and the love for sports (although, this one was also partially influenced by the government), meaning the traits of human beings as a whole, were all common to all the people. This means that no matter what state we were born in and no matter when, all of us are human beings and all of us share a lot in common, meaning that we should all be open-minded and friendly to each other, rather than hostile and cruel.

1) Danilov, A. A., A. I. Utkin, and Aleksandr Filippov. Istorii︠a︡ Rossii, 1945-2008: 11 Klass, Uchebnik dli︠a︡ ucháshchikhsi︠a︡ obshcheobrázovátelʹnykh uchrezhdeniĭ s Vkladyshem. Moskva: Prosveshchenie, 2008.

2) Sanders, Vivienne. Politics, Presidency and Society in the USA, 1968-2001. London: Hodder Education, 2013.

3) Kellogg, William O., and William O. Kellogg. Barron's AP United States History. Hauppauge, NY: Barron's Educational Series, 2008.

4) Weissmann, Jordan. "The Decline of the American Book Lover." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, May 26, 2018.
The first thoughts that "The Living Chronicles" brings about are, undoubtedly, of how incredible the people who work in our school are, and of what the uniqueness of the ways that led them here. None of the stories are identical. Each one is unique, and each one is enthralling in its own way. This, in turn, demonstrated a simple, but an incredibly significant idea — despite the fact that from the very childhood, we are being told to go along a standard way of life: the school – the college – the career – the calm death in retirement, a great number of people follow their own unique life-paths which do often include complicated turns and twists, but nevertheless, these people eventually achieve success.

Some of the teachers we spoke to came into the profession completely by accident, and some would not even believe it if they were told in childhood that they would become teachers. This shows how unpredictable and full of surprises life can be. A trifle that seems to not matter at first glance can radically change the course of your life and determine your entire future career. In this way, the stories of our teachers make it clear that it is not necessary to adhere to a strict life plan in order to succeed, and that finding yourself is normal.

Last (but not least) what this project taught us is how much you can learn about a person and life in general just by asking. One of our teachers worked as a bouncer in a nightclub, someone used to live in Egypt, someone dreamed of becoming a teacher since childhood, and someone wanted to become a lawyer. Each person is unique, each story is interesting and delightful, and all this is just a step away — you just need to ask.