Daughter of Joseph Stalin Primary Source Activities | World History



This engaging primary source activity will teach your students about the Stalinist Era under Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union, the Great Purge, and the Gulag System. It will all be from the perspective of his daughter. It’s a great resource for every World History class!

This activity includes primary source reading excerpts from Svetlana Alliluyeva, memoir: Twenty Letters to a Friend. Svetlana Alliluyeva was the daughter of Joseph Stalin. After the death of her father, she moved to the United States which was a major public relations victory for the U.S. during the Cold War.

For this primary source activity, students will first be given some background information on Joseph Stalin and life in the U.S.S.R. during his rule and some background information Svetlana. Students then will read some primary sources from Stalin’s daughter.

This activity is relevant to geopolitical events in the 21st century.

There is ZERO prep needed. Just print or load the activity to your Learning Management System (LMS). The activity includes a PDF and Google Docs.

Choose the version that works best for your class!

Materials include

  1. Background information on Joseph Stalin and the Stalinist Era and on his daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva
  2. Three primary sources from Svetlana’s memoir: Twenty Letters to a Friend
  3. Three pages of questions for the three primary sources

The first excerpt is about Stalin imprisoning and executing potential political enemies. Students can get a closer look at the mindset of Stalin at that time. The second excerpt is in relation to the Gulag System. It tells the story of Stalin putting Svetlana’s first boyfriend in a Siberian gulag. The last one is on the death of Stalin. It shows how the people around him really loved him. These excerpts Stalin from different perspectives.

How to use this activity

There are many ways to use this activity. You can use it as an in-class activity or give it to students for homework. You can do one, two, or all three primary sources depending on how much time you want to spend on Russian history. If you do this activity in class, you can read the primary sources together or put the students into groups, then answer the questions that follow.

Students will be able to…

  • Have an understanding of Joseph Stalin
  • Think like a historian
  • Read, comprehend, and analyze primary sources
  • Improve vocabulary


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