Cold War Leader Prosecuted, Again

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Sophia Bartolo, Staff Writer

Molly Kerr’s AP Euro classes put Joseph Stalin on trial for the persecution of his Soviet Union citizens and his role in increasing international tensions during his rule. The mock court was conducted from April 7 to April 10, a bit late, considering that Stalin ruled the USSR from 1922 until his death in 1953.

Nevertheless, Kerr has continued to have her students put the Cold War figure on the stand. “[I’ve been doing the Stalin trials] as long as I’ve been teaching Euro,” explained Kerr.

Sophomore Matthew LoPresti, who played a defense attorney for Stalin, researched “specific actions such as the Truman Doctrine and things like that that could prove Stalin wasn’t necessarily the sole cause of the Cold War,” he explained.

The activity is an opportunity for students to explore, in depth, this particular period in European history. “There’s a lot of research you have to look up, like background, then you have to go in the textbook and research arguments against why Stalin is good or why he is bad,” explained sophomore Matthew Ringquist, who portrayed Stalin.

While the trial itself only lasted a few days, the research process started a week before spring break, giving students just over two weeks to prepare for the Trials.  For many, it was a significant work load.

“[The trials are] definitely very difficult, especially if you have other activities [in other classes] going on and other projects. But you get into it and you start working and get used to [the trials],” explained LoPresti.

“I had to figure out what made me, Stalin, contribute to the Soviet Union and why I should not be convicted,” said Ringquist of his role as the defendant.

LoPresti said, “Of course I’m glad [we have the Stalin trials]. It definitely shows you a different side you may not have explored. If you’re living in the U.S, you definitely have a different perspective of the Cold War and the Soviet Union and communism in general.”

“Trials are very cool and they help you understand subjects a lot more,” said Ringquist.

In addition to Stalin, other famous contemporary historical figures were also portrayed by various students, with the remainder of students working as lawyers for the prosecution or the defense.

“I was going for Hitler because he’s obviously the most well known individual,” LoPresti said. “I thought that would be really interesting to see his motives and learn more about him. But, being an attorney gives me the same type of overview of the entire situation.”

The project allows students to see both sides of the issue.

“It’s really nice to see the other perspective other people were working on,” said LoPresti.

“I think [the trials] are a really engaging way to assess the pros and cons of [Stalin’s] leadership. I also think that we tend to, as Americans, assume all communist leaders are 100% bad. And the reality is that it’s a lot more nuance than that,” explained Kerr.