Coronavirus panic as an immersive history lesson on life in the USSR

Class, please pay attention as our immersive history lesson continues.  The month of April is designed to teach how everyday life was in the old Soviet Union. 

Consumer Goods Shortages

In the Soviet era, central planners had to continually balance national security and consumer demand for goods and manufacturing output.  National security always won out, resulting in chronic food and consumer goods shortages across the communist bloc. 

These shortages will be simulated by inadequate supply of chosen items, such as toilet paper, surgical gloves, and masks.  Assigned homework will consist of standing in long lines for such items and wandering various stores on the off chance that unexpected supplies of them are put out for sale.  Bonus points will be awarded for hoarding, panic buying, and black-market commerce.

Restricted Movement

Travel within the Soviet Union was tightly controlled.  Movement beyond normal daily commuting needed to be for a valid reason, which was approved by the government. 

This immersive lesson will require you to stay in your home and refrain from interaction with other human beings unless for the purpose of securing food, or for travel to essential occupations.  Travel across state lines may be prohibited at any time, without warning.


The flow of information within the Soviet Union was severely restricted.  Government-controlled media routinely lied to manipulate the population in the Soviet state. 

Fortunately, a similar state of affairs already exists across a broad swath of our current news media, so this will be a familiar part of the lesson for most participants.  Extra credit will be awarded for a poster presentation, which may cover prominent features of this part of the lesson.  Suggested topics include notable falsehoods, rude behavior by journalists, or hysterical unfounded predictions.  Neatness counts.

Party Privilege

In the Soviet Union, high party officials routinely had access to better homes, medical care, and consumer goods than the bulk of the population.  This was in spite of the stated egalitarian precepts of the socialist state.

For the purposes of this lesson, position within the party hierarchy will be simulated by celebrity status, either in the entertainment or in the social media realm.  Celebrities will be granted greater and quicker access to medical testing and care.  In addition, the condition and emotional state of celebrities will receive attention greatly out of proportion to their actual importance to society.

Economic Collapse

Due to central planning, the Soviet economy consistently failed to grow as fast as the planners decreed.  This situation was typically papered over with make-work jobs and pointless projects.

The global economy has conveniently contracted because of the current crisis, temporarily creating an analogue to the Soviet economy.  Please note the effect on your 401(k) and other investments.  Extra credit will be awarded if you lose your job or small business.

Big Brother

The Soviet Union, and other socialist states invested heavily in surveilling the populace.  Citizens were encouraged to inform upon each other.

You will be graded on how often you inform on fellow class participants for violations such as touching their faces, standing within six feet, attending gatherings of more than three people, hoarding short-supply items, or voicing any optimism whatsoever.

Final exam is scheduled for November 3.