Collective Knowledge of Public Events: The Soviet Era from the Great Purge to Glasnost (Statistical Data Included)

We explore the knowledge of a probability sample of Russians in 1994 about nine events that occurred within the past 60 years. We consider three competing hypotheses about how knowledge relates to age: (1) adolescence and early adulthood constitute a critical age for acquiring knowledge of public events; (2) the unique content of an event creates age relations; (3) the primary influence on knowledge is a period effect. We also hypothesize that “years of education” has two different meanings in relation to knowledge: one about socialization that promotes state-approved images of the past, and the other about development of a cognitive sophistication that challenges such images. Partial support for each hypothesis is reported. The relation of collective knowledge to collective memory is also considered.