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Themes

There seems to be a chronic shortage of good people for Sasha to admire or use as role models in Breaking Stalin's Nose. His two main heroes are his dad and Joseph Stalin. It takes him a long time to get over his fanboy worship of Stalin, and along the way he starts to question everyone that he initially admired: his dad, Nina Petrovna, and the school's principal, Sergei Ivanych. That's because admiration in the novel comes as blind ideology (basically, what you've been taught to believe) rather than any individual judgment of people's good qualities. Questioning this and seeing how his own dad falls short is a hard lesson to learn, but Sasha starts to get it by the end of the book.

Questions About Admiration

  1. Sasha holds his dad up as a major hero. But are there any real heroes in the book? Who are they and why are they heroes?
  2. What do you think Sasha admires about Sergei Ivanych? What's the significance of Sasha being so surprised by the principal's short stature late in the book (27.1)?
  3. Nina Petrovna comes across as a thoroughly unpleasant human being, who really revels in being cruel to children. Does she have any redeeming admirable traits in her?
  4. In what ways is Sasha admirable? Where do we see him doing things that are to be commended? Where do we see him falter?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

There are no true heroes in his book. Everyone is just out for themselves and trying to survive, which is basically the opposite of "heroic."

Out of all the book's characters, Vovka and Finkelstein come closest to being heroes, since they both put themselves in clear danger for the good of others.

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