carThe world is full of goods, things that people can buy or share. Throughout the world, different people have different ideas of how to distribute, or give out, goods. In the United States, goods are usually distributed by price, meaning that people can buy them if they can afford them. For example, if a person in the United States would like a new car, they would have to save their money and buy a car that they could afford.

flagOther countries in the world use other methods of distribution, or ways of sharing the goods. In this activity, you are going to use different methods of distribution. The following is the list of methods of distribution used in the Soviet Union which your teacher just described to you:

  • Command - people in charge decide who is allowed to buy the car
  • Majority rule - if there was one car available the workers would vote for who should be able to buy the car
  • Contests - whoever collects the most coal in a mine, for example, would be allowed to buy a car
  • Force - similar to command, people were told who could or who couldn't buy a car
  • First-come/first-served - people put their names on a waiting-list to buy a car
  • Sharing equally - everyone gets equal shares
  • Lottery - a name is chosen randomly
  • Personal characteristics - some people were more likely to receive goods than others based on personal characteristics such as being a veteran of war or having a physical disability
  • Other methods: personal gain - a manager may keep the car for himself or sell it to a friend
  • Price - the above methods were used to determine who was eligible to purchase a car, it was still the responsibility of the buyer to pay for it. Therefore, if the consumer could not afford the car, he or she could not buy it.


 Activity 1

  1. Explore this website with images of workers in the Soviet Union . As you explore, list at least ten adjectives (describing words) which describe how it would feel to work in a factory in the USSR.
  2. Then, go to the National Geographic Xpeditions website to see a map of the region where Osh is located. You will be looking at this map in-depth later in the lesson.
  3. Take a look at the picture of the car that one worker in a factory will be allowed to buy.
  4. When your teacher tells you to, return to your assigned group.

Group Taskscar instructions

Take turns describing your characters to your small group. As a group and using your assigned method of distribution, decide which person should be allowed to buy the car. After all of the groups have decided, you will discuss the following questions as a whole class. Take a few minutes to discuss them in your small group before you share as a class:

  1. What method of distribution seemed most fair?
  2. Who do you think deserved to have the car?
  3. How do you think having a car would affect each of their lives?
  4. What other methods of distribution do you think would be better?
  5. Which method of distribution would best help each of the workers? Why?
  6. Did seeing the size of the car influence your decision?


  1. How would you fare if buying a car in the Soviet Union? What method of distribution would work best for you? Why?
  2. How would not having a car affect your life? What changes would you need to make?
  3. Not everyone was honest when trying to buy a car in the Soviet Union. Do you think you would "play fair" when attempting to buy a car there?


Using the National Geographic map of Kyrgyzstan , determine how much you would spend on gasoline visiting the following cities:

  • Osh to Kyzyl-Kyya
  • Osh to Ozgon
  • Osh to Bishkek
  • Osh to Karakol
  • Osh to Suluktu

This activity is based on economic information from the 1980s. The car drives 30 miles to the gallon and gasoline which costs 60 kopecks per gallon. There are 100 kopecks to the ruble and one ruble is approximately equal to one dollar.