COVID-19: Essential Information

Rebecca Mitchell

Associate Professor of History

 work(802) 443-3292
 Fall 2021: Thursday 3:00-4:30pm, Friday 9:00-10:00am, and by appointment.
 Axinn Center 239

Rebecca Mitchell joined the faculty at Middlebury College in January 2016. She studied both music (piano performance) and Russian language and culture at the University of Saskatchewan (B.Mus.), Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University (M.Mus.), and Carleton University (M.A.), before devoting her life to the exploration of Russian/Soviet history. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2011. A native of northeastern Saskatchewan (Canada), her research interests have taken her throughout Europe, the UK, Russia and Georgia. She teaches a wide range of courses on the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, Marx and Marxism, and the intersections between music and power in history. Her first book, Nietzsche’s Orphans: Music, Metaphysics and the Twilight of the Russian Empire (Yale University Press, 2015), examines the interrelationship between imperial identity, nationalist tensions, philosophical ideals, and musical life in the final years of the Russian Empire (1905-1917). It received the 2016 W. Bruce Lincoln Book Prize by the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES), awarded biannually “for an author’s first published monograph or scholarly synthesis that is of exceptional merit and lasting significance for the understanding of Russia’s past.” She has received research funding from numerous sources, including the Paul Sacher Stiftung, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies, and the University of Illinois Department of History.



Nietzsche’s Orphans: Music, Metaphysics and the Twilight of the Russian Empire, 1905-1917 (Yale University Press, January 2016). Awarded 2016 W. Bruce Lincoln Book Prize by the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES)

Articles/Book Chapters:

“‘Musical Metaphysics’ in Late Imperial Russia,” in The Oxford Handbook of Russian Religious Thought, ed. Randall Poole, Caryl Emerson, George Pattison (Oxford University Press, 2020): 379-395.

“V poiskakh orfeiia: muzyka i irratsionalizm v predrevoliutsionnoi Rossii (1905-1917),” [“In Search of Orpheus: Music and Irrationality in late imperial Russia, 1905-1917,”] in Irratsional’noe v russkoi kul’ture [The Irrational in Russian Culture], ed. Julia Mannherz, (Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2020): 160-192.

“In Search of Russia: Sergei Rakhmaninov and the Politics of Musical Memory after 1917,” in Slavonic and East European Review 97: 1 (January 2019): 136-168.

“Leonid Sabaneev’s Apocalypse and Musical Metaphysics after 1917,” in Transcending the Borders of Countries, Languages and Disciplines in Russian Émigré Culture, ed. Christoph Flamm, Roland Marti and Ada Raev (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2018), 231-246.

“Music and Russian Identity in War and Revolution, 1914-1922.” The Cultural History of Russia in the Great War and Revolution, 1914-1922, ed. Murray Frame, Boris Kolonitskii, Steven Marks and Melissa Stockdale (Slavica Publishers, 2014), 221-243.

“How Russian was Wagner? Russian Campaigns to Defend or Destroy the German Composer during the Great War (1914-1917),” in Wagner in Russia, Poland and the Czech Lands – Musical, Literary, and Cultural Perspectives, ed. Anastasia Belina-Johnson and Stephen Muir (Ashgate, 2013), 51-71.

Recent Papers and Invited Talks:

“Old Believer Chant Meets Modernity”. Presented at ASEEES (San Francisco, CA), Nov. 2019.

“Baptized Tatars” in Orthodox Russia: Conversion, Identity, and Song.” Presented at Asia in the Russian Imagination Conference. University of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT), March 2018; ASEEES (Boston, MA), Dec. 2018

“Finding ‘True’ Russian Orthodox Chant: Stepan Smolenskii and the Imperial Basis of a National Tradition.” Presented at ASEEES (Chicago, IL), Nov. 2017.

“The Death of the Messiah: Aleksandr Scriabin and the Fate of Russia.” Oxford University (Oxford, UK), October 2017.

“Russian Music in the Twilight of Empire,” Oxford Lieder Festival, Oxford University (Oxford, UK), October 2017.



Course List: 

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

FYSE 1482 - Marx and Marxism      

Marx and Marxism
Is Marxism still relevant in a world that has witnessed the collapse of most self-declared Marxist states? To address this question, we will explore the development of central Marxist concepts (including class struggle, alienation, revolution) both in Marx’s own words and in the writings and actions of those he inspired. Central to our inquiry will be consideration of the historical relationship between Marxist theory and practice (in a range of geographic and cultural contexts) and the adaptation of Marxist ideas for cultural and political critiques in the West. 3 hrs. sem. CMP CW HIS

Fall 2020

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HIST 0247 - Tsars, Tsarinas, & Terrorists      

Russia: Tsars, Tsarinas, and Terrorists
In this course we will follow Russia’s development, expansion and transformation from its earliest beginnings to the revolutionary cataclysms of the early 20th century. How and why did Russia come to dominate a vast Eurasian space? How did Russia’s Tsars and Tsarinas exert control over diverse cultures, languages, religions and peoples? What impact did this have on the lives of their subjects? How was Russian identity defined within the context of a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional empire? Central themes will include political governance, imperial expansion, ethnic relations, religious identity, social upheaval, and the emergence of the radical intelligentsia. Pre-1800 3 hrs lect./disc. AAL CMP HIS

Spring 2019, Fall 2021

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HIST 0248 - The Soviet Experiment      

The Soviet Experiment
In this course we will explore the Soviet attempt to forge a fundamentally new form of human life. Starting with the revolutionary movement of the early 20th century, we will examine the development and ultimate downfall of the USSR. What was Soviet communism (both in idea and in practice)? How did its implementation and development transform local identities (religious, ethnic/national, social)? How did internal and external factors (political, social, economic) transform Soviet policy and life? Was the collapse of the USSR inevitable? Special attention will be paid both to political leaders and ordinary people (believers, collaborators, victims, dissidents, outcasts). 3 hrs lect./disc. AAL CMP EUR HIS

Spring 2018, Spring 2021

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HIST 0307 - Music, Power, Resistance      

Music, Power, and Resistance in World History
This class examines the conflicting relationship between music, power and resistance in world history. Beginning with ancient Greece, we will discuss the relationship between music and power in a wide range of cultural and historical contexts, including music’s relation to religious power (Christianity, Judaism, Islam), political power (China, Europe, North and South America, Africa), and social power (gender, ethnicity, class). Questions of state censorship, propaganda and musical expressions of dissent will be highlighted, as well as the interconnection between aesthetic choices, social status and political views. Musical sources will range from classical to popular forms. No prior musical training required. (formally HIST 0116) 3 hrs sem. ART CMP HIS

Spring 2021

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HIST 0313 - Revolutionary Russia      

Revolutionary Russia
The Russian Revolution was a continuum of violence that, through years of civil war and political, social and cultural revolutions, sought to transform the basis of human existence and usher in a utopian future, imposing “Marxist” values upon diverse local cultures and contexts. We will examine the rise and fall of revolutionary sentiment from late-imperial terrorism through the establishment of Stalin’s dictatorship. Through analysis of primary and secondary sources, students will assess both the manifold ambitions of the revolutionary years and how memory of 1917 has been used to justify, critique and at times repossess aspects of Russian/Soviet history. 3 hrs sem. CMP EUR HIS

Fall 2017

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HIST 0316 - Stalinism      

In this course we will explore the formation and functioning of Joseph Stalin’s dictatorial regime in the USSR, as well as historical debates on its structure and significance. What was Stalinism as a political, economic and cultural system? What role did coercion (both physical and psychological) play in establishing and maintaining the system? How did ordinary citizens navigate, adapt, survive or even prosper within this repressive state? Was Stalinism a corruption of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution or its natural outcome? What are the continuing legacies of Stalinism today, both in the former Soviet Union and in world politics? 3 hrs. sem. EUR HIS

Spring 2019

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HIST 0320 - Soviet Science      

Soviet Science from Sputnik to Chernobyl
In 1957, the USSR launched the world’s first artificial satellite. Just four years later, Yuri Gagarin was the first human to orbit Earth. Yet by the 1980s, Soviet development had fostered environmental devastation, a crisis made manifest with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. In this course we will explore the Soviet state’s fascination with science as a means through which to build a utopian future. How did science and technology interact with state power? How was science implicated in Cold War tensions? How did Soviet “atomic culture” affect ordinary citizens? (Counts for HSMT credit) 3 hrs. sem. EUR HIS

Fall 2021

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HIST 0432 - Russia's Imperial Borderlands      

Russia’s Imperial Borderlands
In this course we will explore the complex fabric of Russia’s multi-ethnic borderlands in the 19th and 20th centuries. How did shifting relations with Russia and other imperial systems shape local identities? How and when did nationalist sentiment emerge in these regions, and how did the imperial center(s) respond? How did shifting borders affect identity formation? Did the creation of the Soviet Union mark the end of empire or its transformation into new forms? Regions to be discussed include Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Georgia, the Baltic countries, and the Central Asian states. 3hrs lect/disc. AAL CMP HIS NOA

Spring 2018, Fall 2020

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HIST 0500 - Special Research Projects      

Special research projects may only be taken during the Junior or Senior year, preferable after taking HIST 0600. Approval of department chair and project advisor is required.

Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022

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HIST 0600 - History Research Seminar      

Writing History
In this course students discuss historical methods and writing strategies to create convincing historical narratives. With the approval and guidance of the professor, students complete a 20-25-page research paper based on primary and secondary sources. Students take this course in the fall of their junior year or with permission in the spring. If students are away for the entire junior year, they can take the course in the fall of their senior year. 3 hr. sem.

Fall 2017

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HIST 0700 - Senior Independent Study      

Senior Independent Study
The optional History Senior Thesis is written over two terms, with the final grade applying to both terms. Approval is required. Students submit thesis proposals in the spring before the year that they choose to write their thesis. Students generally begin their thesis in the fall and complete it during winter or spring. Approval is required to begin the thesis in winter or spring. All students must attend the Thesis Writer's Workshops in fall and winter semesters and work with a faculty advisor to complete a 55-70 page paper. Please see detailed guidelines under history requirements.

Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022

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HIST 0701 - Senior Independent Study      

Senior Independent Study
With departmental approval, senior history majors may write a two-term thesis under an advisor in the area of their choosing. The final grade is applied to both terms. Students must submit thesis proposals in the spring before the academic year that they choose to write their thesis. They must attend the Thesis Writers' Workshops held in the fall and winter of the academic year in which they begin the thesis. The department encourages students to write theses during the fall (0700) and winter terms (0701), but with the permission of the chair, fall/spring and winter/spring theses are also acceptable. Under exceptional circumstances, the department may approve a thesis initiated in the spring of an academic year and finished in the fall of the following year. Further information about the thesis is available from the department.

Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022

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IGST 0701 - REES Senior Thesis      

Russian and East European Studies Senior Thesis
(Approval Required)

Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Winter 2021, Winter 2022

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Department of History

Axinn Center at Starr Library
15 Old Chapel Road
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753


Axinn Center at Starr Library
15 Old Chapel Road
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753