Rebecca Mitchell

Assistant Professor of History

 work(802) 443-3292
 Spring 2018: Tuesdays and Thursdays 3:00 - 4:15 pm, or by appointment
 Axinn Center at Starr Library 239

Rebecca Mitchell joined the faculty at Middlebury College in January 2016. She studied both music 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 herself to the exploration of Russian 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, and Russia. She teaches a wide range of courses on the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, comparative Communism, 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, 2016), examines the interrelationship between imperial identity, nationalist tensions, philosophical ideals, and musical life in the final years of the Russian Empire (1905-1917).  She has received research funding from numerous sources, including the 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).

“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.

“In Search of Orpheus: Music and Irrationality in late imperial Russia, 1905-1917.” Forthcoming in Irratsional’noe v russkoi istorii [The Irrational in Russian History], ed. Julia Mannherz (Germanskii istoricheskii institut v Moskve, 2016).

Recent Papers and Invited Talks:

“Embracing Melancholy: Rachmaninoff, ‘Russianness’ and the Politics of Musical Identity after 1917”. Presented at the Royal Music Association Conference (Birmingham, UK), Sept. 2015.

"Nietzsche's Orphans: Musical Metaphysics in the Age of Russian Nationalism (1905-1917)". Invited talk at the Aleksandr Brückner Institute (Halle, Germany), October 2015.

“Leonid Sabaneev’s Apocalypse and Musical Metaphysics after 1917”. Presented at the conference “Russian Émigré Culture: Transcending the Borders of Countries, Languages, and Disciplines” (Saarbrücken, Germany), November 2015.

“‘Shostakovich and the Jews?’: Music, Memory and Soviet Jewish Identity after World War II”. Presented at the Jewish Studies Association (Boston), December 2015.



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 2016

More Information »

HIST 0116 - Music, Power, Resistance      

Music, Power, and Resistance in World History
In this course we will examine 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. 3 hrs. lect./disc. ART CMP HIS

Spring 2017

More Information »

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. 3 hrs lect./disc. AAL CMP HIS

Fall 2016

More Information »

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 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018

More Information »

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

More Information »

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 2016, Spring 2018

More Information »

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 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019

More Information »

HIST 0600 - History Research Seminar      

History Research Seminar
All history majors who have not taken a writing and research seminar are required to take HIST 0600 in their junior fall or, if abroad at that time, their senior fall semester. In this course, students will conceive, research, and write a work of history based on primary source material to the degree possible. After reading and discussion on historical methods and research strategies, students will pursue a paper topic as approved by the course professors. HIST 0600 is also open to International Studies and Environmental Studies majors with a disciplinary focus in history. 3 hr. sem

Fall 2017

More Information »

HIST 0700 - Senior Independent Study      

The History Senior Thesis is required of all majors. It is written over two terms, with the final grade applying to both terms. The project is generally begun in the fall and completed during winter or spring. Approval is required to begin the thesis in winter or spring, and such students must still attend the Thesis Writer's Workshops that take place in fall and winter.

Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019

More Information »

IGST 0701 - REES Senior Thesis      

Russian and East European Studies Senior Thesis
(Approval Required)

Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Spring 2019

More Information »

Department of History

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


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