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Exploration and Discovery

Leah Goldman

Visiting Assistant Professor

Miller Hall


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I am a Lecturer in the Core Curriculum at Lewis & Clark College and Visiting Scholar in History at Reed College. I earned my PhD in Russian and European History from the University of Chicago in 2015, and my dissertation won the ASEEES Tucker/Cohen Prize for Outstanding Dissertation in Soviet or Post-Soviet Politics and History in 2016. I have also been awarded a Mellon-Council for European Studies Dissertation Completion Fellowship and a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Grant, among other awards.

As a cultural historian, I investigate the interplay of cultural production and state authority in the Soviet Union through the lens of classical music. My current book manuscript, Creative Comrades: Censorship and Collaboration in Late-Stalinist Music, examines Soviet classical music censorship during the late-Stalinist repression of the intelligentsia. My research demonstrates the uniquely collaborative nature of authorship and censorship in Soviet music in this era, while reforming our conceptualization of censorship itself within and beyond the Soviet context.

I have presented my research at a variety of national and international conferences, and I have published articles in Journal of Musicology, Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas, and Perspectives on Europe. In collaboration with a group of Chicago-based scholars, I co-curated an exhibit of Soviet children’s literature at the University of Chicago’s Regenstein Library Special Collections Research Center and contributed to the published catalog, Adventures in the Soviet Imaginary: Children’s Books and Graphic Art. As an interdisciplinary scholar, I have brought together historians, musicologists, and other scholars of culture as co-founder and president of the Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian Music Study Group. I am also a member of the public history network Women Also Know History.


Russian and Soviet History, European history, social and cultural history


Exploration & Discovery I: Speaking Up, Speaking Out, Speaking Together, Fall 2018

Exploration & Discovery II: Stalinism Through Media, Spring 2019

Professional Experience

Lecturer in the Core Curriculum, Lewis & Clark College, 2018-2019

Visiting Scholar in History, Reed College, 2018-2019

Visiting Assistant Professor in European History and Humanities, Reed College, 2016-2018

Lecturer in Modern European History, Northern Arizona University, 2015-2016

Fellow (Visiting Scholar), Center for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill, 2014-2017

Instructor in History, Department of Liberal Arts, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 2012-2014


I am a cultural historian of the Soviet Union. My research investigates the interplay of cultural production, socialist aesthetics, and state authority in the Stalinist and post-Stalinist eras. As an interdisciplinary scholar, I employ both historical and musicological methodologies to investigate how the creation and censorship of classical music in the Soviet Union provides insight into the broader politics of culture and power in the Soviet context and beyond.

My current book manuscript, Creative Comrades: Censorship and Collaboration in Late-Stalinist Music, examines classical music censorship during the late-Stalinist repression of the Intelligentsia. I argue that in the absence of clearly defined aesthetic standards and the presence of high-stakes consequences for transgression, Soviet composers resorted to collective professional self-censorship, which proved far more effective at controlling their creative production than the state could have achieved alone. My research rejects the standard state-vs.-artist paradigm and generates new insight by introducing a more complex framework for understanding Soviet music censorship and authorship as collaborative processes. Socialist Realism, the official Soviet aesthetic, had no clear application to music, yet composers were held collectively responsible for individual missteps. As my research demonstrates, composers responded to this situation by behaving coercively toward one another within their Union’s consultative apparatus, in an effort to protect the entire group from official retribution. At the same time, I uncover the deep roots of Soviet compositional and censorial practices by tracing their evolution from collaborative traditions unique to 19th-century Russian music. With case studies as illustration, I establish that new Soviet musical works were so profoundly shaped by the mandatory collaborative process of critique and revision that the colleagues and censors who took part are best understood not merely as advisors and regulators, but as co-authors. By demonstrating that imposed collaboration resulted in works of lasting value, my research moves the scholarship beyond traditional questions of state interference to reform how we conceptualize creativity within and beyond the Soviet context. Further, it works to redefine the term “censorship” itself and creates a frame for interrogating related forces like market pressures, social shaming, and even peer review that drive collaborative creativity across today’s globalized world. I have published articles based on this research in Journal of Musicology, Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas, and Perspectives on Europe.

Expanding my focus to the Soviet empire, my second project, “Composing the Union,” continues my exploration of Soviet cultural politics by investigating the Stalinist and post-Stalinist effort to legitimize Soviet authority in Central Asia through cultural construction. Beginning in the 1930s, composers were sent from Moscow to the Central Asia republics to spearhead the creation of new “national” operas that were to be, in Stalin’s phrase, “national in form, socialist in content.” These Russian composers, assisted by local aspirants, made ethnographic collections of local folksongs and legends, then reworked them to create spurious historical narratives demonstrating the benefits of Soviet power. I will argue that the real purpose of these operas was to weave the republics tightly into the Soviet fabric, thereby creating a unified Soviet imaginary and bestowing a fully Soviet identity on their populations. This project will advance our understanding of the dynamics of Soviet empire and shed light on the Soviet state’s use of culture as a soft power mechanism for legitimizing Soviet rule.


“Nationally Informed: The Politics of National Minority Music during Late Stalinism,” Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas (forthcoming 2019)

“Negotiating ‘Historical Truth’: Art, Authority, and Iurii Shaporin’s The Decembrists,” Journal of Musicology33, no. 3 (Summer 2016), 277-331

“Creative Resilience: Soviet Composers’ Strategic Relationship with the State Censor (A Tale of Two Sofias),” Perspectives on Europe 46, no. 1 (Spring 2016), 94-99

“Modeling the New Collectivity” and “Modeling the New Individual” in Robert Bird, ed. Adventures in the Soviet Imaginary: Soviet Children’s Books and Graphic Art. (Chicago: University of Chicago Library, 2011), 19-21.
(Book awarded the 2012 American Library Association Leab Exhibition Award). See also: expanded articles on the exhibition website:

Publications in Progress

“Creating Crimea: Revision, Reclamation, and the Operatic Politics of Post-Soviet Empire” (Journal article)

Creative Comrades: Censorship and Collaboration in Late-Stalinist Music (Book Manuscript)

Academic Credentials

Ph.D., Department of History, University of Chicago, 2015

M.A., Department of History, University of Chicago, 2015

M.A., Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences, concentration in History, University of Chicago, 2007

M.Mus., Trumpet Performance, Mannes College of Music, 2003

B.A., summa cum laude, Department of Music, UCLA, 2001

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Exploration and Discovery


Leah Goldman’s office is located in room 406 of Miller Center.


voice 503-768-7501

Leah Goldman Visiting Assistant Professor

Core Curriculum - CAS Lewis & Clark 0615 S.W. Palatine Hill Road MSC 83 Portland OR 97219 USA