Amy Nelson

Amy Nelson

Amy Nelson

Associate Professor


425 Major Williams Hall 
220 Stanger St.
Blacksburg, VA 24061




Department Membership



  • Russian History
  • Animal Studies
  • Cultural History
  • Networked Learning / Contemporary Pedagogy

Professional Activities

  • Russian Area Studies Minor Coordinator
  • History Honors Advisor


  • Ph.D. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • B.A. University of California, Santa Barbara
  • B.M. University of California, Santa Barbara

Research Interests

    Awards and Honors

    Transformer in Residence, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2015

    Diggs Teaching Scholar Award, Virginia Tech, 2015

    Alumni Teaching Award, Academy of Teaching Excellence, Virginia Tech, 2009

    Heldt Prize Winner for the Best Book by a Woman in Slavic / East European / Eurasian Studies, Association of Women in Slavic Studies, 2005

    Phi Beta Kappa

    Selected Publications


    Other Animals. Beyond the Human in Russian Culture and History. Ed. with Jane Costlow. (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010)

    Music for the Revolution: Musicians and Power in Early Soviet Russia (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2004). Paperback 2010. Heldt Prize Winner,  2005

    Connected Learning and Digital History Projects

    Open Learning: A Connectivist MOOC for Faculty Collaboratives. Co-Facilitator of this AAC&U initiative to transform general education for 21st-Century Learners. January 22-May 6, 2017; February 4-March 29, 2018

    17 Moments in Soviet History. An Online Archive of Primary Sources. Content curator and web developer, with James von Geldern and Lewis Siegelbaum, 2015-present

    The Digital History Reader, Co-authored with E. Thomas Ewing, Mark V. Barrow, Hayward “Woody” Farrar, Heather Gumbert, Kathleen Jones, Marian Mollin, and Robert Stephens. Peer-reviewed NEH-funded digital textbook, 2005-2006


    “What the Dogs Did: Animal Agency in the Soviet Manned Space Flight Programme.” BJHS Themes 2 (2017): 79–99.

    “Bringing the Beast Back In: The Rehabilitation of Pet Keeping in Soviet Russia.” In Companion Animals in Everyday Life: Situating Human-Animal Engagement within Cultures ed. M. Pregowski. (Palgrave MacMillan, 2016), pp. 43-58. doi:10.1057/978-1-137-59572-0

    “The Sex Geckos’ Sacrifice,” The New York Times, September 21, 2014,

    “Cold War Celebrity and the Courageous Canine Scout: The Life and Times of the Soviet Space Dogs,” in Into the Cosmos. A Cultural History of the Soviet Space Age eds. James T. Andrews and Asif Siddiqi (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011), 133-155

    “The Legacy of Laika: Celebrity, Sacrifice and the Soviet Space Dogs,” in Beastly Natures: Human-Animal Relations at the Crossroads of Cultural and Environmental History. ed. Dorothee Brantz (University of Virginia Press, 2010), 204-224. Translated as: Laikas Vermächtnis: Die sowjetischen Raumschiffhunde" in Tierische Geschichte: Die Beziehung von Mensch und Tier in der Kultur der Moderne, eds. Dorothee Brantz and Christof Mauch (Paderborn: Schöningh, 2009), 103-122. Re-printed in, Susan McHugh and Garry Marvin, eds., Human Animal Studies, First Edition, Vol. 1: Eastern (Routledge, 2018)

    Additional Information

    Amy Nelson’s current research focuses on the cultural implications of domestication and the dogs used by the Soviets to develop the manned space flight program in the 1950s and sixties. She teaches courses on Soviet history and culture, as well as historical methods, animal studies, and contemporary pedagogy. Her expertise in digital history and using digital environments to enhance active co-learning has helped support three major grants from the National Endowment of the Humanities since 2005. As the Faculty Fellow for TLOS she facilitates the New Media Seminar, an interdisciplinary exploration of the intellectual pre-history of the World Wide Web. She also teaches Grad 5114, Contemporary Pedagogy, as part of the Graduate Educational Development Institute (GEDI) and the Future Professoriate and Transformative Graduate Education Initiatives.  Her professional website is and she blogs at Sirius Reflections.