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Amy Nelson

Amy Nelson, Associate Professor

Amy Nelson, Associate Professor
Amy Nelson, Associate Professor

Department of History
425 Major Williams Hall, 220 Stanger St.
Blacksburg, VA 24061
540-231-8369 |

Amy Nelson (she/her) is an associate professor of history at Virginia Tech. The author of a prize-winning study of music and musicians in the early Soviet period, she has published extensively on animals in Russian history and is writing a collective biography of the dogs used by the Soviets to develop the manned space flight program in the 1950s and sixties. Her teaching expertise includes Soviet history and culture, as well as historical methods, animal studies, and contemporary pedagogy.

Nelson’s 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. As the Faculty Fellow for TLOS (2013-2016) she facilitated the New Media Seminar, an interdisciplinary exploration of the intellectual pre-history of the World Wide Web. From 2015 to 2019 she taught Grad 5114, Contemporary Pedagogy, as part of the Future Professoriate and Transformative Graduate Education Initiatives.

Her professional website is and she blogs at Sirius Reflections.

  • Russian History
  • Animal Studies
  • Cultural History
  • Networked Learning/ Contemporary Pedagogy
  • Ph.D., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • B.A., University of California, Santa Barbara
  • B.M., University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Russian Area Studies Minor Coordinator
  • History Honors Advisor
  • 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


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

Journal Articles

“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)

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

Select Media Mentions