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Department of History
Tufts University
East Hall, room 002
Medford, MA 02155

Email Prof. Applebaum

On leave AY 2017-2018

Rachel Applebaum
Assistant Professor
Modern Russia and Eastern Europe


I am a historian of the Soviet Union and communist Eastern Europe. I am currently completing my first book, Empire of Friends: Soviet Power and Socialist Internationalism in Cold War Czechoslovakia. The book examines how Soviet and Eastern Bloc officials sought to unify their diverse countries by promoting a policy of transnational "friendship" between their citizens in the realm of everyday life. It tells the story of the rise and fall of this friendship project through a social and cultural history of the Soviet Union’s relations with Czechoslovakia from the end of World War II until the collapse of communism. I focus on four aspects of Soviet-Czechoslovak friendship: cultural diplomacy, interpersonal relations, the trade of consumer goods, and the legacy of the Soviet Army’s liberation of Czechoslovakia at the end of the Second World War. I argue that ordinary citizens in the superpower and its satellite, by engaging in the friendship project, were integral to the construction of the international socialist system—and ultimately, its demise. The book is based on extensive archival research in Russia and the Czech Republic, as well as in Hungary and the United States.

I have also recently begun working on a second book project, on Russian as a world language during the Cold War. The book examines the export and reception of Russian as a foreign language in the three worlds of the Soviet imagination: the socialist, the capitalist, and the “developing.” In addition, it explores how Russian competed and clashed with simultaneous British and American efforts to promote English abroad. Finally, it investigates how foreign languages during the Cold War served as both tools of systemic competition, and as instruments to promote international understanding.

At Tufts, I regularly teach a two-semester survey of Russian history, from the medieval period to the present. My other areas of teaching interest include Soviet foreign policy, the World War II and the Holocaust in the Soviet Union, the Cold War, Europe in the 1960s, and the global history of communism.


  • Ph.D., University of Chicago, 2012
  • M.A., University of Toronto, 2005
  • B.A., McGill University, 2002


Modern Russia and Eastern Europe, the cultural Cold War, global communism, transnational history

Visiting Positions, Fellowships, and Awards

  • Visiting Fellow, History Department, Princeton University, 2017-2018
  • Short-Term Fellowship, The New York University Jordan Center, October 2017
  • Summer Fellowship, Faculty Research Awards, Tufts University, 2016
  • Neubauer Faculty Fellow, Tufts University, 2015-16
  • Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for the Humanities, Tufts University, 2014-15
  • Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellow, European University Institute, Italy, 2013-14
  • Junior Fellowship, the Central European University Institute for Advanced Study, Hungary, 2013-14 (declined)
  • Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship, 2010-11
  • Fulbright Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Award (for archival research in Russia and the Czech Republic), 2008-09

Selected Publications

  • "The Friendship Project: Socialist Internationalism in the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia in the 1950s and 1960s." Slavic Review, volume 74, number 3, 484-507 (Fall 2015)
  • "A Test of Friendship: Soviet-Czechoslovak Tourism and the Prague Spring." In The Socialist Sixties: Crossing Borders in the Second World, edited by Anne Gorsuch and Diane Koenker, 213-232. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013.

Courses Offered in Previous Semesters

  • HIST 61: Icons and Tsars: Medieval, Early Modern, and Imperial Russia
  • HIST 62: Reform and Revolution: Late Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union
  • HIST 96: World War II and the Holocaust in the Soviet Union (Foundation Seminar)
  • HIST 96: Europe in the 1960s (Foundation Seminar)
  • HIST 190: The Cold War (Research Seminar)