Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - History of Eastern Europe

Dr. des. Sarah Matuschak

Dr. des. Sarah Matuschak
research assistant

Humboldt-Universität → Präsidium → Philosophische Fakultät → Institut für Geschichtswissenschaften → Geschichte Osteuropas
Visiting address
Friedrichstraße 191-193 , Room 5004B
Phone number
(030) 2093 70645
Mailing address
Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin

Curriculum Vitae

Since 08/2023

Post-doc Research Assistant, Humboldt University of Berlin

2015 - 2023

PHD in History, Humboldt University, Berlin


1. State Exam, teaching profession, History and German, Humboldt University, Berlin


Magister Artium, History, Philosophy, German Linguistics, Humboldt University Berlin


Research Project: The birth of Russia from the spirit of music

What is Russia? A part of Europe, as the Westerners claimed, or part of a Slavic cultural area, as the Slavophiles were convinced? No other question has preoccupied Russian intellectual history since the 19th century as much as that of the Russian self - it found a new answer in the Soviet Union and arose again after its collapse. My work traces the development of self-consciousness in Russia. It deals with finding and rediscovering a multi-ethnic empire from the perspective of music.

The core thesis of my project is that the struggle of Russian composers for recognition of their own, sound idiom was quite fundamentally an aesthetic search for a musical self-awareness that saw itself as Russian, that encompassed the empire as a whole and was less a search for a "merely" national music.

The question that drives me, originally began in the Soviet Union and the search for the Soviet man in music. While writing, however, I realized that it was more of a rediscovery than an original search and discovery. And so my work expanded into a search for the roots of a process of self-awareness that began in the 18th century and extended into the 20th century (and is perhaps relevant again in the present).

The example of music seems particularly appealing to me, as its direct emotionality is a language that appeals to the irrational in us, as it were. I follow the traces of what is supposedly an own, immerse self in folklore, in Orthodox church music and explore the themes and subjects of 19th century Russian opera and program music.

Young Russian amateur composers fought for their place away from the cat's table of classical music against the will of a ruling class that saw its claim to power representation realized exclusively in European music and "imported" the musicians to the court with it. And yet it was the powerful themselves, music lovers such as Nicholas I or Alexander III, who opened the back door for Russian amateurs, helped them to professionalize and finally elevated them to the big stage.

From the second half of the 19th century onwards, works were created that reflected a musical Russian self-awareness that saw the Orient as part of itself, amalgamating folklore and church music with it. Rubinstein, Serov, Balakirev, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky - they all contributed to the empire's self-awareness, albeit always from the perspective of the center. In heated arguments, mostly against, since the late 19th century with power. For this is the foundation of the project: a history of power and music.

The First World War, the revolution of 1917 and the chaos of the Civil War led to the dissolution of all certainties. Nobody knew what the "I" was in this world anymore. When Stalin came to power, there was a turning point, a return to traditional values in order to stabilize the new order. Behind the doctrine of Socialist Realism, however, there was nothing other than the old mission of becoming self-aware, which was not so much the creation of a new, communist ego as, in the vision of Soviet man, a self-assurance of the old, a return to Russian self-awareness. And composers created it, linked the Russian man with the Soviet man, gave him back tradition and roots, but for the first time enforced from above. Composers such as Glière and Veprik traveled to Central Asia and the Caucasus in search of a Soviet sound idiom and combined it with the musical culture of Western Europe and their own Russian tradition. Others, such as Myaskovsky, Shaporin, Shebalin, Knipper or Khrennikov, took up the return to Russian musical self-awareness no less productively and worked on its Soviet "translation".

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, history seemed to be repeating itself. The search began again. But finding is finding again. An again finding again. This work deals with Russia's search for self-awareness, its finding and its self-assurance. From the spirit of music.




Nathan Seinen: Prokofiev’s Soviet Operas,“ in: Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 69 (2021), H. 2, S. 342-344.

“In Apollo’s Sphere: Stalin and the Arts. Review Essay”: Joan Neuberger: „This Thing of Darkness: Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible in Stalin’s Russia (Ithaca, NY (u.a.): Cornell University Press, 2019). Jonathan Brooks Platt: Greetings, Pushkin! Stalinist Cultural Politics and the Russian National Bard (Pittsburg, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016). Marina Frolova-Walker: Stalin’s Music Prize. Soviet Culture and Politics (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016)”, in: Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 22 (2021), H. 1, S. 183-193.

Daniil Granin, Ales Adamowitsch: Blockadebuch. Leningrad 1941-1944 (Berlin: Aufbau, 2018)“, in: Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft 68 (2020), H. 3, S. 271-273.

Michel Abeßer: Den Jazz sowjetisch machen. Kulturelle Leitbilder, Musikmarkt und Distinktion zwischen 1953 und 1970 (Köln (u.a.): Böhlau, 2018)“, in: H-Soz-Kult (03.06.2020).

Helmut Altrichter: Stalin. Der Herr des Terrors (München: C. H. Beck, 2018)“, in: Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft 67 (2019), H. 2, S. 174-176.

„Über sowjetische Musik schreiben: Neues aus der Forschung. Sammelrezension”: Pauline Fairclough: Classics for the Masses: Shaping Soviet Musical Identity, 1917-1953 (New Haven, CT, London: Yale University Press, 2016). Kiril Tomoff: Virtuosi Abroad: Soviet Music and Imperial Competition During the Early Cold War, 1945-1958 (Ithaca, NY (u.a.): Cornell University Press, 2015). Boris Belge: Klingende Sowjetmoderne: Eine Musik- und Gesellschaftsgeschichte des Spätsozialismus (Köln (u.a.): Böhlau 2018)“, in: H-Soz-Kult (23.01.2019).



Matuschak, Sarah: „Isterzannaja muza? Sočinenie muzyki pri Staline (1932-1953)“, in: Stephan Malerius, Sona Ogannisjan (Hg.), Tvorit‘ vopreki ideologii: isterzannaja muza? (Erevan: Asoghik, 2022), S. 107-135.



Mitarbeit am „Kalenderblatt“ im Deutschlandfunk zur Uraufführung der Oper "Die Liebe zu den drei Orangen" von Sergej Prokofjew, (Leitung Stefan Zednik), 30.12.2021

Mitarbeit am „Kalenderblatt“ im Deutschlandfunk zur Uraufführung der Sinfonie Nr. 13 in b-Moll (op. 113) „Babi Jar“ von Dmitri Schostakowitsch (Leitung Stefan Zednik), 18.12.2022


Mitarbeit an der "Langen Nacht" im Deutschlandfunk: "Hexen, Huren und alte Weiber - Altistinnen und ihre Opernrollen" (Leitung: Stefan Zednik), 25.02.2023



SS 2016_Übung: Das Imperium am Scheideweg - Russlands Fin de Siècle

SS 2017_Übung: Von Künstlern und Mächtigen. Eine Kulturgeschichte des Stalinismus

WS 2017/18_Bachelorseminar: Adel in Russland (together with Prof. Dr. Jörg Baberowski)

SS 2019_Proseminar: Einführung in die russische Geschichte

SS 2019_Übung: Quellenlektüre zur Ästhetik der Bolschewiki

WS 2019/20_Proseminar: Russische Geistesgeschichte

SS 2020_Übung: Eintrittskarte zum Paradies: Der Sozialistische Realismus

 WS 2020/21_Übung: Zwischen Gesamtstaatsidee und Nationalismus: Russland als Imperium, 1689-1917

WS 2020/21_Einführungskurs: Nation und Vielvölkerreich: Russland und die Sowjetunion

SS 2021_Übung mit Exkursion: Von Charlottengrad ins Café Moskau: Auf russischen Spuren in Berlin und Potsdam

WS 2021/22_Übung: Von der Suche nach dem Wir zur Entdeckung des Ichs: Russische Religionsphilosophie in Dokumenten

WS 2021/22_Bachelorseminar: Stalin und der Stalinismus

SS 2022_ Übung: Der Tag zieht den Jahrhundertweg. Russische Gesellschaft im Spiegel der Literatur

SS 2022_Bachelorseminar: Träume von Mais und Plattenbau: "Hurricane Nikita", der polternde Reformer: Chruschtschow im Kreml

WS 2023/24_Einführungskurs: Klio in Eurasien: Russland als Imperium

WS 2023/24_Übung: Der entfesselte Prometheus: Die Geburt Russlands aus dem Geiste der Kritik 

SS 2024_Bachelorseminar: Lehrjahre eines Imperiums: Russland in der Frühen Neuzeit

SS 2024_Übung: Seismographen des Untergangs: Das Fin de Siècle in der Literatur