Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

McCreless, Patrick


This dissertation reconceptualizes Soviet music history by focusing on the artistic productions of ethnic and racial minorities under the Communist Party’s subjugation. According to communist propaganda, the Soviet state overthrew Russian imperialism and—as part of a cultural revolution—commissioned national operas to celebrate the diversity of each republic. I argue, however, that under the guise of modernization, the allegedly anti-colonial Communist Party used opera as a colonial technology of rule to negate difference. The Soviet national opera project thus pursued the age-old Russian imperial practices of assimilation and subjugation, which allowed communists to maintain rule over a multiethnic population. Each of the chapters focuses on one of the four intersecting axes across which the Soviet state attempted to redefine Armenian and Kazakh nationalism through opera: religious practices, historical memory, racialization, and gender norms. In addition to examining opera as an instrument of totalitarian control, as many scholars have done, a key feature of my work is the reversal of “the imperial gaze.” I propose a theory of drastic hybridity to examine how Armenian and Kazakh composers negotiated their identities in creative and subversive ways. The interdisciplinarity of this project—spanning music studies, Slavic studies, and postcolonial studies—charts new paths for remapping the geopolitics of Soviet history, which in turn allows us to understand the present-day struggle of Armenian and Kazakh peoples to decolonize their cultural identities.