Me in the Morrison Library Reading Room at UC Berkeley.


My name is Heather VanMouwerik, and I am a Ph.D Candidate in the Department of History at the University of California, Riverside. My fields of speciality include Modern Russian History, Enlightenment Print Culture, and Early Modern and Modern World History. I also hold a designated emphasis in Books, Archives, and Manuscript Studies, and actively participate in the Material Cultures of the Book Working Group and Critical Digital Humanities.

In UCR's Print Shoppe.
In UCR’s Print Shoppe.

I earned my M.A in Modern Russian History at UCR in 2012, and my B.A. in Political Science at Calvin College in 2006.

Archival Management is where my real passion lies. I am pursuing a career as a curator of a special collection, specifically one which specializes in 18th century rare books. I am particularly interested in questions of Early Modern archival authenticity, the digital future of rare books, and researcher relations.

Outside of work, I am…

  • an excitable seamstress [Instagram]
  • an avid bicyclist
  • an indiscriminate software adopter [recent obsession: my new Mac Airbook and Canva… neither of which are actually software]
  • a lover of craft breweries [local favorites: Hangar 24, Valiant, and Sanctum… I’m HeatherVM on Untappd.]

My Dissertation

Translating Europe at the Petrovskii:
Public Theater, Educated Russians, and the European Enlightenment, 1780-1805

One of the few images remaining of the Petrovskii Theater

The doors to the Petrovskii Theater swung open for the first time on December 30th, 1780, marking Moscow’s entrance into the world of European public theater. This theater was but one part of Russia’s larger Enlightenment reform project, which began with Peter I’s western-oriented domestic reforms and accelerated with Catherine II’s personal interest in the ideologies, educational policies, and aesthetic values of Europe. Usually European ideals and Russian culture in the late eighteenth century are interpreted as being antagonistic and irreconcilable; however, my dissertation will argue that educated Russians were agents in integrating European ideals of the Enlightenment into their own culture. United by their disposable income and university education, educated Russians were an elite subsection of urban society which consisted of the hereditary aristocracy, ranked servicemen and bureaucrats, and the two highest levels of guilded merchants. These men and, occasionally, women were not only interested in European culture for their own enjoyment, but they actively interpreted and translated it for the education and enrichment of their fellow Russians, resulting in new cultural products like plays for the public theater.

The first section of my dissertation focuses on the Petrovskii Theater (1780-1803), the lens through which I examine the Moscow-based audience for European Enlightenment. It will use archival and print materials to outline the social background of the audience, the physical structure of the theater, and the material staged therein in order to understand the quotidian cultural atmosphere in which educated Russians lived. In the second section, I will analyze plays written or translated by Russians and performed at the Petrovskii Theater with emphasis on European plays translated into Russian, original Russian prefaces to European plays, and ostensibly original Russian works which borrowed heavily from European plots, characters, and thematics. These examples of Russians actively taking European ideas and reinscribing them into their own cultural production links the relevant historiographies of Imperial Russia, early modern theater, and cultural studies. My dissertation examines the European Enlightenment as a dynamic experience in Moscow, but offers a critique of the Eurocentric model of the Enlightenment.

Other Projects

  • I am interning in the Manuscripts Department at the Huntington Library, helping them prepare finding aids and digitizing original indexes in preparation for inclusion in the Online California Archives (OCA). This will dramatically increase the ability of researchers to understand the library’s holdings before planning a research trip.
  • In winter, 2015, I will be a teaching assistant for a completely online course (HIST 19WV). Though me and the rest of the teaching staff will be centered at UCR, the course is open to anyone in the UC system. I am quickly learning the new platforms (Piazza and Google Hangouts) and pedagogies (space and time in the digital world). For more information on this pilot program, please visit the UCOnline website.
  • Following a personal interest in Zombies in popular culture, I am putting together the first of many online lectures about monsters, media, and 20th-century history.
  • I am continuing to work with Stanford’s Republic of Letters by adding the 17th- and 18th-century graduates of Russia’s academies to the existing database of France and England’s. Hopefully this research will be used to reassert connectivity between Russian and European intellectuals during the European Enlightenment.
  • I presented a paper at two conferences, “And Two on Sunday: Mapping Culture in Catherinian Moscow, 1784.” This was a case study of day-to-day Muscovite cultural life in which I quantify and qualify the advertisements section of the Moskovski vedomosti. In so doing, I was able to draw some early conclusions about the mode, regularity, style, and location of a nascent enlightening culture in Moscow.


My LinkedIn

My Twitter

My Facebook


Want more information?
Contact Me!

Leave a Reply