Rita Safariants

Rita Safariants

  • Assistant Professor of Russian

PhD, Yale University

Office Location
422 Lattimore Hall
(585) 275-4251

Office Hours: Monday and Wednesday 12:30 - 1:30 p.m. and by appointment


Rita Safariants's scholarly and pedagogical interests include late-Soviet, post-Soviet and contemporary Russian film, Russian literature, media, popular music, and performance culture. She is currently completing a book on the role of rock music in Soviet and post-Soviet Cinema. Soviet Rock on Screen: The Life, Death, and Resurrection of a Film Genreis the first study in the Slavic field to examine the role of rock music in the last decade of Soviet cinematic production and its reverberations in the Putin era. The monograph investigates how the introduction of rock music into officially sponsored film projects redefined the Soviet film industry’s audience, marketing strategies, and film production practices, ushering in a new model of semi-privatized, market-driven filmmaking that established the rock performer as an enduring national emblem. The study furthermore argues that the fusion of rock music and cinema in the last Soviet decade produced a new film genre, the Soviet rock film, which reflected and embodied key cultural mechanisms that led to the collapse of the USSR. With the disintegration of the Soviet system in the 1990s, the rock film genre waned in its cultural clout, experiencing what Safariants argues to be an aesthetic and ideological death, only to be revived and reconstituted after Russia’s authoritarian turn under Vladimir Putin. Safariants is also working on a second book project tentatively titled The Bureaucracy of Rock-n-Roll: the KGB and Late-Soviet Counterculture, which aims to disrupt and augment the existing scholarship on late Soviet cultural production. In examining the histories of the Leningrad Rock Club (1981-1991) and the Moscow Rock Laboratory (1986-1991), her project challenges the traditionally held assumption that late Soviet unofficial culture always functioned in direct confrontation with the communist state.

Research Overview

Research Interests

  • Soviet and Post-Soviet cinema
  • Soviet and Russian official and unofficial popular music
  • Russian literature, adaptation studies, gender studies, media and performance culture

Courses Offered (subject to change)

  • RUSS 233:  Russian Women Writers
  • RUSS 252:  Hipsters, Rebels and Rock Stars in Russian Literature and Culture
  • RUSS 264:  Russian Literature Outside of Russia
  • RUSS 269:  Russian Cinema after the Fall
  • RUSS 272:  Russian Movies That Rock

Selected Publications

  • “The Rock-and-Roll State: Popular Music, Print Culture, and Soviet Bureaucracy,” forthcoming in Media Culture of the Russian 1990s, ed. Maya Vinokour. Amherst: Amherst College Press, 2025.
  • “Post-Tsoi, or the Sincerity of Historical Anxiety: Sergei Shnurov and late-Soviet Rock Culture,” forthcoming in Slavic and East European Journal 68.4 (Winter 2024). (Special cluster dedicated to Sergei Shnurov and the band Leningrad, ed. Tatiana Efremova and Kevin M.F. Platt.)
  • “Filming the Criminal Mind: Josef von Sternberg’s and Lev Kulidzhanov’s Adaptations of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.” Slavic and East European Journal 67.1 (Spring 2023): 20-45.
  • “From Pugacheva to Pussy Riot: Gender Performance in Russo-Soviet Popular Music.” Canadian-American Slavic Studies 56 (2022): 200-230. (Special issue of journal: “Pussy Riot: 10th Anniversary of the Punk Prayer,” ed. Kat Hill and Eliot Borenstein.)
  • “VGIK’s School of Rock: Legacies of Popular Music on Film.” Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema. Issue 13 (2), 2019. 208-216.
  • “Thank God We’re Not Alive: The rock star in Soviet and post-Soviet cinema". Ruptures and Continuities in Soviet/Russian Cinema. Eds. Birgit Beumers, Eugenie Zvonkine. Routledge: 2018. 90-107.
  • “Chekhov on the Screen: Lady with Little Dog (1960) and Vanya on 42nd Street (1994)” with John MacKay.MLA Approaches to Teaching the Works of Chekhov. Eds. Michael Holquist, Michael C. Finke. MLA: 2016. 123-140.
  • “The Grandfather of Russian Rock: Aleksandr Vertinsky and his unlikely musical progeny.” Transactions of the Association of Russian-American Scholars in the USA (Festschrift in honor of Vladimir Alexandrov). Vol. 38, 2013. 263-282.
  • “Literary Bilingualism and Codeswitching in Vladimir Nabokov’s Ada.” Ulbandus: A Slavic Review of Columbia University. Vol.10, 2006-2007. 191-211.

Honors and Activities

  • 2018 Dobro Slovo National Honor Society
  • 2016-2017 Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Russian, Bowdoin
  • 2014 Vassar College Faculty Research Grant for Manuscript Work (Elinor Nims Fund)
  • 2012 Vassar College Faculty Summer Research Grant
  • 2010 Associates in Teaching Fellowship, Yale University
  • 2010 Nina Berberova Memorial Fund Award, Yale University
  • 2009-2010 Annie K. Garland Fellowship (as part of the University Dissertation Fellowship), Yale University
  • 2005-2006 AAASS New England Graduate Student Essay Prize
  • 2004-2005 Richard Franke Interdisciplinary Fellowship, Yale University
  • 2004 Phi Beta Kappa