Melissa Chakars, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Office: Barbelin 112-M
Phone: (610) 660-1745

Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Dr. Chakars specializes in Eurasian history with a focus on Russian Siberia. In particular, her work examines the lives of the Buryats, a Mongolian ethnic group that makes up Siberia’s largest indigenous population. In addition to her book, The Socialist Way of Life in Siberia: Transformation in Buryatia (Central European University Press, 2014), she has also published several articles on empire, media, and gender, as well as a co-edited volume titled Modernization, Nation-Building, and Television History (Routledge, 2015). Dr. Chakars has lived in the Russian cities of Ulan-Ude and Vladivostok, as well as traveled widely in Mongolia and within the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. She came to SJU in 2010.


B.A., Hunter College, City University of New York

M.A., Ph.D., Indiana University 

Courses Taught

HIS 100 Forging the Modern World

HIS 337 HIS  War and Peace in Imperial Russia, 980-1861

This course is a survey of the major political, social, economic, and cultural developments of Russia from 980 to 1861. During this time, the lands of the Eastern Slavs grew to be one of the largest and most powerful empires on earth. The course will cover Kievan Rus, the Mongol Empire’s Golden Horde, the Rise of Moscuvy, the consolidation of the Romanov autocracy, the expansion of the Russian Empire, the Napoleonic Wars, and the Great Reforms that emancipated the serfs. Students will read primary and secondary sources, as well as a memoir of their choosing.

HIS 338   Tsars and Commissars: Russia and the Soviet Union, 1861-1991

This course will examine the major political, social, and cultural events of Russia and the Soviet Union from 1861 to 1991. During this time, the lands of the Russian Empire and its successor, the Soviet Union, changed from a “backward” agricultural country to a technologically advanced superpower. The course will examine these developments through the decline of tsarism and the fall of the Romanov dynasty, the Russian revolutions and the foundation of the Soviet Union, Stalinism, World War II, the Cold War, the “thaw years” under Khrushchev, the “stagnation years” under Brezhnev, and the reforms under Gorbachev that contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

HIS 339  The Mongol Empire, 1100-1500

In the 13th century, the Mongols built the largest contiguous land empire the world has ever known. This course will cover the rise, running, and fall of this empire. It will explore the society and culture of the Mongols, the world’s most famous nomadic conquerors. In addition, the course will examine how the Mongol Empire impacted the course of Eurasian history. It will explore how the empire affected not only the Mongols themselves, but also the many peoples whom they conquered.

HIS 340  Stalinism: Terror and Transformation in the Soviet Union, 1920s-1950s

This course examines the Soviet Union under the leadership of Joseph Stalin from 1928 to 1953. This period was repressive, but also transformative. The course will address not only the suffering inflicted by Stalin's steep repression, but also the social, cultural, and economic impact of his policies. Course readings will focus on the experiences of ordinary people to demonstrate that Stalin’s rule brought both opportunity, as well as great tragedy.

HIS 341 Genocide and Human Rights in the 20th Century

This course examines and compares four twentieth-century genocides: the Turkish genocide of the Armenians (1915-1917), the Holocaust against the Jews (1933-1945), the Pol Pot genocide in Cambodia (1976-1979), and the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda (1994). The course explores the concept of genocide and the development of national and global laws to prevent it, promote human rights, and prosecute abusers. In doing so, it offers a historiography of genocide studies and an examination of legal and ethical theories and concepts. Also, through primary and secondary source readings, students study genocidal violence as a particularly vicious form of state policy and as a human and personal experience of terror and murder. 

HIS 473 Seminar in Eurasian History

In this course, students complete a significant research paper based on a related seminar topic of their choosing.

HIS 491 Philadelphia Area Internship

The Philadelphia Area Internship Program supports student internships in the public sector, private sector, or in a non-governmental organization (NGO) in the Philadelphia area. Students work 10 hours per week (total 130 hours), complete several written assignments that work to develop writing and analytical skills, and attend career-building events on campus.  Students who complete the requirements will receive 3 credits for one upper-division course in History, Political Science, or International Relations.



“Daily Life and Party Ideals on Late Soviet-Era Radio and Television Programming for Children, Teenagers, and Youth in Buryatia,” Études Mongoles et Sibériennes et Centrasiatiques et Tibétaines, 46 (2015)

Modernization, Nation-Building, and Television History (Routledge, 2015), co-edited with Stewart Anderson

The Socialist Way of Life in Siberia: Transformation in Buryatia (Central European University Press, 2014)

“Professional Women and the Economic Practices of Success and Survival Before and After Regime Change: Diverse Economies and Restructuring in the Russian Republic of Buryatia,” co-authored with Elizabeth L. Sweet. Geojournal, 79/5 (2014): 649-663.

“Identity, Culture, Land, and Language: Stories of Insurgent Planning in Buryatia, Russia,” co-authored with Elizabeth L. Sweet. Journal of Planning, Education, and Research 30/2 December (2010): 198-209.

“Buryat Literature as a Political and Cultural Institution from the 1950s to the 1970s,” Inner Asia 11 (2009): 47-63.


Russia and the Former Soviet Union


Magazine Articles