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In this Issue:
Memories of Mary Zirin
Ask Aleksandra
Book Reviews
Call for Nominations-Outstanding Achievement Award
Call for Nominations- Mary Zirin Prize
Call for Nominations- Graduate Essay Prize
Call for Nominations- Graduate Awards Prize
Member News
Eurasian, East and Central European Studies Women's Academics Forum (EECES WAF)
Memories of Mary Zirin

Elena Sokol, Professor Emerita, Russian Studies, The College of Wooster

Mary and I first met in Beginning Czech at the University of Colorado, Boulder, fall of 1961, when I was a freshman (preparing to major in Russian, but wishing first to improve the Czech I knew from childhood).  At that time an M.A. student in Russian literature, Mary was taking Czech as her second Slavic language.  As we quickly became friends, Mary often invited me home for grown-up socializing with her husband Hal and their acquaintances.  By my senior year, Mary and Hal, along with their two young children, Dan and Dana, moved to California, where Hal had accepted a position at Cal Tech.

As luck would have it, in the fall of 1965 I began graduate studies in the Slavic Department at UC-Berkeley and was able to resume my active friendship with Mary, visiting the Zirins in their beautiful Spanish-style home (with a swimming pool and marvelous fruit trees!) in Altadena.  I even recall going with them to see Hal’s solar observatory at Big Bear Lake.  As Mary herself was pursuing a PhD in Russian literature, she continued to be an important role-model for me.  

After I left California in 1973 and grew busy teaching (first in Seattle and then in Ohio -- Oberlin and Wooster) and raising my own family, our encounters became limited to contact at conferences and an occasional exchange of letters.  However, I followed at a distance Mary’s growing interest in Russian women writers and her major contributions to our field.  Then in early 1991, Mary invited me join her panel on Central European Culture at the next MLA convention -- in San Francisco.  While my research till then had focused on modern Russian literature, I was delighted to have a chance to do something Czech for Mary’s panel, but what exactly?  Although I had studied some Czech literature at Berkeley and later dabbled in Czech modernist poetry early in my teaching career, I had no ready topic to propose.  Since I happened to be on a research leave in Prague that spring (still working on a Russian project), I decided to follow Mary’s lead and set out to explore the prose of contemporary Czech women writers.  Someone popular at the time was Eva Kantůrková, who happened to have one work translated into English – My Companions in the Bleak House.  A week before my departure for home in July, I noticed a poster for a reading and book-signing by Kantůrková.  I went to the reading, bought the book and then joined the line for an autograph -- a perfect chance to introduce myself.  Kantůrková graciously agreed to meet with me a few days later.  On Mary’s panel six months later I presented a paper entitled „Women Writers in Czechoslovakia Today: The Case of Eva Kantůrková.“

Although my courses at The College of Wooster were in Russian Studies, Mary’s invitation led not only to my talk at the MLA, but to a whole new direction in my scholarly and teaching interests.  I, who hadn’t yet really identified as a feminist, not only began investigating the writing of contemporary Czech women, but also set out to explore feminist theory and even introduced a gendered perspective into several of my Russian literature and culture courses.  Mary’s translation of Nadezhda Durova’s The Cavalry Maiden, was an ideal text for the course “Gender and Identity in Russian Culture.”  I recast my traditional 19-century literature course as “Men Writing Women: 19th-century Canon from a Gendered Perspective.”  I was also happy to introduce the work of at least a few women writers into a comparative literature course: “Text and Context in Central Europe.”  And for my next research leave in 1996, I began a serious examination of recent Czech women’s writing, including a first round of interviews with eight writers. Soon I even found myself teaching an interdisciplinary course -- Introduction to Women’s Studies.  When a small fund was donated to the Department of Russian Studies in the memory of a female Wooster student who had been majoring in Russian and Women’s Studies but tragically died of leukemia before graduating, I invited a series of Czech women scholars, writers, and artists to campus, including the popular writer Iva Pekárková.  Ultimately the inspiration I gained from Mary led me not only to the teaching of Russian literature and culture from a gendered perspective, and to my own study of Czech women writers, but also to translation.  Initially I rendered a short story by Lenka Procházková into English -- “The Woman Who Was Hungry.”  And since 2012, together with Véronique Firkusny, I have been immersed in the translation of Daniela Hodrová’s trilogy City of Torment.  The first volume, A Kingdom of Souls, came out in 2015, and the next two are scheduled to appear in 2020 and 2021 (Jantar Publishing).  Mary’s invitation for me to join her panel at the MLA back in 1991 was truly a decisive turning point in my life.  Whoever would have guessed that our encounter in a Czech class in Boulder would ultimately result in Mary having such a profound influence upon my life. 

2019 AWSS Biennial Conference

 2019 Biennial AWSS Conference Keynote speaker Trish Starks, University of Arkansas presenting on "The Empire Made Smoke and Flesh: Tobacco Imagery, Militarism, and Gender in Late Imperial Russia". The presentation drew on her new book Smoking under the Tsars: A History of Tobacco in Imperial Russia (Cornell University Press)

Twelve papers presented over two days under the 2019 Biennial AWSS Conference theme of "Crossing Borders", which was understood geographically, methodologically, and metaphorically.

Ask Aleksandra


With more than two decades of experience in Slavic Studies and lots of chutzpah, she'll share with you her hard-won wisdom. Under a cloak of anonymity, you can safely ask Aleksandra anything you like, and in doing so you'll help not just yourself but probably others as well who no doubt have the same questions. Please send your questions to  and put "Ask Aleksandra" in the subject line.

Dear Aleksandra,

I’m caught in a web of intrigue and I need some help. I’m in my second year at a tenure-track job that I love. The problem is that one of my colleagues was denied tenure this year and what was once a collegial department is now the site of whispered character assassinations and accusations between two factions of the tenured faculty—those who voted in favor of tenure and those who were opposed. It does seem like the woman denied tenure was wronged—she published a book with a good press and that is understood to be the standard. Rumors have it that some think it wasn’t a very good book; others say that the issue is that other than the book she hasn’t done much else. Some seem to think that the time she took off for maternity leave was resented, especially by some senior women who didn’t enjoy that benefit; that time off was not sufficiently deducted from the equation in terms of her scholarly productivity since she joined the department.

I don’t know what to think. How do I deal with departmental intrigue as an untenured faculty member?

Anxious on the Sidelines


Dear Anxious,

The web you describe is not just one of intrigue, but of competing sources of (partial) information and perhaps of conflicted loyalties. Let’s try to untangle this knotty mess. Read More...

Book Reviews
Marianna Muravyeva and Natalia Novikova, eds. Women’s History in Russia: (Re)Establishing the Field. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014. xxv, 245 pp. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Tables. Cloth.

Reviewed by Erin Katherine Krafft, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

In their introduction to this extremely timely volume, Marianna Muravyeva and Natalia Novikova explain that, while there is certainly a precedent for the study and celebration of women’s history in Russia, it has too often taken the form given to it by the familiar grand narratives of worker’s movements and revolutionary struggle, and that it is only in the most recent decades that a more nuanced view of Russian women’s history (and, indeed, present) has emerged. They also point to the complications presented by the presence of the “West,” both as a source of funding and as an overly-simplified oppositional paradigm, as an obstacle to pursuing these more nuanced views. In the volume in question, as well as in the Russian Association for Research in Women’s History (an Association within which the impetus and idea for this book coalesced), new examinations of Russian women’s history that shake off both of these disruptive trends do, as the title of the volume promises, reestablish the field. Read more...

Agnès Graceffa, Une femme face à l’histoire. Itinéraire de Raïssa Bloch, Saint-Pétersbourg- Auschwitz, 1898-1943. Paris: Belin, 2017. 416 pp.

Reviewed by Martine Mespoulet, University of Nantes (France)

Agnes Graceffa’s book gives an account of the biographical and intellectual journey of Russian intellectual Raïssa Bloch, with special attention paid to her trajectory after she left Soviet Russia in October 1922. Traversing the political context of the 1920s and the 1930s in Russia, Germany, and France, the biography of Raïssa Bloch explores the transnational sphere constituted by members of the Russian intellectual community living in exile in those three countries. Thus, this book provides a valuable contribution by enhancing our knowledge of the intellectual networks and the circulation of ideas in the interwar period across Europe. Read More...

Susan Jaques, The Empress of Art: Catherine the Great and the Transformation of Russia, Pegasus Books, 2017. xiv, 466 pp. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Paper.

Reviewed by Alison Rowley, Concordia University, Montreal

Through the years, Catherine the Great has been the subject of numerous books by well-known scholars such as Isabel de Madariaga, John T. Alexander, and Marc Raeff.  The most recent treatments of her reign, Simon Sebag Montefiore’s two works about Catherine’s relationship with Prince Grigori Potemkin, relied heavily on the pair’s correspondence with one another--something which also brought Catherine’s voice to life.  In addition, the Empress’ memoirs and some of her other writings have been translated into English.  In other words, people wishing to learn about one of Russia’s most distinguished rulers have a number of texts they can already turn to.  That is why Susan Jaques’ The Empress of Art is such a surprising book. Even to historians familiar with the literature, Jaques’ biography offers a fresh perspective and a great deal of new information. Read more...

Rachel Morley. Performing Femininity: Woman as Performer in Early Russian Cinema. London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2017. xv, 288 pp.  Notes. Bibliography. Filmography. Illustrations.  

Reviewed by Denise J. Youngblood, University of Vermont*

After the screening of recently recovered prerevolutionary Russian films at the Pordenone Film Festival in 1989, there was an explosion of scholarly interest in this fascinating “new” source for exploring late imperial Russian culture as well as the early development of cinema in Europe.  A number of thought-provoking articles were published in the 1990s, in addition to monographs by Yuri Tsivian and this reviewer.  By the turn of the century, however, the excitement had unaccountably dissipated, even though the source was far from depleted.  Scattered articles have appeared since 2000, most notably by Philip Cavendish, Louise McReynolds, and Rachel Morley.  Read more...

Jennifer Suchland. Economies of Violence: Transnational Feminism, Postsocialism, and the Politics of Sex Trafficking. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2015. xiii, 260 p.

Reviewed by Alexandra Novitskaya, Stony Brook University 

The category of violence against women, as it has been introduced, developed, and applied at the United Nations and other intragovernmental, international, and activist spaces, is considered one of the main achievements of the global feminist movement. Indeed, feminist theoretical writing and grassroots activism helped to recognize how violence can be gendered and how it infringes upon women’s human rights. One of the areas where violence against women serves as an interpretive and mobilizing force is the international effort to combat human trafficking. After 1989, as the countries of Eastern Europe transitioned to western-style liberal democracies and market relations, sensationalizing media accounts of the horrors of human trafficking flooded the discourses and agendas of global women’s rights movements, international NGOs, and national and intragovernmental policymakers. These narratives presented trafficking as a form of violence against women produced by international crime rings – best summed up in the widely adopted “3 Ps” policy of prevention, protection, and prosecution. Yet, what does this perspective open and what does it foreclose? In Economies of Violence, without diminishing advocates’ achievements, Jennifer Suchland invites the reader to consider the other side of the contemporary antitrafficking discourse. She offers a novel critique of the narratives generated by what she defines as the “antitrafficking apparatus,” which explains sex trafficking solely as violence against women. She suggests instead to interpret it as a part of global precarious labor, i.e., labor devoid of protections and open to exploitation and abuse. In doing so, Suchland masterfully untangles the complicated history of the international antitrafficking effort, highlighting the impact of the second-wave feminist movement and post-Cold War geopolitics. Read more...


Call for Nominations, 2019 AWSS Outstanding Achievement Award

Call for Nominations, 2019 AWSS Outstanding Achievement Award

To submit a nomination, please write a letter detailing what your candidate for this award has achieved in Slavic Studies in terms of scholarship or other professional accomplishments, as well as mentoring of female students/colleagues. In addition, please provide a short list of references with accompanying email addresses so that the committee can contact these referees directly for further information. The committee recommends that this list include both peers and students/staff. A list of past Outstanding Achievement Award recipients is available at:

Please send nominations to OAA Committee Chair, AWSS President Paula Michaels at

Call for Nominations, 2019 Mary Zirin Prize

The Association for Women in Slavic Studies (AWSS) is pleased to announce the call for nominations for the Mary Zirin Prize in recognition of an independent scholar in the field of Slavic Studies. The award of $500 is named for Mary Zirin, the founder of Women East-West.

Working as an independent scholar, Zirin produced and encouraged fundamental works in Slavic/East European Women's Studies and has been instrumental in the development of the AWSS. The Prize aims to recognize the achievements of independent scholars and to encourage their continued scholarship and service in the fields of Slavic or Central and Eastern European Women's Studies.

The Committee encourages the nomination of candidates at all career stages. For the purpose of this award, an independent scholar is defined as a scholar who is not employed at an institution of higher learning, or an employee of a university or college who is not eligible to compete for institutional support for research (for example, those teaching under short-term contracts or working in administrative posts). We welcome nominations from CIS and Central and Eastern Europe.

The Zirin Prize Committee will accept nominations (including self-nominations) until September 1, 2019. Nominations must include: (1) a nomination letter, no more than two pages long, double-spaced; (2) the nominee's current curriculum vitae; and (3) a sample publication (e.g., article or book chapter). The nomination letter should describe the scholar's contribution to the field, as well as work in progress.

Nominations should be sent to Ellen Elias-Bursac at

Call for Nominations, 2019 AWSS Graduate Essay Prize

The Association for Women in Slavic Studies (AWSS) is pleased to announce the call for nominations for the Mary Zirin Prize in recognition of an independent scholar in the field of Slavic Studies. The award of $500 is named for Mary Zirin, the founder of Women East-West.

AWSS invites submissions for the 2019 Graduate Essay Prize. The prize is awarded to the author of a chapter or article-length essay on any topic in any field or area of Slavic/East European/Central Asian Studies written by a woman, or on a topic in Slavic/East European/Central Asian Women's/Gender Studies written by a woman or a man. This competition is open to current doctoral students and to those who defended a doctoral dissertation in 2018-2019.  If the essay is a seminar paper, it must have been written during the academic year 2018-2019.  If the essay is a dissertation chapter, it should be accompanied by the dissertation abstract and table of contents.  Previous submissions and published materials are ineligible. Essays should be no longer than 50 double-spaced pages, including reference matter, and in English (quoted text in any other language should be translated). Completed submissions must be received by September 1, 2019. Please send a copy of the essay and an updated CV to each of the three members of the Prize Committee as email attachments.  Please address any questions to the chair of the prize committee.

Professor Amy Randall, Associate Professor of History, Santa Clara University,

Professor Emily Schuckman-Matthews, Associate Professor of European Studies, San Diego State University,

Professor Betsy Jones Hemenway (chair), Senior Lecturer in History and Director of Women’s Studies and Gender Studies, Loyola University Chicago,

Call for Nominations, 2019 AWSS Graduate Research Prize

The Association for Women in Slavic Studies (AWSS) Graduate Research Prize is awarded annually to fund promising graduate-level research in any field of Slavic/East European/Central Asian studies by a woman or on a topic in Women's or Gender Studies related to Slavic Studies/East Europe/Central Asia by a scholar of any gender. Graduate students who are at any stage of master's or doctoral-level research are eligible.  Only current graduate students are eligible for this prize. The grant can be used to support expenses related to completion of a thesis or dissertation, as well as travel, services, and/or materials.  The award carries a cash prize of $1000. Nominations and self-nominations are welcome.

A completed application consists of 1) a 2-3 page proposal that explains the project, how the funds will be used, and why this funding is necessary for continued progress on the project; 2) a CV; 3) a detailed budget and timeline; and 4) two letters of recommendation.  Please submit application materials in MS Word or PDF format.  Winning recipients should submit a report on their use of the funds to the Committee Chair by August of the year following receipt of the award.  Recipients must be members of AWSS; if award recipients are not current AWSS members, they must join AWSS as condition of the award. Applications are due by September 1, 2019, and must be complete by that date to be considered for the award.  Letters of recommendation should be forwarded to the AWSS Graduate Prize Committee Chair directly.

Please direct all questions and send all application materials by email attachment to the Committee Chair, Sharon Kowalsky, Associate Professor of History, Texas A&M-Commerce:

Member News

Alfiya Battalova’s article “Ambivalent subjectivities: experiences of mothers with disabilities in Russia,” was published in Disability & Society (March 2019). 

Maria Bucur published (with Mihaela Miroiu) The Birth of Democratic Citizenship: Women in Modern Romania (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2018), as well as the following articles: “Brexit in Historical Perspective: A Roundtable,” Contemporary European History (January 2019); “’Femeia’, ‘bărbatul’ și identitatea națională la români,” Arhiva Moldaviae, X (2018);  and “To Have and to Hold:  Gender Regimes and Property Rights in the Romanian Principalities and Habsburg Empire, 1600-1914,” European History Quarterly (October 2018).

Choi Chatterjee’s piece, “The Accidental Transnationalist: An Autobiographical Manifesto” was published in Ab Imperio (March 2018). 

Dr. Svitlana (Lana) Krys, Kule announces the publication of her article: “Vampires in Halyna Pahutiak’s Contemporary Ukrainian Fiction: Biting into the Global Myth,” Gothic Studies, vol. 20, nos. 1-2, 2018.

Lisa McIntosh Sundstrom and Valerie Sperling (with Melike Sayoglu) recently published Courting Gender Justice: Russia, Turkey, and the European Court of Human Rights (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019). 


Eurasian, East and Central European Studies Women’s Academics Forum 

The Eurasian, East, and Central European Studies Women Academics Forum (EECES WAF) endeavors to raise the profiles of early career women scholars researching post-Communist countries through the foundation of a global network of woman academics at different stages of their careers. EECES WAF, a virtual Network, operates mainly through social media channels. Following an inaugural workshop on 13 September 2018 at Oxford Brookes University, we plan on organising a series of events that would offer a supportive environment for early career scholars and receive feedback from peers, including more established scholars, in a woman-only environment. The group enjoys official recognition from various established societies in the field of Communist and Post-Communist Studies.  By offering a platform for women scholars to network and discuss their work, the EECES WAF aims to challenge gender disparities in academia. In line with its project “Networking Among Women: A positive initiative to broach gender disparity in academia,” the EECES WAF seeks to promote the research of women scholars and, in doing so, to facilitate intellectual exchanges and links among women scholars at different stages of their careers.

In addition to the group’s annual one-day women-only networking event, the Forum organizes high-quality conference panels, populated exclusively by early career (doctoral students, post-docs) women presenters and chaired by established women academics, Thus far, the Forum has enjoyed such achievements by securing two women-only panels for BASEES 2019 and ASEEES 2019. However, while the group has enjoyed such triumph, there is still much to do!

With great thanks to the ESRC Wales Doctoral Training Partnership and Swansea University, the EECES WAF’s second one-day women networking event will be held in the Taliesin Centre at Swansea University 12 September 2019. Again, the forum has attracted abstract proposals from early career women scholars (doctoral students, post-docs) from around the world, researching post-Communist countries. The registration will open once the presenters have been selected. In the meantime, please sign up for our mailing list ( As part of the mailing list, you will remain up-to-date with any forthcoming news, and on information regarding the upcoming one day workshop

Finally, with special gratitude to the Association for Women in Slavic Studies (AWSS), the EECES WAF aims to increase its presence on the North American continent. Thus, to all women academics researching post-Communist countries in the US and Canada, come to meet and talk with us at the AWSS reception during the 2019 ASEEES Annual Convention in San Francisco on November 2019. 


Jasmin Dall’Agnola & Allyson Edwards
EECES WAF’s Chair and Vice Chair
On behalf of the Eurasian, East and Central European Studies Women Academics’ Forum

For membership enquiries, please email

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