Over the past half decade, philosopher and political scientist Mihaela Miroiu published a series of short autobiographical stories that were eventually collected in a book, Cu mintea mea de femeie [With my woman's mind] (Bucharest: Cartea românească, 2017), which was reviewed in Aspasia (vol. 12) in 2018. While the whole volume deserves an international audience, I have selected the story “Medusa's Smirk,” for translation because it sheds light on a topic little known, yet extremely important, in the lives of many women: sexual violence. Discussing sexual violence was a taboo topic under communism, and many women suppressed their traumatic memories of violence both seen and experienced. Yet accounts such as the one shared below have circulated orally and deserve further attention from scholars. For another relevant account, see http://www.publicseminar.org/2017/12/sex-in-the-time-of-communism/.
This article analyzes the Gulag memoirs of four women political prisoners—Olga Adamova-Sliozberg, Liudmila Miklashevskaya, Nadezhda Joffe, and Valentina Grigorievna Ievleva-Pavlenko—to examine the interplay of motherhood and survival. Each was a mother of small children sentenced to forced labor camps in the northern polar regions of the Soviet Union. Motherhood played a complex role in their survival. The rupture in family relations, particularly the separation from their children, magnified the psychological and emotional stress of their incarceration. Yet, being a mother in the camps provided a compelling motivation to stay alive. It helped them to sustain a sense of normalcy by connecting them to their former lives and to the family unit that represented stability and sustenance amid the bleakness of their Gulag existence.
Maria Bucur, Gendering Modernism: A Historical Reappraisal of the Canon, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017, xi +149 pp., $24.95 (paperback), ISBN: 978-1-350-0265-4.
Maria Bucur, The Century of Women: How Women Have Transformed the World Since 1900, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2018, x + 232 pp., $35.00 (paperback), ISBN: 978-1-4422-5739-9.
Milena Kirova, ed., Mara Belcheva: Poezia (Mara Belcheva: Poetry), Volume 1, Sofia: Kibea, 2018, 268 pp., BGN 17 (paperback), ISBN 978-954-474-728-2.
Milena Kirova, ed., Mara Belcheva: Proza i prevodi (Mara Belcheva: Prose and translations), Volume 2, Sofia: Kibea, 2018, 350 pp., BGN 19 (paperback), ISBN 978-954-474-729-9.
Vanya Georgieva, Ekaterina Karavelova—Lora Karavelova: Kulturnoistoricheskiat sjuzhet “maiki-dushteri” v bulgarski context (Ekaterina Karavelova—Lora Karavelova: The cultural-historical subject “mothers-and-daughters” in the Bulgarian context), Sofia: Iztok-Zapad, 2017, 543 pp., BGN 25 (paperback), ISBN 978-619-01-0073-7.
The “Anti-Gender” Wave Contested: Gender Studies, Civil Society, and the State in Eastern Europe and Beyond*
On 12 October 2018, without any public statement or explanation, the responsible Hungarian authorities removed the two-year MA degree program in gender studies, first accredited in Hungary in 2007 and overhauled in 2016, from the list of approved study programs. (Students currently enrolled in any such master's degree at any university in the country can finish their course of studies as usual.) For the MA degree program in gender studies established in 2017 at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, a state university and the largest university in terms of student numbers in the country, this equals abolition. For the two-year MA program in critical gender studies at Central European University (CEU) it means the loss of Hungarian accreditation, by which the degree was formally recognized in the European Union. This combines with the fact that CEU has lost the right to enroll new students into its US programs operated in Hungary, and more generally to operate in Hungary as an American institution (though this still is subject to legal encounters). Already in March 2017, at the time when the higher education reform was announced that would result in making CEU's continued operation in Hungary impossible, the government discussed a report on “a number of questions of the gender studies MA degree,” and representatives of the small Catholic coalition partner of the government led by Viktor Orbán's Fidesz/Hungarian Civic Alliance, the Christian Democratic People's Party, publicly denied the legitimacy of gender studies as an academic subject.
A Comparative Review Essay
Alin Ciupală, Bătălia lor: Femeile din România în Primul Război Mondial (Their battle: Women in Romania during World War I), Iași: Polirom, 2017, 392 pp., 48 illustrations, RON 39.95 (paperback), ISBN: 978-9-73466-577-8.
Jelena Batinić, Women and Yugoslav Partisans: A History of World War II Resistance, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015, 287 pp., 11 illustrations, GBP 24.99 (paperback), ISBN: 978-1-31611-862-7.
Ayşe Durakbaşa, Rochelle Goldberg Ruthchild, Ana Pajvančić-Cizelj, Evgenia Sifaki, Maria Repoussi, Emilia Salvanou, Tatyana Kotzeva, Tamara Zlobina, Maria Bucur, Anna Muller, Katarzyna Stańczak-Wiślicz, Lukas Schretter, Iza Desperak, Susan Zimmermann, and Marina Soroka
Sercan Çınar and Francisca de Haan
A European Research Network Exploring the Life Histories of a Hidden Population
Kimberley Anderson and Sophie Roupetz
Through the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, the research and training network Children Born of War (CHIBOW) seeks to explore the lives of children born to local mothers and fathered by enemy soldiers, occupying forces, and locally stationed and peacekeeping forces during conflicts of the past one hundred years. Born both through mutually consenting “love relationships” and from rape, children born of war are a hidden population, relatively understudied and seldom spoken about in public spheres. Fifteen early career researchers at eleven academic institutes across Europe will address this topic from a multidisciplinary perspective. This training network will act as a platform to share the life stories of people affected by war in the most profound ways and to alleviate some of the silence surrounding their experiences.