From 5 to 8 April I was at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, for the annual British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies conference, which this year also hosted the International Council for Central and East European Studies European Regional Congress on the subject of ‘Europe: Crisis and Renewal’. It was a larger gathering than usual with papers spread over four days rather than three. Between panels and plenary sessions, there was time to meet with colleagues over tea and biscuits, to talk to publishers and to browse the book displays.
On Saturday morning, I was on a panel on ‘New Perspectives on the Cold War: the Eastern Point of View’ with two colleagues from Finland with whom I have been working closely recently on projects relating to different aspects of Cold War research. My paper was called ‘Life History and the Cold War’ and it drew on extracts from my forthcoming book, Life Stories of Soviet Women: the Interwar Generation (Routledge, 2013), about my interviewees’ perceptions of the West and their experiences of travelling abroad in the post-Stalin period.
This panel was followed by a lunchtime meeting of the National Advisory Board of the journal Europe-Asia Studies. The editor reported on the growing numbers of submissions for publication in the journal, which already runs to ten issues a year. There is clearly room in the UK and international market for another journal to support research in our area and we had some discussion about the possibility of BASEES taking the lead in this endeavour. There was also some discussion of the journal’s ranking for REF purposes and about current developments in Open Access publishing.
In the evening, I went to see former Guardian Moscow correspondent Luke Harding ‘in conversation’ with one of BASEES’s long-standing members. Luke talked about the harassment by state authorities that he and his family experienced whilst he was based in Moscow (which forms the basis of his recent book on Mafia State) and also about his love for Russian language and culture. As might have been expected with a specialist academic audience such as ours, Luke was subjected to quite a grilling during the question and answer session.
In addition to these activities, I chaired a panel on Monday morning about ‘Trust in Soviet History’, with papers covering the early Soviet and post-Stalin periods. I had many discussions with colleagues about developments in Soviet history and it was pleasing to see a number of former postgraduate students who have now completed their PhDs and progressed to academic posts around the country. I attended the BASEES AGM, in advance of which I had already been invited to return to the BASEES Executive Committee to take up my former role as Membership Secretary.
On 12 April I went to LiverpoolUniversity for a day conference on Transnational History and Human Rights. I was only able to attend part of the day and was invited to chair the panel on ‘Cold War Transnationalism: States and Citizens c. 1945-1975’. The two papers for this panel both discussed transnational women’s organisations. Chiara Bonfiglioli (Edinburgh) talked about the response of the Women’s International Democratic Federation (WIDF) to the expulsion of Yugoslavia from the Cominform in 1948 and the impact of this on Yugoslav and Italian women’s organisations. Celia Donert, the conference organiser, spoke about her work on the women’s international peace movement, the impact of the Korean War and the trial of East German activist Lilly Waechter. The third speaker was unable to attend, so Celia asked me to make some brief comments about my published paper about the role of Soviet women in the WIDF. The day was a great success, so I was sorry not to have been able to attend it all.