Last weekend, I attended the annual British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES) conference at Fitzwilliam College in Cambridge. The BASEES conference now serves as the major European platform for researchers in Russian and East European area studies and the number of delegates is growing steadily. The conference again exceeded the available capacity at Fitzwilliam leading to some delegates and panels being located at nearby Churchill College.
I presented my paper on ‘Women’s Narratives of 1937’ as part of a panel on Women’s Narratives of Soviet and Post-Soviet Repression. My paper analyses Soviet women’s memoirs and autobiographies, published interview accounts and some of the documents available in the multi-volume Leningradskii martirolog to examine how the arrest of family members impacted on the lives of their female relatives. These secondary victims of the purges have so far received very little attention in the academic literature. Dalia Leinarte presented on Lithuanian and Polish women’s experience of deportation in 1941. Kelly Hignett’s paper focused on women’s experience of repression in Czechoslovakia, and Judy Pallot presented some of the findings of her interviews with prisoners’ wives in contemporary Russia. The panel was chaired by Elena Katz. This proved to be a popular session with standing room only available by the end of the presentations.
The 2015 conference also saw the launch of a new BASEES Women’s Forum, which aims to promote research on women and gender in our region and to support the careers of women working in the broad range of our area studies disciplines through a mentoring and monitoring scheme. The launch itself was extremely well attended by participants eager to hear of the experiences of some of the women who pioneered work in Russian Studies through their visits to the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s.