“How is a woman supposed to tell the story of her life and not stumble upon men?”

― Slavenka DrakulićHow We Survived Communism and Even Laughed

Unit One – Feminisms of Eastern Europe

Charlotte Bunch

Charlotte Bunch is the founding director at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University. She is an activist and author. Her work focuses on feminist theory in combination with public policy.


Maria C. Lugones

Maria Lugones is an Argentine feminist and Associate Professor at Binghamton University in New York state

Elizabeth V. Spelman

Elizabeth Spelman is a Professor in the Humanities at Smith College. Her research sheds light on the positive and negative implications of the intersection or intertwining of “racial,” gender and other aspects of women’s identities.


Tatiana Tolstaya

Tatiana Tolstaya

Tatiana Tolstaya is a Russian writer from the influential Tolstoy family. Tolstaya’s writings challenge the consequences of capitalist themes and their impact on Russian society.



Beth Holmgren

Beth Holmgren is the Chair of the Slavic and Eurasian Studies department at Duke University’s Trinity College. She is the recipient of numerous awards. Her work focuses on women’s literature during the Soviet Union.


Rosalind Marsh

Rosalind Marsh is a Professor of Russian Studies at University of Bath. Her research interests include: Russian women’s literature and culture and Stalinism.


Unit Two – Labor and Revolution

Lyubov Yanovska (1891 – 1933)

Yanovska’s writing focuses on the peasantry and the intelligentsia of the Russian Empire during the late 19th and early 20th century. 


Martha Bohachevsky

Martha Bohachevsky-Chomiak is a historian and author. She has taught at Johns Hopkins, George Washington, and Harvard.


Vladimir Lenin

Vladimir Lenin was the founder of the Russian Communist Party and the first leader of the Soviet state. 


Pavla Vasela

Pavla Vasela earned a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Duke University and currently teaches American studies and literature at Charles University in Prague. 


Aleksandra Kollontai

Aleksandra Kollontai (1872-1952)

Aleksandra Kollontai was an outspoken, socialist revolutionary of the early 20th century. Her works covered the evolution of  the role of women in Soviet Russia. 

Francine du Plessix Gray

Francine du Plessix Gray is an American Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer and literary critic.

Natalya Baranskaya (1908 -2004)

Baranskaya was a Soviet writer of short stories and novellas. Daily life is a recurring theme in her stories, which were first published from 1969 to 1986. Baranskaya’s focus jumps from character to character, and her stories develop slowly, through action and detail.


Thomas Lahusen

Thomas Lahusen is a professor born in Germany and educated Switzerland. His research combines history, comparative literature, culture and film studies, and extends geographically from the areas of Eastern Europe, Russia and the Soviet Union to China.


Agnieszka Holland

Agnieszka Holland

Agnieszka Holland is a director, script-writer from Warsaw, Poland. She began her film career working in Poland as assistant director with Andrzej Wajda as her mentor. Holland belongs to the “theater of moral anxiety.” Her stories are founded in the human story of life and joy, in the midst of tragedy, against the backdrop of East European fatalism.


Katarzyna Marciniak

Marciniak is a Professor of English at Ohio University. Her research interests are diverse, including: immigration studies, racial studies, transnational literature, and critical pedagogy.


Unit Three- The Politics of Publishing

Doris Lessing (1919 – 2013)

Doris Lessing was born in Persia (present-day Iran). She was a novelist, poet, playwright, librettist, biographer and short story writer. Her works focus on the how the time and place in which one is socialized affects their outlook on life, shaping their opinions and beliefs.


Alexandra Popoff

Alexandra Popoff was born and educated in Moscow. A journalist and writer, she published her work in the Russian national newspaper and magazines. As an Alfred Friendly Press Fellow in 1991, she wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer.  


Sofia Tolstaya

Sophia Tolstaya

Sophia Tolstaya, the wife of Lev Tolstoy, was a Russian diarist and contributed greatly to the works of her husband. She has been maligned by historians and has not been credited for her contribution to the writer. Sophia’s life has been long misinterpreted.


Eliza Orzeszkowa  (1841 – 1919)

She was born in Poland and was daughter of wealthy landowners. She received a conventional home education. Orzeszkowa’s novels are rooted in the social life of her times and describe her ideas, beliefs, doubts, and defeats.


Shana Penn

Shana Penn is a visiting scholar at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. She directs the Jewish Heritage Initiative in Poland, a philanthropic program of the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture, based in San Francisco. Her work “Solidarity’s Secret” sheds light on the little-known role women played in the rise of an independent press in Poland, which, arguably, led to the fall of the communist government in Poland.


Dubravka Ugresic

Dubravka Ugresic is a novelist and essayist. Her work is prize-winning and has been regarded as appealing to a rare combination of irony and compassion. She has taught at Harvard, Columbia, UCLA and at the Free University in Berlin.


Unit Four – War and Genocide

Nadezhda Mandelstam (1899–1980)

Nadezhda Mandelstam, wife of Russian poet Osip Mandelstam, was a translator. The couple was arrested in 1934 for Osip’s “crime” of writing satirical lines about Stalin. 


Anna Świrszczyńska (1909 -1984)

Anna Świrszczyńska was born in Warsaw, Poland. In university, she studied medieval Polish literature. Her poems are poignant, discussing war and death very succinctly. 


Olga Tokarczuk

Olga Tokarczuk

Olga Tokarczuk is a critically-acclaimed, Polish author. She is also trained as a psychologist. 




Slavenka Drakulic

Slavenka Drakulić is a Croatian writer. Her most influential works cover the experiences of women who were subjected to sexualized violence. 

Unit Five- Ethnicity and National Identity

Oksana Zabuzhko

Oksana Zabużko

Oksana Zabuzhko works at the Hryhori Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. Zabuzhko has taught Ukrainian literature at Harvard and University of Pittsburgh




Unit Six- Bodies and Sex

Ericka Johnson

Ericka Johnson is an American writer and researcher. We read her piece on the phenomenon of “mail-order brides” from Eastern Europe and their popularity in the United States.


Lyudmila Ulitskaya

Ludmila Ulitskaya a popular Russian writer. Her works use the Soviet and post-Soviet era as a distinctive backdrop.



Joanna Mishtal

Joanna Mishtal is Polish and associate professor of anthropology at the University of Central Florida. 


Tomek Kitlinski

Tomasz Kitliński is a lecturer at Maria Curie-Sklodowska University

Agnieszka Graff

Agnieszka Graff

Agnieszka Graff is a Polish writer, translator, and feminist. She graduated from Oxford University, Amherst College in Massachusetts. She currently works at the Warsaw University‘s Institute of the Americas and Europe and lectures on gender studies. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnieszka_Graff

Anna Temkina

Anna Temkina is a Professor of Sociology of Public Health and Gender at European University in St. Petersburg in Russia. 


Elena Zdravomyslova

Elena Zdravomyslova is a Professor of Political Science and Sociology.