Heldt Prize

The Heldt Prize recognizes the accomplishments of Barbara Heldt, one of the founding mothers of Slavic Studies in the United States and of the AWSS. Known for both her feminist scholarship and her commitment to the field, the prize is a fitting tribute to Heldt’s generous support for women and for women’s and gender studies.

Each year AWSS awards three Heldt Prizes:

  • Best book by a woman in any area of Slavic/East European/Eurasian Studies
  • Best book in Slavic/East European/Eurasian women’s and gender studies
  • Best article in Slavic/East European/Eurasian women’s and gender studies

In alternate years, AWSS also awards a prize for:

Best translation in Slavic/East European/Eurasian women’s and gender studies

2019 Awards

AWSS is pleased to announce the 2019 Heldt Prize winners:

Best book by a woman in any area of Slavic/East European/Eurasian Studies
Winner: Hannah Pollin-Galay, Ecologies of Witnessing: Language, Place, and Holocaust Testimony (Yale University Press, 2018)

Hannah Pollin-Galay’s Ecologies of Witnessing is a boldly original and paradigm-shifting book that will be influential for scholarship in a number of fields, well beyond Slavic/E. European/Eurasian studies: Holocaust studies, memory & trauma studies, Jewish studies, and history of the Second World War. Focusing her study on the personal narratives of Lithuanian Jews who survived the Holocaust, Pollin-Galay compares the testimonies of survivors who returned or remained in Lithuania after the war to the remembrances of those who settled in Israel and the United States.

Pollin-Galay has both conducted and curated a broad array of testimonies. Her analysis is firmly grounded in the most impactful and recent approaches to the construction of memory: the role of the collective, linguistic analyses, the interpersonal dynamics between interviewee and interviewer, and, most notably, an interest in the impact of spatial relationships. Through the concept of “ecology,” she explains the intersection of these factors and how scholars must be attentive to the place where Holocaust survivors, who experienced the Holocaust in the same spot, are remembering the trauma, displacement, and violence of the Holocaust. The committee also acknowledges the author’s implicit, yet forceful reminder that Yiddish is, indeed, a (spoken) language relevant to understanding the diversity of human experience in East Europe and Eurasia.

Ecologies of Witnessing: Language, Place, and Holocaust Testimony is prodigiously and deeply researched and elegantly structured and written. The advantage of this book is that it opens potential avenues of research in other disciplines, which may start from the author’s findings and then have current implications for how memories about the Holocaust are constructed in the Baltics, Israel, and the United States.

Pollin-Galay accomplishes what the best scholarship should strive toward: The communication of profoundly complex ideas in a lucid and accessible manner.

Honorable Mention

Edyta Bojanowska, A World of Empires: The Russian Voyage of the Frigate Pallada. (Harvard University Press, 2018)
Edyta Bojanowska, A World of Empires: The Russian Voyage of the Frigate Pallada is a wonderful narrative of the nineteenth-century voyage of a Russian frigate based on Ivan Goncharov’s travelogue, The Frigate Pallada. At present, there is not yet an English translation of this 800-page travelogue.

In A World of Empires, Bojanowska has made accessible to students and scholars of European imperialism a travelogue that nineteenth-century Russians read and believed represented their imperial ambitions and attitudes about their imperial competitors, the British and French. Interweaving literary analysis, knowledge of the historiography and literary analysis of travel, and Russia’s engagement with and views of the world of empires, Bojanowska provides a window into Russia’s ambitions and reveals the cultural context of Russian administration and rule in its acquired and conquered territory. Her exploration of Goncharov’s trip through Siberia and views on Russian settlement and expansion into the region after the sea voyage provides insight into Russian thinking about how to control and rule this territory.

Bojanowska’ has written a book that addresses a significant lacuna in the scholarship of 19th century imperialism and will have broad appeal beyond the fields of Slavic and Eurasian Studies. In the Russian context of the study of Russian imperialism, it is a huge step forward toward understanding the Russian empire and moves the discussion about Russian imperialist ambitions beyond that of simply denial that Russia was similar to its 19th century imperial competitors.

Honorable Mention

Sarah Cameron, The Hungry Steppe: Famine, Violence, and the Making of Soviet Kazakhstan, (Cornell University Press, November 2018)
Sarah Cameron’s The Hungry Steppe is an elegantly written and prodigiously researched book, bringing to light knowledge of the devastating historical cataclysm that deserves much more attention than it has received-the hunger and violence inflicted upon the nomadic populations of Soviet Kazakhstan during Soviet collectivization and forced settlement drives of the early 1930s.

Especially noteworthy is the author’s pioneering use of both Russian and Kazakh language sources to tell this story. The author’s conclusions add critical dimension not only to our understanding of the history of Soviet Kazakhstan but also to that of Stalinism, of the Soviet Union’s devastating projects of modernization and their far-reaching consequences, as well as to how we contextualize other man-made famines of the USSR. Cameron’s conclusions can be applicable to the situations of other peoples in the steppe as well as the more well-known and well-documented famine in Ukraine.

Cameron’s book is written with compassion for the victims—both immediate and by legacy—of the atrocities Cameron describes. Her book lays the groundwork for more research, unearthing of survivor testimonies, and discussion of the violent, foundational event of the modern Kazakh state.


Best book in Slavic/Eastern European/Eurasian Women's and Gender Studies
Winner: Kateřina Lišková, Sexual Liberation, Socialist Style: Communist Czechoslovakia and the Science of Desire, 1945-1989 (Cambridge University Press, 2018)

Lišková’s book makes an innovative and important contribution to the study of sexuality—and by extension: gender relations—in Eastern Europe. Her study shatters the rather common notion of pre-1989 Eastern Europe as a rather prudish region in which intimacy and sexuality were confined to the bedrooms of obedient citizens

Through a clear narrative, she explains the continuity between the early communist state and interwar Czechoslovaka where ideas of sexual freedom were first posited and articulated by Czech sexologists and sexology. After the war and during the communist period, she reveals that interwar sexology and sexologists advised and informed the regime about how to think about sexual liberation. Lišková reveals and details that sexologists had much to say to the state and its citizens about sexuality and sexual relationships. Many citizens of the Czechoslovak state eagerly tried to follow advice given in public media or in counseling sessions. Fascinating is how Lišková details that the communist state sanctioned such discourse.

What is particularly striking is how she interweaves the ideology of the normalization period, which turned Czechs and Slovaks toward the private, and how the more family-centered discourse moved the state to regulated sexuality. She points out that this the opposite of what was going on in the “west:” a move toward greater sexual liberalization and freedom.

Lišková’s analysis of the interaction between state authorities and agencies on the one hand, and individuals on the other is powerful because it is so detailed and deeply grounded in sources. Her use of family court records supports a persuasive argument about how communist societies strove to simultaneously liberate and regulate sexuality. Overall, the book will be of use for many scholars in the subject area, will serve teachers of Eastern European studies, and allow scholars to think more broadly about the intimate and everyday lives of citizens in Czechoslovakia and the Eastern bloc.


Best Translation
Winner: Natalie Kononenko, Ukrainian Epic and Historical Song: Folklore in Context (University of Toronto Press, 2018).

In Ukrainian Epic and Historical Song: Folklore in Context Natalie Kononenko has combined her considerable skills as translator and extensive experience and depth of knowledge as researcher to provide English-language readers access to traditional Ukrainian dumy, epics songs based on historical events traditionally sung by kobzary (bards). As Kononenko notes in her Introduction, for many Ukrainians today dumy have come to symbolize “the source from which a true Ukrainian identity could be derived.” Increasingly dumy are being performed. And yet for many in the Diaspora who lack the knowledge of Ukrainian the dumy demand, these documents of history have remained only “talsimans.” This volume not only restores dumy for readers of Ukrainian heritage, it will prove invaluable for folklorists in general insofar as it provides access to a corpus whose ties to other traditions have been understudied owing to a lack of translations and background.

Kononenko initiated the project as a translation, and the committee has chosen to recognize it primarily as such. Gradually issues of selection and translation, the phenomena described in the dumy demanded more extensive commentary than a traditional translation might involve. Instead of the more usual route of translations and copious footnotes, Kononenko made the creative choice to set the translations within the commentaries to provide a highly readable narrative. Readers with knowledge of both Ukrainian and English will find Kononenko’s English-language renderings remarkably accurate semantically as well as “musically.”

Kononenko’s achievement with Ukrainian Epic and Historical Song: Folklore in Context reflects a growing and laudable trend of translators empowering themselves to initiate projects and to maintain greater control of the process and end product. As such, in addition to its scholarly significance, this volume stands as a model for future endeavors.


Best article in Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies
Winner: Siobhan Hearne, "To Denounce or Defend: Public Participation in the Policing of Prostitution in Late Imperial Russia,” Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 19(4): 717-744

This is a thoroughly researched article that makes a compelling argument to turn to the “elusive voices of women registered as prostitutes, their clients, and urban dwellers” for a comprehensive understanding of public views of prostitution. Drawing on a range of sources and firmly grounded in recent scholarship in labor history, feminist and gender studies and, of course, Russian history, Hearne elucidates how state institutions and individuals worked together in policing female behavior. The careful reading of various actors’ statements reveals insights into urban residents’ views of state institutions and thus contributes to analyses of social and political dynamics beyond the Russian Empire.

Honorable Mention

Colleen Lucey, “Fallen but Charming Creatures: The Demimondaine in Russian Literature and Visual Culture of the 1860s,” The Russian Review 78(1):103-121

Through a meticulous reading of Vsevolod Krestovskii’s short story, “A Fallen but Charming Creature,” and an innovative exploration of an unknown album of lithographs for which Krestovskii wrote the captions, Lucey uncovers nineteenth-century public attitudes and imaginings about a new class of St. Petersburg women, the demimondaine. Lucey juxtaposes Krestovskii’s short story which depicts these women as “fallen” with a visual culture glorifying demimondaine as women who have sexual and financial agency. The article demonstrates the necessity of reading culture not only through literary sources but also to take seriously the role of visual culture in shaping the public’s attitudes and imagination. The article makes extensive use of the lithographs making this article accessible to scholars and students alike.


Heldt Prize Committee

Melissa Bokovoy, Chair (University of New Mexico)

Diane Nemec Ignashev (Carleton College)

Jenny Kaminer (University of California-Davis)

Maria Popova (McGill University)

Anika Walke (Washington University in St. Louis)

2018 Awards

AWSS is pleased to announce the 2018 Heldt Prize winners:

Best book by a woman in Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies

Edyta Materka, Dystopia's Provocateurs: Peasants, State, and Informality in the Polish-German Borderlands. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017.

Dystopia’s Provocateurs is a stunning achievement of interdisciplinary and scholarly imagination. Set in the area known to Poles as the “Recovered Territories,” this study uses oral histories, archival documents, and literary sources to reconstruct the uneven, incomplete, and ad hoc process of transforming the countryside from German into Polish territory. Materka offers a compelling argument for peasants’ skillful and flexible use of strategies to navigate upheaval in ingenious ways that served their needs materially and psychologically. Materka offers a model of methodological innovation coupled with uncommon empathy.


Best article in Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies

Arthur Clech, “Between the Labor Camp and the Clinic: Tema or the Shared Forms of Late Soviet Subjectivity,” Slavic Review 77, no. 1 (Spring 2018): 6-29.

Arthur Clech breaks new ground in the emerging field of Slavic, East European and Eurasian queer studies. Drawing on interviews with 36 men and women, a rereading of published primary sources, and careful engagement with the secondary literature, Clech undermines a scholarly consensus that, he persuasively argues, oversimplifies and overstates the gulf in experiences between same-sex attracted women and men. Though gay men were sentenced to prison and women were vulnerable to institutionalization in psychiatric facilities, Clech makes the case that a shared homosexual subjectivity existed that transcended the state’s divergent strategies of repression. With clear prose and persuasive, measured argumentation, Clech reconceptualizes our understanding of same-sex attraction and identity in the late Soviet period, opening new pathways for investigation in the process.

Honorable Mention

Igor Fedyukin, “Sex in the City that Peter Built: The Demimonde and Sociability in mid-Eighteenth Century Saint Petersburg,” Slavic Review 76, no. 4 (Winter 2017): 907-930.

Through a meticulous reading of an uncommonly rich cache of documents, Igor Fedyukin sheds light on the interlocking histories of sexuality, policing, and sociability. The paper trail of state efforts to curtail “indecency” yields a rich picture of for-profit, mixed sex “parties” that catered to elite appetites for socializing and for sex. Fedyukin sees in these social circles precursors to the kind of autonomous associational life that would later cause the autocracy anxiety, demonstrating how the history of sexuality speaks directly to the most central questions of political history.


Best book in Slavic, East European and Eurasian Women's/Gender Studies

The committee declined to make an award in this category this year.


Heldt Prize Committee

Paula Michaels, Chair (Monash University)

Rebecca Gould (University of Birmingham)

Eileen Kane (Connecticut College)

Diane Nemec Ignashev (Carleton College & Lomonosov Moscow State University)

Jennifer Suchland (Ohio State University)

2017 Awards

Best book by a woman in any area of Slavic/East European/Eurasian Studies

Gould, Rebecca. Writers and Rebels: The Literature of Insurgency in the Caucasus. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016.

Rebecca Gould's meticulous study of Chechen, Dagestani, Georgian, and Russophone literature of Caucasian anticolonial insurgency is a linguistic tour-de-force in service of a nuanced analysis. Writers and Rebels explores the sacralization of rebellion and the anesthetization of violence in the prose, poetry, and oral narratives of the Caucasus region. She delves into a deep archive of local literary works and carefully unpacks differences among these geographically proximate, but profoundly diverse cultures. Gould's work offers a fresh approach that transcends literary studies, historical ethnography, and religious studies. It stands, too, as a model for the study of the borderlands, attentive to both the sub-regional specificities and liminal space the Caucasus occupied at the interface of the Russian and Ottoman empires.

Honorable Mention:

Nancy Shields Kollmann, The Russian Empire, 1450-1801. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Nancy Shields Kollman demonstrates the abilities of an historian at the peak of her skills. Based on years of specialised research and an absolute mastery of the field, she offers a fresh synthesis of early imperial Russia that will compel scholars and students to rethink our most fundamental assumptions. She has produced the authoritative work in the field, a masterpiece that will serve as a key reference on early modern Russia for years to come.

Honorable Mention:

Rosalind P. Blakesley, The Russian Canvas: Painting in Imperial Russia, 1757-1881. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016.

Rosalind Blakesley's comprehensive study sets a new standard in Russian art history and fills an enormous gap in the scholarly literature. She teases out Russia's unique path to a professionalized corps of painters, while simultaneously embedding the Russian school in the broader history of European painting. Blakesley seamlessly weaves rigorous, exhaustive archival research with an encyclopedic command of the secondary literature to provide fresh insights into Russian painting and its links to broader social, political, and cultural changes in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.


Best book in Slavic/Eastern European/Eurasian Women's and Gender Studies

Jusová, Iveta & Jirina Šiklová, Czech Feminisms: Perspectives on Gender in East Central Europe. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016.

Jusová and Šiklová have done a tremendous service to the field of Women's and Gender Studies through the publication of this edited volume. It allows leading Czech feminist scholars to speak in their own voice to an English-language audience. Covering history, sociology, ethnography, and politics, this collection gives readers a sense of the broad range of concerns that animate Czech women's and gender studies. To students of feminism in Eastern and Central Europe and beyond, Feminisms offers a window onto the common ground and unique perspectives of our Czech sisters.


Best translation in Slavic/Eastern European/Eurasian women's and gender studies

Nemec Ignashev, Diane, trans. The Kukotsky Enigma by Ludmila Ulitskaya. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2016.

Diane Nemec Ignashev's elegant and readable translation of The Kukotsky Enigma makes an important work by one of contemporary Russia's leading writers available for the first time to an English-speaking audience. As with all excellent works of translation, Nemec Ignashev renders the Russian into a natural English that allows the reader an immersive experience of the book. The novel centers on a male gynecologist who takes up the fight for abortion access in Stalin's USSR, a struggle that threatens to tear his family apart. The Kukotsky Enigma ruminates on the ethical questions that swirl around women's reproductive capacities. The themes at the heart of the work will engage a broad readership, which can now access the work thanks to Nemec Ignashev's able translation.


Best article in Slavic/Eastern European/Eurasian women's and gender studies

Zenovich, Jennifer A. "Willing the Property of Gender: A Feminist Autoethnography of Inheritance in Montenegro" Women's Studies in Communication 39, no. 1 (2016): 28-46. DOI: 10.1080/07491409.2015.1113217.

In her imaginative and compelling article, Jennifer Zenovich explores the linkage between property ownership, inheritance, and gender in contemporary Montenegro. Using the method of autoethnography, the article unspools the author's experience of this issue vis-à-vis her own father and brother. Zenovich puts her own story in dialogue with conversations with and observations of Montenegrin women she encounters through family ties and field work. A sophisticated feminist theoretical framing informs her analysis, which offers a fresh perspective on understudied questions at the intersection of gender and economics.


Heldt Prize Committee:

Paula A. Michaels, chair and AWSS President-Elect (Monash University)

Melissa Bokovoy (University of New Mexico)

Jenny Kaminer (University of California-Davis)

Eileen Kane (Connecticut College)

Jennifer Suchland (Ohio State University)

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