Winter academic reading

My spring semester is about to start, but I had some time to delve into some great books about Eastern Europe and the politics of knowledge production during the Cold War. I wrote review of Birth of Democratic Citizenship and To See Paris and Die, I read Know Your Enemy for the first time and it inspired me to go back and reread Laura Nader’s and Noam Chomsky’s essays in The Cold War & The University.


A beautiful day with friends in Lyuti Brod in northwest Bulgaria.

I spent Sunday with my Bulgarian friends in the village of Lyuti Brod, which is close to the place where the great poet, Hristo Botev, was killed by the Turks on the 2nd of June, 1876.  Every year, the village hosts a special historical reenactment of the battle.  

Sofia, Bulgaria

Since Bulgaria holds the rotating presidency of the European Council, the center of Sofia looks gorgeous, especially the the areas around the National Palace of Culture where the Council is meeting.  In over 20 years of visiting Sofia, I've never seen this area look so nice.  

A beautiful May evening in Sofia.

A beautiful May evening in Sofia.

Summer Reading: The Cold War: A World History

A sweeping history of the Cold War, but Westad doesn't have much to say about women. So far, I've found only one relevant paragraph which segues immediately into a discussion of militarism. 

A perfect book for Bassett hounds and history buffs.

A perfect book for Bassett hounds and history buffs.

One of the biggest changes throughout the Communist world was in the position of women. All over eastern Europe and eastern Asia the position of women had been governed by patriarchal traditions that gave them little say over resources, work, or family affairs. In areas that had had a taste of capitalism, new opportunities for women were mixed with increased social and economic exploitation. The Communist parties set out to change this sorry state of affairs, and at first many women were able to benefit from the new policies. Access to education, work, and child care improved dramatically in many places. So did women’s control over their own lives. The right to divorce and availability of birth control made for big changes in gender relations. But women were still kept out of political leadership positions, and as the regimes wanted to increase their populations, many women found themselves increasingly caught between work and duties to their families. The dual burden on women turned out to be as troublesome in societies that called themselves socialist as they were in the capitalist countries, and the on-going conflict between progressive ideas and traditional norms at least as intense.
— Odd Arne Westad, The Cold War: A World History, New York: Basic Books, 2017: page 190.