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Blog: International Committee Scholarships

post by Leslie McCartney, International Committee Web Liaison

Each year scholarship applications submitted by selected international participants for the upcoming OHA annual meeting are reviewed by the International Committee. This year ten applications were reviewed. With only $3,500.00 in total to offer, the decisions on which applications to fund were difficult ones for the committee.

The following six participants were granted scholarships:

Tetiana Borka from Kyiv, Ukrakine
Sevil Cakir from Mersin, Turkey
Katherine Fobear from British Columbia, Canada
Selma Leydesdorff from Amsterdam, Netherlands
Jo Roberts from Ontario, Canada
Stacy Zembrzycki from Quebec, Canada

Over the next three months, abstracts from the participants granted scholarships will be highlighted in this blog. This month Tetiana Borka and Sevil Cakir’s abstracts are highlighted:

Tetuaba Borka:
Title: “Voiceless memory” and Holodomor (Great Famine): Power of oral history to challenge official historical discourse

Abstract: Holodomor (the Great Famine) in Ukraine in 1932-1933 is one of the greatest catastrophes in Ukrainian history. It took the life of at least 4 million people. Only in 2006 did the Ukrainian government, as well as more than 20 countries, recognized Holodomor as genocide. It was J. Stalin who used famine as a weapon in his political struggle. After committing the crime, the Soviet leadership made sure that a word “famine” would not sound – it began working on memory policy regarding Holodomor: people were repressed, archival documents were partly destroyed.

In 1987 the Ukrainian Soviet leader V.Shcherbytsky recognized the existence of the famine, explaining it by purely weather conditions. Numerous survivors began to tell their stories. The collection of oral history on Holodomor started in the very end of 1980’s. But in 1990’s historians were overwhelmed with too many topics among which Holodomor was only one of the totalitarian regime’s crimes. Another obstacle to re-focus understanding of history was the narrative by itself: too cruel, too horrible, too inhumane to be truth. Political will to hear the stories and to create a public space for a dialogue on the Holodomor issue appeared in the middle of 2000’s. The biggest project was publication of the National memory book on Holodomor (19 volumes, 2008). Now historians possess about 200.000 oral history sources about Holodomor.

The crucial issue that the survivors point to in their stories is confiscation of both grain and non-grain reserves from peasants households, while official documents point at grain and potato only. It was this intentional deprivation of food that led to extreme mortality in Ukraine. Thus oral history mostly refutes the theories about bad weather conditions, bad crops or other invented explanations for the famine cause. It undermined the official narrative about famine and helped to deeper understand nature of Stalin’s totalitarian state.

Sevil Cakir:
Title: Observations on the Everyday Experiences of Women in the Leftist Guerrilla Movements in Iran and Turkey in the 1970s

Abstract: The history of the Left in Iran and Turkey was written predominantly by the male members of the leftist organizations, which occupied a prominent place in politics and society in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Despite women’s participation in large numbers in the leftist movements, be it radical or moderate, their presence was mostly forgotten due to the lack of documentation and negligence of their male comrades. Thus, there is still a significant gap in our understanding of the history of women in the leftists movements in particular and women’s experiences in social movements in general in these countries. In this respect, a comparative study of women’s activism—especially their motivations, perceptions and experiences—in underground leftist movements in Iran and Turkey will be an important contribution. This study aims exactly at making this contribution through an oral history of the women who were involved in urban guerrilla movements in the 1970s in Iran and Turkey.

An oral history of these women, with a particular focus on everyday life, would provide us with their perspective on still highly contentious issues like gender equality and violence in politics and everyday life in these revolutionary movements. With a comparison of Iranian and Turkish cases, this paper questions if we can talk about a common gendered experience for women in underground revolutionary movements in different countries. It also sheds light on the differences in their experiences as a result of social and cultural settings. Oral history interviews are especially important to include women’s perspective into the picture. With a focus on everyday life at the intersection of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, this study provides us with a multi-dimensional analysis of everyday gendered
experiences of women in such extraordinary circumstances.

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