Mavkas in the Room: Silences, Denials, Discomforts in East European History

When and Where

Friday, March 29, 2019 2:30 pm to 5:00 pm
North House
1 Devonshire Place, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 3K7


Unlike the more notable elephant, whose sheer size is a marker of problems parties refuse to discuss, the Mavka hints at other kinds of silences in family histories and narratives about the past. The Mavka is a forest nymph, a girl or young woman that died tragically, but whose spirit lingers on in the forests of Eastern Europe. Her very existence is born not only of the trauma of an unnatural death, but also efforts to suppress the details of what happened to her.

On March 29, a panel of scholars across the disciplines of History and Slavic Languages and Literatures will discuss a range of silences that affect scholarship on the region as well as personal and familial accounts of the past. We will discuss why gender has been muted or is absent in studies of the artistic avantgarde and the nationalist underground during WWII and the implications of integrating those perspective into histories of the region.

Viewing East European, Russian, and Soviet history as a family drama, we also consider how violence and trauma over the centuries has shaped what is said and what remains unsaid. Additionally, panelists will reflect on conceptual, practical and methodological hurdles facing scholars aiming to address these silences and restore agency to voices that remain unheard. Chief among them will be the silences facing the researcher—personal and professional reasons for pursuing one research agenda over another. We will also discuss how to broach topics that remain taboo, how to deal with historical figures that are unsympathetic and those we might love too much, and how to address questions that make us uncomfortable, both individually and collectively.

Orysia Kulick (Petro Jacyk Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Toronto) Markian Dobczansky (Postdoctoral Research Scholar in Ukrainian Studies, Columbia University) Oksana Dudko (PhD Candidate, History Department/Anne Tanenbaum Center for Jewish Studies, University of Toronto) Mayhill Fowler (Assistant Professor of History, Stetson University) Anna Muller (Assistant Professor of History; The Frank and Mary Padzieski Endowed Professor in Polish/Polish American/Eastern European Studies, University of MIchigan-Dearborn) Dragana Obradovic (Associate Professor, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Toronto)

Alison K. Smith (Professor and Chair, Department of History, University of Toronto)
Lynne Viola (Professor, Department of History, University of Toronto)

Contact Information


1 Devonshire Place, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 3K7