Marina Men’shikova is Outside the Forest: Translation as Thinking at the UN
This project uses the life and career of Marina Men’shikova, a Soviet agricultural economist who worked as a UN translator in New York during the 1970s, to think through women’s unequal access to international space and highlight translation as a form of international economic thinking performed primarily by women. Men’shikova trained at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO) and held prestigious positions the Institute for World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) in Moscow and the Institute of the Economy and the Organization of Industrial Production (IEOPP) in Novosibirisk. She gave up her post in 1973 to follow her economist husband, Stanislav Men’shikov, to New York after he was selected as the deputy director of the new Center for Development Planning at the Department for Social and Economic Affairs. Stanislav had benefitted from a UN-wide hiring drive of Soviet experts that boosted the career of many Soviet men, precisely in the mid 1970s, and Soviet norms that for the most part allowed only men to work internationally. Although middle class educated women in the west who were kept out governmental or university positions found new spaces of professional possibility within the international organizations, Soviet women were excluded from international opportunities. One of the few options for Soviet women seeking international careers were language-based professions such as teaching and translating. But the nature of translation, especially within the anonymized bureaucratic context of international organizations, obscures their expertise. As Men’shikova translated UN documents including those examining economic policy into Russian, she employed her contextual knowledge of the USSR and the subjects at hand. The project suggests that regarding translation as international work better illuminates the gender dynamics of international work and allows our histories to include a new cohort of thinkers who made international economic thinking possible.