Women's Status in Post-Communist Europe Explored in April 7-8 Conference

An upcoming conference funded by a University of Iowa International Programs Major Project grant will look closely at the status of women in Russia and Eastern Europe in the years since the collapse of the Soviet era.

The conference, titled “20 Years after the Berlin Wall: Women’s Shifting Roles and Status in Post-Communist Europe,” will be held Thursday and Friday, April 7-8, in Conference Room 2025D of the University Capitol Centre. The event is free and the public is invited to attend. No registration is required.

A major theme of the conference is the gap between expectations and reality; the future that many Russian and Eastern European women dreamed of after such a tremendous political and social upheaval differs greatly from their current quality of life and the “double burden” of duties in and outside of the home that they continue to endure.

“The greater Eastern Iowa community is uniquely rich in experts who have lived in, worked in, and continue to study major gender issues in all these countries. We are particularly pleased that so many UI undergraduate and graduate students will play a pivotal role in every aspect of this interdisciplinary international conference,” said Margaret H. Mills, co-director of the conference and professor of Russian language and linguistics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS).

Other co-directors for the conference, both in CLAS, are Irina Kostina, lecturer in Russian language and culture, and Jitka Sonkova, lecturer in Czech language and literature.

Panel discussions throughout the two-day program will address women’s health and the current health care crisis in Russia; women and Islam in the 21st century; women, politics and power in the Czech Republic and Germany; contemporary women’s voices from Poland and Russia; and women in classic Russian literature and film.

A keynote address on “Women and Society in 21st Century Russia” will be presented by Anna Sharogradskaya at 9:15 a.m. April 7. She is a media specialist and former professor at Leningrad State University in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The second keynote address, “Women in between Work and Care in Post-Communist Europe,” will be presented by Hana Haskova at 9:30 a.m. April 8. She is deputy chair of the Department of Gender and Sociology at the Institute of Sociology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague.

There will also be poetry readings in the original languages with English translations, a movie collage of women in Russian film, and a roundtable discussion of young professionals from Croatia, Slovakia, Russia, Czech Republic and Germany sharing their perspectives and predictions for the future.

“International Programs is excited to support this major conference, which will address key issues at the intersection of gender, culture, and politics in a vital part of the world,” said Downing Thomas, associate provost and dean of International Programs.

A related “WorldCanvass” program on “Women in Post-Socialist Eastern Europe” will be held Friday, April 8, from 5-7 p.m. in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol. The program will cover many of the themes addressed during the conference as well as pop culture, social media, literature, poetry and film of Russia and Eastern Europe.

Host Joan Kjaer will be joined by Mills, Kostina, Sonkova and other faculty from CLAS and the University of Northern Iowa, as well as students, scholars and community members.

“WorldCanvass” is recorded live for later broadcast on UITV and Iowa Public Radio.

Sponsors for these programs include the Stanley-UI Foundation Support Organization, UI International Programs, UITV, UI Pentacrest Museums, KRUI, and Information Technology Services.

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