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University of Iowa News Release


March 28, 2007

Roundtable Discussion, Film Screenings On Dagestan Scheduled In April

A roundtable discussion on creativity and instability in the Islamic world and two films centering on fighting between Russian government forces and Islamic rebels are part of the Dagestan Project, a series of events and classes now underway at the University of Iowa, sponsored by UI International Programs.

The roundtable event, "Dagestan: Creativity and Insecurity in an Islamic Region of Russia," will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 4, in the International Commons, Room 1117 of the University Capitol Centre. Segments of films about Dagestan today and its life and art will also be shown.

"An Islamic revolution is taking place in the Middle East on the borders of Russia, in Iran and Afghanistan, and inside Russia in Chechnya and Dagestan," said Irina Kostina, a Russian lecturer in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a panelist on the roundtable.

Kostina was born and grew up in Dagestan, a Russian republic located on the western shore of the Caspian Sea.

"Today, the West is connected with the Islamic world in disparate ways. Its need for oil conflicts with its position as an opponent in an East/West cultural clash and an increasing sense of alarm regarding the Islamic community's instability," she said.

The Dagestan Project also includes two film screenings. "Prisoner of the Mountains" is a 1996 Cannes Award winner about two Russian soldiers facing certain death after their capture by Chechen guerillas. It will be shown at 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 2. "House of Fools" is a 2003 Venice Film Festival Jury Grand Prize winner about patients in a psychiatric hospital left to fend for themselves after the medical staff abandons the facility when fighting erupts nearby. It will also be shown at 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 9.

Both film screenings will take place in the International Commons, Room 1117 of the University Capitol Centre. Both films are R-rated with dialogue in Russian with English subtitles.

Kostina is currently teaching a class titled Through a Veil of Clouds, which she said is the first of its kind to be offered at an American university. The course examines the lives of Islamic women in Dagestan from the late Soviet era, during which the government encouraged an egalitarian society, through the post-1991 Islamic revolution and the dramatic transitions and reversals of women's roles the past decade.

Margaret Mills, a UI Russian professor, is a co-instructor for the class, and Irina Isopeskova, correspondent for the newspaper Dagestanskaya Pravda, serves as a course consultant.

Isopeskova will join Kostina as a panelist for the April 4 roundtable discussion, as will Canadian Lorraine Ross, whose UI doctoral dissertation in 1998 focused on art in Dagestan. Other panelist participants will include William Reisinger, associate provost and dean of UI International Programs, and Vicki Hesli, coordinator of the UI Middle East and Muslim World Studies scholarly group and professor of political science in CLAS.

For more information or special accommodations to attend the roundtable discussion or either film, contact Heidi Vekemans, International Programs events coordinator, at 319-335-3862.

International Programs enables University of Iowa students, faculty, staff and the public to learn from and about the world. Its offices, degree programs and events provide life-changing opportunities on campus and abroad, heighten intellectual and cultural diversity and give all University constituents access to vital international knowledge. For more information, visit or call 319-353-2700. International Programs is part of the Office of the Provost.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Joe Nugent, 319-335-2026,; Program: Irina Kostina, 319-335-0771, Writer: Joe Nugent.