This year, due to the broad thematic scope and the growing number of participants, the traditional scientific conference of Asian and African scholars was for the first time held in the status of a congress that joined the work of 21 sections.
The congress was opened by Professor Igor Gorlinsky, Vice President of the SPbU Academic Council. In his welcoming speech he highlighted a fact that was obvious even to non-professionals: the development of Oriental studies plays a huge role in understanding, analysing and finding solutions to both regional and global problems. “SPbU actively supports the international cooperation of Orientalists, for it is a necessary and most important source of the evolution of scientific knowledge,” Professor Gorlinsky said.
According to the eminent representatives of Russian Oriental studies, the scientific programme of the conference covered the broadest possible range of issues. “I am happy that the tradition of the powerful Russian Oriental science has been resumed in St Petersburg and it is here that it has found a new lease of life,” Academician Alexandr Kudelin, Scientific Director of the Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said.
In addition to the traditional issues of historiography, linguistics, literature, culture and gender, the researchers focused on the etiquette of Japanese warrior houses, the spectacular and musical culture of African peoples, the significance of carpets in the spiritual life of Turkmen, the ethnobotany of West Africa, tea as part of the Eastern culture and even the history of the Azerbaijani musical instrument tar: the participants of the plenary session could listen to it.
The work of the round table “The Middle East as the Most Important Node of the Eurasian Arc of Instability” was devoted to the study of the current political situation in the countries of Asia and Africa. A project of the same name headed by Professor Vladimir Kolotov has been developed at the University since 2013 (see. SPbU as an international research centre of Eurasian security). The participants of the section — historians, political scientists, and journalists — presented an analysis of the factors of socio-political instability, discussed various aspects of information warfare and prospects for the development of the situation in the Middle East.
About the Congress:
Conferences devoted to Asian and African studies have been held at the University for more than half a century. The initiators of the first scientific meetings were the outstanding Soviet Orientalists, academicians of the USSR Academy of Sciences Iosif Orbeli and Boris Piotrovsky, and such Leningrad University professors as Lev Berezny, a sinologist, Dmitry Olderogge (in whose memory the Africanist section is traditionally held) and the specialist in Iranian studies Ilya Petrushevsky, who is the “founding father” of the present-day Congress.
In 2017, about 200 representatives of leading centres of Asian and African studies from more than twenty countries of Europe, Asia, Africa and America took part in the conference, as well as about fifty young Orientalists — undergraduate and postgraduate students from Russia, Iran, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Turkey.