The biennial International Congress on Historiography and Source Studies of Asia and Africa, the major international forum in the field of Asian and African studies in Russia, has been held at the Faculty of Asian and African Studies of the Saint Petersburg State University for more than half a century since 1961.
Historically the organization of the congress has gone through a number of stages: from inter-university scholarly methodological conferences held in the Oriental faculty of the Leningrad State University, to large international forums with the participation of many representatives from leading universities and academic centres of Russia, former Soviet Union republics, as well as universities of Asia, Africa, Europe and USA.
A Conference on Historiography and Source Studies of Asia and Africa was established by prominent Russian orientalists, historians and oriental sources experts, including Academician Joseph Orbeli who was head of the State Hermitage Museum, the Institute of Oriental Studies, the Faculty of Oriental Studies of Leningrad State University and also its Department of Middle East History. Among the organizers of the congress in different periods were such famous St Petersburg scholars as Academician Boris Piotrovsky, Corresponding Member of the Academy of Sciences Nina Pigulevskaya, professors of the Faculty of Oriental Studies Ilya Petrushevsky, Liudmila Stroeva, Anatoly Zheltiakov, Boris Mel’nichenko, Boris Doronin and others. Many of these leading Russian scholars took part in the organizing and work of the famous XXVth International Congress of Orientalists, which was held in Moscow in 1960.
The Congress on Historiography and Source Studies of Asia and Africa held in St Petersburg University in 2019 was a jubilee event – the 30th in a row. In recent years, besides the traditional historical sections, new philological and linguistic ones were added, thus covering all aspects of Oriental Studies. As a result, over the past 15 years, the number of participants has increased from 150-200 specialists in Asian and African studies, mainly from the Russian Federation and neighbouring countries, up to approximately 500 scholars from more than 30 countries all over the world. Hence, in 2015 the decision was taken to change the status of the Conference to the “Congress”.
The Congress traditionally covers source studies and historiography of the Middle and Far East, Central Asia and the Caucasus, South and Southeast Asia, Africa and the Ancient Near East, as well as the development of Oriental literature and linguistics. Apart from the aforementioned academic topics, special attention is paid to the problems of the history of traditional societies and cultures in the East, the emergence and development of new “Eastern revolutions” and extremist movements, as well as potential scenarios for the current developments in various regions of Asia and Africa. Due to the growing importance of the Islamic factor, a section devoted to the history of Islam in Russia was introduced in the early 2010s.
In the Congress framework, a book of Abstracts that included detailed synopses of the papers was published prior to starting the sessions. Allowing some 650 words for the abstract, this approach enabled the authors to provide a detailed synopsis of their papers, with the main points being discussed and major findings described in reasonable detail; a limited number of short papers were also included. For recent congresses, two-volume Abstracts, of more than 1000 pages were published.
Full papers were not published due to the overwhelming task of publishing approximately 500 articles. However, at the last Congress of 2019, it was decided to establish a new series of “Proceedings” intended to publish selected Congress papers chosen by dedicated experts following the double-blind peer review. As a result, the first issue of the collected full papers has been prepared. It includes more than thirty articles on various problems of Asian and African studies that are based on the reports read at the XXXth Congress of 2019, as well as several papers from the previous congress.
The publication of the Proceedings of the International Congress on Historiography and Source Studies of Asia and Africa, with the selected peer-reviewed papers, will be continued after future Congresses.
Proceedings of the International Congress on Historiography and Source Studies of Asia and Africa, with the selected peer-reviewed papers, will continue to be published after each future Congress, being divided into three sections: I. African Studies; II. Middle East, Caucasus And Central Asia; and III. Far East, South and South-East Asia. An online digital version in periodical format will be published annually. The first two sections of the Proceedings — “African Studies” and “Middle East, Caucasus And Central Asia” — will appear as the first issue in the year of the Congress, while the third section — “Far East, South and South-East Asia” — will be published as the second issue in the following year. The complete Proceedings will be published biennially in book form in the year following the Congress.
Nikolay N. Dyakov, Alexander S. Matveev