Dialogue at a time of global change: St Petersburg University hosts an international forum on Latin America

The 5th International Forum 'Russia and Ibero-America in a Globalizing World: History and Modernity' has begun its work at St Petersburg University. Experts from more than 20 countries have met to: discuss the issues of collaboration between Russia and Latin American countries; and develop new approaches to Latin American studies.

Speaking at the plenary session, St Petersburg University Professor Lazar Jeifets stressed that the forum is the largest event in Russian-Latin American studies and one of the world's most important scientific events in this field. This year, the forum meets in unusual conditions: due to the coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of researchers could not come to St Petersburg, but will deliver their presentations online. At the same time, the use of modern technologies has made it possible for a greater number of specialists studying the Latin American region to take part in the forum. Over 700 participants are expected to attend the roundtable discussions both in person and remotely. In 2021, the programme has also introduced new directions and thematic sections. Its main focuses will be on: the mechanisms of building a new world order; the evolution of international relations; and the transformation of the role and position of Latin America in the modern global processes.

Sergey Andryushin, Deputy Rector for International Affairs of St Petersburg University, welcomed the participants on behalf of the Rector of St Petersburg University and the entire University community. He stressed that the Forum 'Russia and Ibero-America in a Globalizing World: History and Modernity' brings together leading experts from Latin America, Spain, Portugal, the USA, European countries and Asia and thus contributes to the reputation of the University. Business and networking meetings help build bridges between continents and provide impetus for the creation of new projects and academic programmes. 'St Petersburg University is a classical institution, and its interdisciplinarity enables it to achieve high results and create such scientific organisations as the Ibero-American Studies Centre, which has received international recognition,' said Sergey Andryushin. 'Besides specialists in international relations, the projects involve political scientists, sociologists, mathematicians, philosophers, and philologists. All this enables us to work efficiently and to attract foreign partners to the University.'

The forum is important for the whole country: it has become a platform for communication between academic experts and public representatives, cultural, business and non-governmental organisations.

Sergey Andryushin, Deputy Rector for International Affairs of St Petersburg University

The Director of the Latin American Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Alexander Shchetinin addressed the forum online. 'We will follow the discussions with great interest and attention, and we will study their concrete recommendations in detail to consider their potential use in our practical activities,' said the diplomat.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sent his message to the organisers and participants of the international forum 'Russia and Ibero-America in a Globalizing World: History and Modernity'. 'The forum with its authoritative composition and rich programme has established itself as a solid expert platform for a comprehensive discussion of Russia's interaction with Latin America, the Caribbean and the Iberian Peninsula. At a time when the world is undergoing global changes, efforts to build a depoliticised dialogue to enhance trust and understanding between peoples deserve respect and support', said Sergey Lavrov in his greetings.

At a time when the world is undergoing global changes, efforts to build a depoliticised dialogue to enhance trust and understanding between peoples deserve respect and support

Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

In his welcoming address to the participants, Vladimir Ruvinskii, Professor of ICESI University (Colombia), emphasised that the forum, organised by St Petersburg University, has long established a reputation as an important alternative platform for the discussion of Latin American issues. This is proven by the large number of scholars from the region who meet in its sessions to discuss the issues of the community. Equally important, he said, is the expansion of academic cooperation, one example of which is the book ‘Russia in Latin America’. It will be published soon by a prestigious international publisher and whose authors include scholars from: St Petersburg University; the Institute of Latin American Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences; RUDN University; ICESI University (Columbia); and researchers from various countries. This is a unique publication both in its content and in the geographical coverage of the authors.

Vladimir Davydov is Scientific Director of the Institute of Latin American Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He noted that the renaissance of the St Petersburg school of Latin American Studies, which began about 20 years ago, marked the restoration of historical justice. 'The first scientific society for the study of South America was established during the difficult times of post-revolutionary era. I believe that our national school of Latin American studies should have paid tribute to the first researchers who began their work during the Civil War', said Vladimir Davydov.

The greetings to the forum participants were also sent by: Academician Alexander Dynkin, Head of the Division for Global Issues and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences; and the members of the National Committee for Promotion of Economic Cooperation with Latin American Countries.

The Forum 'Russia and Ibero-America in a Globalizing World: History and Modernity' is not only an opportunity for an academic exchange between experienced researchers, but also a launching pad for a research career in Latin-American Studies. This year, the programme included two thematic sections for young researchers, as well as a school for undergraduate and postgraduate students interested in Latin America, Spain and Portugal. It was supported by ICESI University and the Alexander Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund.

During the plenary session, the winners of the competition for young researchers studying Latin America, which is traditionally held as part of the forum, were awarded diplomas. The jury received dozens of submissions and awarded first place to Daria Pravdiuk, a doctoral student from St Petersburg University, for her paper 'The journey of landlocked countries towards sustainable development: a case study of Bolivia in the 21st century'.

The jury also announced the results of a competition for the best article published by the journal ‘Latinskaya Amerika’ in 2020 (the Sergo Mikoyan competition). The winners included: Anna Lavut for the article 'Search for a Latin American development strategy in the context of global economic instability' (in the category 'Economics'); Andrei Piatakov for the article ‘PROSUR as a new South American (des)integration mechanism?' (in the category of 'International Relations'); and Vladimir Kostornichenko for the article ‘Russian and Hispanic Americas in the 18th century: a problem of the Pacific frontier’ (in the category 'History'). In the category 'Politics and Social Problems' the first place went to Nadezhda Kudeiarova and Dmitrii Rozental for the article 'The Venezuelan migration crisis: demography, oil and the state'. In the category 'Culture' the first place went to Kristina Buinova for the article 'Russia’s image in Latin America during the 2018 FIFA World Cup'. Iurii Trukhin, with his article 'China and the ALBA countries in the 21st century', was nominated as the best young author.

'The winners of the competition vary in their level, in my opinion, but all of their works demonstrate sufficient quality for young scholars. Some of the submissions come at the level at which they do not even need to be revised,' said Viktor Kheifets, editor-in-chief of the journal ‘Latinskaya Amerika’ and Professor of the Russian Academy of Sciences and St Petersburg University. 'This year, we have expanded the geography and the range of topics: from modernity to archaeology. Moreover, this year has registered broader coverage of current international issues.’