At the official online ceremony, two agreements were signed: to open mutual representations at the universities; and to create a joint Encyclopaedia of Iranian studies.
As Nikolay Kropachev, Rector of St Petersburg University, noted, the history of Iranian studies in Russia began in the 19th century. 1819 saw the establishment of the Department of Persian Literature at St Petersburg University. Almost 200 years passed and the Centre for the Study of the Islamic Republic of Iran appeared at the University.
I place today's signing of the agreements with the University of Tehran on a par with these events. I am confident in the significance of this moment. Everything that has happened in recent years of interaction between our universities opens up fresh opportunities for the development of mutual friendly relations. It is also a natural continuation of the strategic partnership between our countries.
Nikolay Kropachev, Rector of St Petersburg University
Sergey Andryushin, Deputy Rector for International Affairs, said that active interaction with the University of Tehran began with a meeting between Mr Kropachev and Mehdi Sanaei, CEO of the Institute for Iran-Eurasia Studies and the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Russian Federation (2013–2019). After that, visits of both sides to St Petersburg and Tehran were organised. The work to strengthen Iran-Russia academic relations between the universities is still underway.
The joint achievements of the two universities were also mentioned at the meeting. Among them were: the project ‘The Documentary History of the Russian Strand of Safavid Diplomacy (1501–1722)’, which brought together scholars from different countries; the establishment of a foundation to support research and academic mobility; and the St Petersburg University Centre for Testing Russian as a Foreign Language at the University of Tehran.
Within the framework of the first agreement, representative offices of St Petersburg University in Iran and the University of Tehran in St Petersburg will be opened at the partner universities. Mahmoud Nili, President of the University of Tehran, noted that such close cooperation is possible only thanks to the efforts of both parties.
We are on the right line, and one of the reasons for this is your active support for our joint activities. From our side, we monitor all topics of general interaction and try to do our best to achieve common goals. We believe that the formal agreement will only contribute to further development of our relationship.
Mahmoud Nili, President of the University of Tehran
The second agreement concerns the creation of an Encyclopaedia of Iranian Studies. This is a joint project of: St Petersburg University; the Institute for Iran-Eurasia Studies; and the Institute for Humanities and Cultural Studies under the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology of Iran. The Institute for Iran-Eurasia Studies (IRAS) is a non-governmental research institute that publishes academic journals, monographs and textbooks on the Russian language for Iranians. It also holds national and international conferences and actively interacts with institutions both in and outside Iran.
The online encyclopaedia will constantly update information on politics, history, art, science, economy, religion and tourism of Iran for the Russian-speaking audience. In the future, the issue of designing a website for the project in Persian is being considered.
Nikolay Kropachev also drew particular attention to the possibility of widespread use of cutting-edge online technologies as one of the promising future directions of inter-university cooperation. At present, St Petersburg University is one of the top institutions in the online education market. This area of focus has particularly advanced since the pandemic started. On the Open Education platform, St Petersburg University is ranked first in terms of the number of courses and audience coverage. On the Coursera international platform, it is ranked third in the world.
Additionally, St Petersburg University is the only Russian co-founder in the Global Alliance for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Within the framework of this project, active work to introduce the world's best practices and methods in online education is underway. Nikolay Kropachev noted that he would be glad to see the University of Tehran among the participants in this project and to develop joint activities to design online courses.