St Petersburg University has hosted the 31st International Congress on Historiography and Source Studies of Asia and Africa. Its topic was ‘Russia and the East. Сommemorating Centennial of Political and Cultural Ties in Modern Times’.

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Mikhail Piotrovsky is Dean of the Faculty of Asian and African Studies of St Petersburg

University, Director of the State Hermitage and Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Opening the congress, he emphasised the importance of the cross-cutting theme of this year's congress: developing Asian and African studies in the contemporary world and establishing political and cultural ties.

Particular attention should be paid to establishing contacts between scholars and bearers of the cultures and speakers of the languages that they study. And we are aware of many such precious examples.

Mikhail Piotrovsky, Dean of the Faculty of Asian and African Studies

‘Alexander Kazambek and Shaykh Muhammad ‘Ayyad al-Tantawi, outstanding professors and representatives of the Eastern world, taught at the Faculty of Asian and African Studies from the very beginning of its existence at the University.  We can recall the diplomatic significance of the works of Nikolai Marr, Joseph Orbeli, Ignaty Krachkovsky, and Dmitri Olderogge,’ said Mikhail Piotrovsky.

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Nikolai Diakov, Chairman of the Organising Committee, Professor Emeritus of St Petersburg University, noted that the first scientific meeting on source studies and historiography took place at the University 60 years ago, in 1961. ‘In the post-war years, the Faculty of Asian and African Studies at Leningrad State University became an important widely-known centre of source studies and historiography of oriental studies,’ underlined Nikolai Diakov. He recalled the milestones in the development of source studies over the past two centuries.

Professor Vladimir Myasnikov, Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, believes that the field for historical research in the countries of the Middle and Far East is extremely wide. ‘The development path of our oriental science is a gradual deepening into the history and circumstances of the modern prosperity of the countries and peoples of the East,’ said Academician Myasnikov.

The reports were made by scholars from near and far-abroad countries: Austria, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Afghanistan, Belarus, Great Britain, Georgia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Cyprus, China, Côte d'Ivoire, Kyrgyzstan, the Netherlands, Poland, the USA, Tunisia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, France, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, and Japan. Also, researchers from leading Russian centres of oriental studies took part in the scientific forum: St Petersburg, Bryansk, Vladivostok, Volgograd, Voronezh, Yekaterinburg, Ivanovo, Irkutsk, Kazan, Krasnodar, Krasnoyarsk, Makhachkala, Moscow, Nalchik, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Petrozavodsk, Rostov-on-Don, Sevastopol, Ulan-Ude, Ussuriysk, and Yaroslavl.

Professor Irina Popova is Director of the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. She stressed that the Congress on Historiography and Source Studies has become the hallmark of the Faculty of Asian and African Studies at St Petersburg University. ‘This event is a tribute to the memory of our teachers and the teachers of our teachers,’ said Irina Popova.

At the plenary session, Ramil Valeev, Professor of Kazan Federal University, spoke about how the ties between research and academic institutions had contributed to the success of Russian oriental studies. Herman Bell, Professor at the University of Exeter, described how personal contacts and a large photo archive had helped to study and preserve the culture of the Nubians who lived in the territories flooded as a result of the launch of the Aswan High Dam in Egypt in 1961.

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About 500 participants took part in 21 panels. They discussed the issues in historiography and source studies of Asia and Africa, and aspects of linguistics, literary studies and politics. To mark the 350th anniversary of the birth of Peter the Great, a round table discussion ‘Russian emperor Peter the Great and the East’ was held. Reports were presented on the foreign policy and legacy of the first Russian emperor.

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