’Asian and African studies are becoming a crucially important academic domain for our country’
St Petersburg University has hosted a student research seminar on Thai studies. The event was held as part of the Cross Days of Thailand at St Petersburg University and Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University) to mark 125th anniversary since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Kingdom of Thailand and Russia.
The seminar was attended by students and professors from St Petersburg University, MGIMO University, the Institute of Asian and African Studies at Lomonosov Moscow State University, and the Higher School of Economics. The topics ranged from industrial development and 'soft power' to issues of gender and the tonal system in the Thai language.
Professor Vladimir Kolotov, Head of the Department of History of the Far East Countries and Director of the Ho Chi Minh Institute at St Petersburg University, opened the seminar. He drew attention to the fact that St Petersburg University was founded in 1724, while the Faculty of Oriental Languages was founded 130 years later, in 1854: it was during the Crimean War that Emperor Nicholas I of Russia understood the practical importance of Oriental studies for the foreign policy of the country. In the earliest years of its history, the Faculty taught only a few Oriental languages, including Arabic, Persian, Tatar and some others. Today, there are about 90 languages, both living and dead, that are offered to students. At the same time, the syllabus for students majoring in Asian and African studies also includes European languages, said Professor Kolotov.
Nowadays, Asian and African studies are becoming a critically important academic domain for our country.
Professor Vladimir Kolotov, Head of the Department of History of the Far East Countries and Director of the Ho Chi Minh Institute at St Petersburg University
Professor Kolotov, Director of the Ho Chi Minh Institute, stressed that Russia now has to make a real, rather than declared, 'pivot to the East'. 'Russia needs specialists in Asian and African studies to protect its interests. They cannot be trained right away – they are unique top-quality experts. Only traditional centres of Asian and African studies can produce such specialists,' said Professor Kolotov, adding that many of such centres had been founded before the revolution in St Petersburg, Moscow, Kazan and some other cities.
Modern dynamics also dictate the need to train up highly specialised personnel, for example, specialists in Central and Southeast Asia. 'You are at the forefront of our geopolitical interests. Southeast Asia is a dynamically developing region that is emerging as an entity,' said Vladimir Kolotov.
Petr Moskalev, Professor of St Petersburg University and a specialist in Thai studies, thanked the ASEAN Centre in MGIMO University for initiating the seminar. He stressed that the Kingdom of Thailand has always been a friend of Russia, and cooperation is increasing in all directions.
The history of this glorious relationship began in St Petersburg in 1897, when King Chulalongkorn, also known as King Rama V, met with Emperor Nicholas II of Russia to negotiate official diplomatic relations.
Petr Moskalev, Professor of St Petersburg University and a specialist in Thai studies
Young researchers whose focus of interest includes Thailand presented their reports and discussed the research findings with their peers. Students and teachers from the Kingdom of Thailand also participated in the discussion.
The Cross Days of Thailand will continue with a return visit of scholars to the ASEAN Centre in MGIMO University scheduled for the end of March. Associate Professor Elena Koldunova, Director of the ASEAN Centre, thanked St Petersburg University and participants in the meeting for their contribution to the project, highlighting the high quality of their work and the complexity of the topics chosen by the young researchers.
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