ON THE VITAL TASKS OF RUSSIAN ARABIC STUDIES
Pavel V. Gusterin
Center for Asia and the Middle East of The Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS)
To date, Russian Arabic studies achieved significant success. The publications in Arabic and Western languages of A.M. Vasiliev, A.A. Ignatenko, G.G. Kosach, I.Y. Krachkovsky, E.S. Melkumyan and other Russian Arabists, establishment in Russia of Arabic studying centers of the world-class and their scientific contacts and cooperation with the most important Arabic studies centers and educational establishments worldwide are the proof. But still, there are some gaps in the "sea or Arabic studies1", if we are talking about the domestic science about the Arab East.
The main tasks of Arabic studies at the modern stage, as we see it, lie in several planes: educational (including training of oriental studying staff), publishing (including the popularization of knowledge about the Arab world), translational and country studying (including maps making), scientific and cultural.
There are more than 30 higher educational establishments that are state-owned or which passed state accreditation and prepare Arabists.2 However, the level of linguistic and Oriental training there is different.3 In some universities, Arabic literary language is not taught at all as the main subject that is principally unacceptable. Language training of the future graduate Arabist must be accompanied by country studies and Islamic studies courses, otherwise he can't be considered to be an Arabist, let alone the inability to fulfill the obligations to efficiently and in full work at the respective public positions.
The most famous Russian Arabists are O.P. Bibikova, O.G. Bolshakov, L.S. Bocharova, A.M. Vasiliev, M.F. Vidyasova, A.A. Dolinina, N.N. Dyakov, A.Z. Egorin, E.I. Zelenov, A.A. Ignatenko, V.A. Isaev, V.N. Kirpichenko, A.V. Korotaev, G.G. Kosach, A.B. Kudelin, R.G. Landa, A.V. Malashenko, V.N. Matuzov, E.S. Melkumyan, L.I. Medvedko, D.V. Mikulskiy, G.I. Mirskiy, V.V. Naumkin, V.(A.)M. Nirsha, O.G. Peresipkin, M.B. Piotrovskiy, A.B. Podtserob, V.V. Popov, E.M. Primakov, M.A. Rodionov, M.A. Sapronova, A.V. Sedov, A.V. Smirnov, A.A. Tkachenko, S.A. Frantsuzov, D.V. Frolov, E.A. Frolova, V.E. Shagal and A.I. Yakovlev. The most of them are graduates of the Institute of Oriental Languages of Moscow State University (now - Institute of Asian and African Studies of Moscow State University) or of the Oriental Faculty of Leningrad University (now - St. Petersburg). Obviously the teaching experience of these universities should be used by the other oriental languages educational establishments, faculties and departments.4 To do this it would be advisable to organize centralized postgraduate courses for teaching staff involving as mentors the most experienced teachers of the named universities, as well as to periodically conduct intercollegiate conferences and "round tables" on the problems of teaching of the whole complex of Arabic studying disciplines.
Publishing activity in the field of Arabic studies, besides publication of works of the contemporary authors, should also deal with the classic works of Russian Arabists, as some prerevolutionary works have long became bibliographic rarity without losing their scientific value. We believe it would be wise to republish some works of A.Y. Garkavi, V.F. Girgas, A.E. Krimsky, N.A. Mednikov, H.D. Fren, D.A. Hvolson and of the other authors that make up the golden fund of the national Arabic studies. As for the scientific heritage of V.R. Rosen, the works of this outstanding scientist undoubtedly are worth of publishing in the format of the complete works, that have never been attempted before, with the Russian translation of the works that have been written and published in European languages.
Were published two volumes of encyclopedic reference book "Africa" (M., 1986, 2010), illustrated encyclopedia "China: history, culture, art" (M., 2008), etc. Therefore, a universal encyclopedic edition on the Arab East has to be published. Especially taking into account the fact that the encyclopedic reference book "Cities of the Arab East" (M., 2007) only partially solves the tasks of the alleged publication.
Undoubtedly, the publication of special magazine like "Arabica", established in 1954 by Evariste Levi Provencal (Leiden - Paris), would become a significant event in the life of native oriental studies. Popular scientific periodical devoted to the Arab East, like, for example, Russian magazine "China" with the circulation of 40 thousand copies could also win a wide audience.
Translation tasks are defined, primarily, by the lack of Russian translations of the most important works of Arabic speaking authors. Thus, there is still no complete translation of the work of Ibn Khaldun "The book of instructive examples from the history of Arabs, Persians, Berbers and peoples who lived with them on earth" as well as of the work of Ibn Battuta "Gift to beholding about the miracles of cities and wonders of travels" and works of al-Ashari "Message on improving the studies of kalam". The translation and further research of these works is the matter of honor of our science.
It's preferable to use possibilities of the Internet more to spread scientific texts. As for now the administrators of the site "Oriental Literature" (www. vostlit. info) do a lot for publication of written records and scientific works of the past, but their financial resources are limited and the site is updated mainly thanks to the enthusiasm of translators.
Tasks in the field of country studies, including map making, have been considered by us earlier5, thus it's necessary only to note desirability of preparing and publication of "Atlas of the Arab East" by analogy with the above alleged encyclopedic publication on the Arab East.
The spheres of geography, history, literature, sociology, philology, philosophy and ethnography are well studied in the Russian Arabic studies. However, Arab historiography is usually considered as a part of literature. There are no individual works on the kinds of fine art.6 The work of S.G. Kovner "The history of Arab medicine" (Kyiv, 1893) is perhaps a satisfying exception, as there are no individual works in Russian on the history of Arab mathematics and most branches of Arab science: astronomy, mineralogy, physics7 and chemistry. Obviously, Arabists and historians of science should unite their efforts here.
Traditionally, Arab culture is considered primarily as Muslim and as a rule Christian aspect of the Arab culture is left beyond the culturological researches of the topic. Even in contrast to the title of the article "Arab culture" in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia corresponding article is named "Arab-Muslim culture", which in our opinion distorts the idea of Arab civilization. At the same time, the Arab component of Christian civilization is of paramount importance, as well as Christian component plays a significant role in the modern life of the Arab peoples.
Christian Arabs live mainly in the Middle East. A relatively huge number of Christians lives in Lebanon (approx. 40% of the population), Egypt (10%) and Syria (7%) as well as in Jordan (about 4%) and Palestine (approx. 4%), Iraq (3%), Israel (2%). Spiritual centers of some churches are on the territory of the Arab countries: Alexandria Orthodox (Egypt), Antioch Orthodox (Syria), Jerusalem Orthodox (Palestine), Sinai Orthodox (Egypt), Copt (Egypt), Maronite (Lebanon), Melkite Catholic (Lebanon) and others. There are representatives in Damascus, spiritual mission in Jerusalem, metochions in Alexandria, Beirut and Cairo and in Morocco and Tunisia - stauropegic parishes8 of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Moscow Patriarchate has strong ties with the churches of the Middle East, whose representatives are respected in various state institutions of Russia. Thus, on March 16, 2009 the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the RF had been visited by the representative of the Patriarch of Antioch and of All the East of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Bishop Niphon Philippopolis, who gave a lecture on the topic "The role of religion in the modern society". Answering the question of the author on the role of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the Middle Eastern peace process Bishop Niphon noted the importance of contacts of Middle Eastern churches with Israel clergy.
In the field of studying and promotion of Arab-Christian culture nowadays unquestionable merits belong to "Orthodox encyclopedia" as well as to the teachers of Moscow State University V.V. Lebedev and N.V. Pavlov, study guide of which named "Initial course of Arab language for learners of the Arab-Christian culture" (M., 2003) became the first of the kind.9 It's also a pleasant fact that a series "Christian East"10 has been renewed in 1999, however the participation of Arabists was not so active as it could be.
In conclusion I would like to add that it would be better if my colleagues-orientalists paid more attention to the history of our field of research, that will be crucial for the training of those who will come after us.
Vysshee obrazovanie segodnia [Higher education today]. 2009, №9, p.23-24 (and the Faculty of Oriental Studies and Foreign Relation, Kazan Federal University). (in Russian).
Reitingi rossiiskikh vostokovednykh vuzov / zhurnal Aziia i Afrika segodnia [Ratings of Russian Oriental Studies Universities, see: Asia and Africa today.] 2008, №11, p. 80. (in Russian).
Gusterin P. O vostokovednoi podgotovke v rossiiskikh vuzakh // Aziia i Afrika segodnia [About the Oriental training in Russian universities // Asia and Africa today]. 2008, №11. (in Russian).
Gusterin P. O nekotorykh problemakh otechestvennogo stranovedeniia // Aziia i Afrika segodnia [About some problems of domestic country studies // Asia and Africa today.] 2007, №7. (in Russian).
Muzykal'noe iskusstvo arabskikh narodov osveshchaetsia v monografii / v knige Traditsionnaia muzyka Arabskogo Vostoka.] [Musical Art of the Arab peoples is highlighted in the monograph of I.R. Eolyan "Traditional Music of the Arab East" (М., 1990). (in Russian).
1Expression of T.A. Shumovsky.
2Vysshee obrazovanie segodnia [Higher education today]. 2009, №9, p.23-24 (and the Faculty of Oriental Studies and Foreign Relation, Kazan Federal University). (in Russian).
3Reitingi rossiiskikh vostokovednykh vuzov / zhurnal Aziia i Afrika segodnia [Ratings of Russian Oriental Studies Universities, see: Asia and Africa today.] 2008, №11, p. 80. (in Russian).
4Gusterin P. O vostokovednoi podgotovke v rossiiskikh vuzakh // Aziia i Afrika segodnia [About the Oriental training in Russian universities // Asia and Africa today]. 2008, №11. (in Russian).
5Gusterin P. O nekotorykh problemakh otechestvennogo stranovedeniia // Aziia i Afrika segodnia [About some problems of domestic country studies // Asia and Africa today.] 2007, №7. (in Russian).
6Muzykal'noe iskusstvo arabskikh narodov osveshchaetsia v monografii / v knige Traditsionnaia muzyka Arabskogo Vostoka.] [Musical Art of the Arab peoples is highlighted in the monograph of I.R. Eolyan "Traditional Music of the Arab East" (М., 1990). (in Russian).
7Arab speaking scientists of medieval have achieved outstanding results in such areas of physics as optics and mechanics.
8The word " stauropegic" has Greek origin (from the words stauros - "cross" and pegio "assert, establish"). Means that the parish is under the direct control of the patriarch.
9Christian aspect of the Arabic language is taught in the Orthodox Humanitarian University of St. Tikhon (Chair of Eastern Christian Philology and Oriental Churches).