The Lazarev Institute: Cradle of Russian Oriental Studies


Torkunov A.V.,

Dr. Sci. (Pol. Sci.), full member of RAS, Rector, Moscow State University of International Relations, MFA of Russia, tork@mgimo.ru


DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2015.06.03

For citation:

Torkunov A.V. The Lazarev Institute: Cradle of Russian Oriental Studies. – Polis. Political Studies. 2015. No 6. P. 9-22 (In Russ.) . DOI: https://doi.org/10.17976/jpps/2015.06.03



Abstract

The article analyses the history of the Lazarev Institute of Oriental Languages, which was foundedin Moscow in 1815 and flourished for an entire century until 1917. The Lazarev Institute is recognized as oneof the most important institutional foundations of the Moscow School of Oriental Studies. The author goesinto the specifics of this educational establishment which initially was a private institution, a characteristic which explained its vitality and the emphasis it placed on seeking to meet the daily needs of the state apparatus, particularly of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The impact of the history of the Lazarev Instituteas deeply intertwined with the evolution of the Eastern (formerly Oriental) Studies as a discipline in Russiaat large. Political upheavals in Europe at the end of the XVIII – first half of the XIX century revived theinterest of the Russian educated society in all non-European, and especially Eastern affairs, which exerteda favorable influence on the development of the Russian school of Oriental Studies. Furthermore, at theturn of the XX century, the focus shifted substantially to the Middle East, to Caucasian, Central Asian Far Eastern matters. The Lazarev Institute, and the traditions it established, have left a profound footprint onRussian and Soviet Oriental Studies. These traditions were inherited in its turn by MGIMO University following its merger with the Institute of Oriental Studies – the successor of the Lazarev Institute. Oneof the current challenges for contemporary Eastern Studies as an academic discipline is that scientificknowledge is becoming increasingly complex qualitatively as the structure of scientific knowledge, with itsformer conceptual integrity, is clearly falling apart. The author argues that the notion of “Non-West” isfar broader and more complex than that of “the East”. Yet, Russian Oriental Studies, as an united systemof knowledge and understanding, has broken up and the focus is being diverted to dealing with specific,mainly pragmatic or purely local issues rather than considering this part of the world in its entirety. RussianOrientalists seem to have lost sight of the integrated problem field that united them a century ago, and have retreated to their respective “national corners”. The article advocates the need for an academic discussion onthe status, problems and prospects of Russian oriental studies, as well as the opportunities for cooperation with colleagues in the East and the West. 

Keywords
Lazarevsky Institute of Oriental Languages; Moscow State Institute of International Relations; Russian Oriental Studies; Eastern Studies.


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