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Japan Studies in Russia. Summary Печать E-mail
03.02.2016 г.


Russian people love and respect Japan; they are interested in the Japanese history, culture, art, and admire the high quality of Japanese goods. The attitude towards Japan is possibly better, or, at the very least, not worse, than towards any other country of the Afro-Asian world. That positive attitude promotes the growth of the field of Japan Studies and creates a positive social climate for conducting research in this sphere.

There is, however, another side to the story, which lies in the fact that the Japanese foreign policy or, to put it more accurately, Japan's place in the global international politics is assessed negatively in Russia, and the relations with Japan are not thought to be very important for the Russian national interests. For the majority of Russians, Japan displays an image of at best a country that lacks its own independent foreign policy, and, at worst, a satellite state of the U.S. and a geopolitical foe of Russia. Further complicating factor is the well-known territorial dispute, or more specifically, Japan's ever more active territorial claims on the South Kuril Islands. The dispute is making the Russian public increasingly wary of Japan, as every issue related to Japan is being treated in the light of the "North Territories problem". The gloomy political climate in the Russo-Japanese relations renders a negative effect on the general situation in the sphere of Japan Studies in Russia, especially in the areas dealing with contemporary Japan. The Russian people are becoming less and less interested in Japan's politics, economy and social problems.

There are, however, still some passionate enthusiasts and true professionals in the field of Japan Studies. All of the aforementioned problems have simply made them more resilient and compelled them to work even harder. Almost every branch of Japan studies is rapidly developing, including history, philo­logy, cultural and religion studies, political science and law, economic and management studies, sociology and geography. A true testament to it is a large amount of publications on Japan, their superb quality and international recognition. Ever increasing participation of the younger generation gives hope for the future.

The Association of Japanologists

The Association of Japanologists, established in 1994, is the professional association for Russian researchers of Japan. Its foundation pursued the follow­ing goals: to consolidate the community of scholars in the sphere of Japan Studies as a separate branch of Russian Oriental Studies with its own specific interests, to create research groups for conducting research projects, and to participate in international forums and programs. Another goal was to engage the younger generation by organizing youth forums, conferences, etc.

From the very beginning the association set on a course of making their research field as wide as possible: from the contemporary issues in Japan's domestic and foreign policy, its regional policy, to the topics of cinema and other aspects of popular culture as well as various aspects of history. Research projects completed under the auspice of the association have consolidated Japanologists working at several research centers across Russia and at Japanese universities.

The oldest annual journal of the Association - yearbook "Japan" - has a special place in the publishing activities of the association. It has been continuously published since 1972, from 1994 under the title of the Association. The yearbook is highly respected by the academic community and the public both in Russia and abroad. It covers a wide range of problems in the field of contemporary Japan Studies, including the problems of Japan's foreign and domestic policy, economy, society, history, literature and philology, culture and religion.

The association has an internet site (its address since 2009 is that serves as a tribune and an organizational tool for the Russian community of Japan Studies. One can find the up-to-date information about the academic life of Russian Japanologists, including the announcements for upcoming conferences, seminars and other activities, reports on these events, the announcements for PhD and doctorate degree defenses and other useful information.

The site has an open access online library that contains research papers by Russian Japanologists, as well as journals, books and articles.

Every year the association holds academic paper competitions for young Russian Japanologists. The winners chosen by the panel of experts receive monetary rewards and certificates of commendation. The association participates in organizing programs that allow young Japanologists to study in Japan, it finds and recommends young people that have good skill and ability for the Japanese Studies, for the participation in international student exchange programs.

Since 2008 the association has been holding annual conferences on the contemporary problems of Japan. 7 of them have been held in the period from 2008 to 2014, with the Japan Foundation providing support to hold the conferences in the international format:

1. Current Russian-Japanese Relations: is a Qualitative Shift Possible? (2008)

2. Japan in the Asia-Pacific Region: Political, Economic and Socio-cul­tural Aspects (2009)

3. Japan After the Change of Power (2010)

4. Russia and Japan: the Economy and Society in the Ocean of Prob­lems (2011)

5. Democratic Party of Japan: 3 Years in Power. Some Results and Prospects (2012)

6. Japan in Search of a New Global Role (2013)

7. Japan Studies in Russia. Dedicated to the 20th Anniversary of the Association of Japanologists. (2014)

Among the participants there are members of various Russian academic institutions and universities both from Moscow as well as from other regions, representatives from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russian and Japanese NGOs. The conferences have proved to be a great forum for the exchange of knowledge, opinions and experience. These conferences are important for the academic community and currently represent one of major areas of activity of the Association.

Academic institutions and research centers working in the field of Japan Studies in Russia

Japan Studies in Russia are developed in academic institutions and research centers. Traditionally, research centers exist in the system of the Russian Academy of Sciences and educational institutions work within the higher education system.

Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences

The department of Japanese Studies was established together with the Institute of Oriental Studies of the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1950. The department of Japanese Studies has always been and remains to be an essential and important part of the Institute. It focuses on the following areas: modern political and legal systems, the activities of the political parties, the development of industry and entrepreneurship, small business, the problems of the agricultural sector, corporations, labor relations, union activities, innovation development, the reorganization of the government regulated economy caused by increase in the process of internationalization and globalization, regional development, environmental issues, social infrastructure, demographic issues and immigration, religion and other aspects of Japan.

In the field of foreign policy and foreign economic policy the focus areas include Japan's relations with Russia, the U. S., and the Asia Pacific Countries, including China and South Korea, as well as Japan's soft power in the Asian region. Historical research encompasses all periods from ancient history to the 21st century. Some of the topics researched are as follows: early feudalism in Japan, sengoku jidai (the period of warring domains), the Edo period, the culture of the Meiji period, Japan's modernization, Japan in the 20th century, Japanese POWs in the USSR, art and popular culture of Japan etc.

The center currently consists of 12 people, 4 Doctors of Science, 6 Ph. D.'s and 2 junior research staff members.

The center is headed by E. V. Molodyakova, Sc. D. Several young PhD's (with degrees in history, economy, political science and cultural studies) have joined the centre in the past 2-3 years. Regrettably there are almost no middle aged researchers working in the center.

Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IFES)

The research center of Japanese Studies in the IFES is the descendant of the former Japanese Department that was formed in 1976. Its founder and the first head was D. V. Petrov, Dr. of History, a well-known Russian Japanologist and a distinguished researcher. After heading the department until 1986, he chaired the department of the International Issues of the Far East at the IFES. In addition, Petrov played a big role in the creation of the center of Japan Studies at IFES in 1992.

Since 2008 the center is headed by V. O. Kistanov, Dr. of History, Ph.D in Economics.

The center's research strategy is determined by the long-term research plans of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the of the IFES. The center pursues a wide range of relevant research topics in the field of contemporary Japanese Studies. The research results are aimed to serve the practical demands of the Russian foreign policy. The center prioritizes the applied research in its activity.

The center's past and present research results are presented on the institute's web page at

The Institute of Asian and African Studies at Lomonosov Moscow State University (IAAS)

The field of Japan Studies is developing in the IAAS at the department of Japanese Philology which conducts educational and research programs in the sphere of Japanese language, Japanese literature and linguistics. Besides, there is the department of History and Culture of Japan specializing in these particular fields. Additionally, there is the department of Economics and Economic Geography of Asia and Africa and the department of Political Science where Japanologists specializing in political science and economics are trained.

The department of Japanese Philology is one of the oldest departments of the institute. It was established in 1956 along with the institute which was then called the Institute of Eastern Languages at Moscow State University. Since its inception the department not only taught the Japanese, but also actively conducted research in the fields of Japanese literature, linguistics and the Japanese language education.

Currently, the academic staff consists of 19 people, 2 of which are native Japanese speakers. There are 120 students majoring in Japanese philology, history, economics and political science. The entire department is alumni of the institute. A large number of textbooks on various aspects of the Japanese language for learners of all levels have been developed by the department staff (L. T. Nechaeva, E. V. Strugova, N. S. Shephtelevich, S. A. Bykova and others). These textbooks are used in many colleges and universities all around Russia. The department publishes collections of academic papers and monographs.

The department of Japanese History and Culture was established by the rector of Moscow State University on December 1st, 2003. Despite its young age it has its own history and traditions, as it was formed on the base of one of the oldest departments of the institute - the department of History of the Far East and Southeast Asia. The research work is conducted in various fields of Japanese history and culture (ancient, medieval, modern and contemporary history). The main research topics of the department include:

  • Political history of Japan
  • Socioeconomic history of Japan
  • Source studies and historiography of Japan
  • History of religion in Japan
  • History of everyday life in Japan
  • History of Japanese culture
  • History of Japanese martial arts

The department is headed by E.K. Simonova-Gudzenko (Dr. of History), an expert in the fields of shinto and the historical geography of Japan.

Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MGIMO-University)

After the reorganization of Moscow Institute of the Oriental Studies in 1954 and the transfer of some of its language departments to Moscow State Institute of International Relations, a research community consisting of leading Soviet experts in Japanology and Japanese Philology was gradually taking shape there. Among them was professor S. F. Zarubin, the main author of the first and up to date the only Russian-Japanese academic dictionary in Russia. An important event in the development of the department took place in the late 1950's when S. V. Neverov became one of its members. This esteemed linguist, one of the few who had had the experience of the "Harbin School", actively conducted research in the field of Japanese linguistics, taking the Ph. D. degree and later the doctorate degree. He became the author of a number of popular Russian-Japanese phrasebooks and of a complete course of unique Japanese textbooks and study materials.

The traditions of these esteemed Japanologists are supported nowadays at MGIMO-University by their successors: T. M. Gurevich, Doctor of Culture, author of many academic papers and methodological materials, who is actively developing the field of cultural studies, and S. V. Chironov, who explores linguistic pragmatics - a relatively undeveloped field of the Japan Studies in Russia. The department actively conducts research and publishing activities.

The research and education in the spheres of Japanese history and Japan's foreign and domestic policy are conducted at the Department of Afro-Asian Studies established in 1969. The department inherited the academic and educational traditions of its predecessors - the Lazarev Institute of Oriental Languages (1815-1919) and Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies (1921-1954). Nowadays, it is a leading department of the School of International Relations. It provides bachelor and master's degree programs in regional studies and oriental languages. Since 2008 the department is headed by Professor D. V. Streltsov, Doctor of History, an expert in postwar Japanese history and the political system of contemporary Japan.

Russia State University for the Humanities (RSUH)

Russian State University for the Humanities (RSUH) was founded by professor Y. N. Afanasyev (1934-2015) in 1991 at the premises of the Moscow State Historical Archival Institute. The department of Oriental Languages was founded in 1992. Japanese language education at the department is strongly tied to the activities of professor V. M. Alpatov, associate member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Doctor of Philology. For many years he was one of the leading researchers in the field of theoretical grammar and general morphology.

The Institute of Oriental and Classical Studies is a center preserving the traditions of classic Japanese Studies in Russia. Over the years it has become famous for teaching classical history and culture of Japan and China. The institute was created as a research center, specializing in the research of classical literature, historical artifacts of the antiquity and the medieval period. That is why a great deal of attention is paid not only to teaching oriental languages (including the Japanese) but also to the traditional literary forms (including kanbun and bungo).

A number of educational courses are taught at the department of History and Philology of the Far East, one of which is Japanese language and literature. Historical research is conducted under the supervision of Professor A.N Mesheryakov, Doctor of History. A team of Japanologists headed by Mesheryakov has been holding a conference on history and culture of ancient Japan at RSUH (for the first few years it was held at the Institute of Oriental Studies of RAS). Today this conference is one of the main forums for discussion between Japanologists from outside of Moscow universities and research centers.

The field of Japanese philology is represented by the research and trans­lations conducted by E. M. Dyakonova, Ph. D, and M. V. Toropygina, Ph. D.

Japanologists are also trained at the department of history, political sciences and law. The educational programs related to Japan, such as ‘Foreign Policy of Japan', ‘History of Russo-Japanese Relations', ‘Russia and the Far East', are taught by the head of the department of the Contemporary Asian Studies, S. V. Grishachev. His academic interests include the history of Russo-Japa­nese relations in the 19th - early 20th century and the Russian policy in the Far East.

National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE)

The Japanese language education program was launched at HSE in 2010 in the department of Oriental Studies at the School of Philosophy (currently the Department of Oriental Studies at the School of Internationals Economics and International Politics).

The school is young - its first graduates received their bachelor degrees in 2014. It is headed by A. G. Fesyun, a specialist in the field of Buddhist philosophy.

E. S. Steiner, Doctor of Culture, is a domestically and internationally recognized expert in the field of Japanese, European and Russian art. D. A. Scherbakov, Ph. D. in economics specializes in the spheres of trade and economic relations between Russia and Japan and in the Japanese economic ties with Latin America, East and Southeast Asia.

Japanese language is also taught at the Institute of Foreign Languages at Moscow State Pedagogical University. In 2008 the Japanese language sub-department grew into an independent division. It is headed by U. P. Strizhak, Ph. D. Currently there are 16 people on the academic staff including native Japanese speakers.

Japan studies in Saint Petersburg and other Russian cities

Japanese language is currently taught at several universities of Saint Petersburg: Saint Petersburg State University (department of Asian and African Studies, department of Philology, department of International Relations), Saint Petersburg State University of Culture (Japanologists are trained there under the guidance of I.I. Bass, Sc.D.), Saint Petersburg State University of Economics, Herzen State Pedagogic University, Oriental Institute, Russian Christian Humanitarian Academy. However, master and postgraduate courses are provided only by the department of Afro-Asian Studies at SPSU, the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) and the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography named after Peter the Great (Kunstkamera) of RAS. These institutions, along with the State Hermitage, are the academic centers of Japan Studies in Saint Petersburg.

At present time the staff of Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of RAS consists of three Japanologists: K. G. Marandjian, V. Yu. Klimov, V. V. Shche­pkin. Their area of expertise is mainly in the field of Japanese medieval history (until 1867).

The field of Japan Studies is rapidly developing in Siberia and the Far East. The largest Japan Studies center in Eastern Russia is located in Novosibirsk, it was established with the assistance of Novosibirsk National Research University. Since 2004 the department of oriental studies is headed by professor E. E. Voytishek, Sc. D. In Irkutsk Japan Studies are developed on the base of Irkutsk State University, where students majoring in international relations and region studies are taught Japanese. In Khabarovsk Japanese is taught at Far Eastern State University of Humanities, Pacific National University and Khabarovsk State Academy of Economics and Law.

In Vladivostok the field of Japan Studies is developed in the department of Japan Studies at the Far Eastern Federal University. It was formed in 2011 after merging of 3 departments that had been a part of the former School of Japanese Studies of Far Eastern Federal University, and the departments of Japanese and Korean Studies of Far Eastern State Technical University, whose academic staff joined the newly formed department. The department is currently headed by A. A. Shnyrko.

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