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INSTITUTE OF THE MIDDLE EAST
The Institute of the Middle East known before 2005 as the Institute of Israeli and the Middle Eastern Studies was established in the middle of the 90’s on the base of the Institute of Israel. The idea to set up in Moscow the specialized center for the Israeli Studies including such problems as the State itself and the organized Jewish Diaspora, was proposed by specialists in 1990. Up to that time the relations between Israel and the USSR passed the period of confrontation that had been lasting for 20 years and stayed in the very beginning of their establishing. The majority of Soviet orientalists had neither access to the sources nor the experience of work in Israel while the diplomatic and external trade organizations were in great demand for the qualified specialists. The lonely source to reinforce the staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was the Institute of Oriental Languages (now the Institute of Asian and African Studies) attached to the Moscow University.
Several years have passed since the idea to set up the Institute became a reality. The USSR collapsed. The scientific and research institutions found themselves under the threat. The replenishment of archives and libraries has stopped. Many Orientalists changed their specialization and were in search for occasional occupations and wages. The Orientology was not any more the prestigious work, the enrollment of youth into the higher school and scientific establishments has gone down to the critical point. The whole situation was aggravated by the fact that the traditions of the Soviet Orientology in the sphere of the Middle Eastern Studies were distorted for the benefit of ideology. That time the works related to the criticism of zionism or to the support of “socialist orientation” in the Region have met much more demand then those that were dealing with the economy or current political situation, not to mention the prognostic issues. The need in such subjects went away together with the former state and ideological system. In parallel with the growth of activity of the Middle Eastern Centers in the USA, EU, Israel in the 90’s the Russian school found itself at the edge of disappearance.
The founders of the Institute regarded their task as putting an end to the degradation of the Russian Orientology in its Middle Eastern niche. It was necessary first of all to save the librarian funds and archive documents, to support acting specialists as well as to restore regular supply of information and to draw the young generation to the orientalist’s “corporation”. The weighty role in setting up the Institute was played by the fact that the founders of the Institute were acquainted with the experience accumulated by the American, British, French, Israeli and Russian schools of the Middle Eastern Studies.
Up to the moment when the Institute of Israel was registered in 1993 it had accumulated the unique collection of books and archive documents including Middle Eastern library formerly owned by the Institute of World Economy and International Relations. Specialists, who initiated establishment of the Institute, were engaged not only in Israeli studies. There were those among them who studied the Arabic, Iranian and Turkish issues. The initial field of research work was extended greatly, and in 1995 the Institute got the name that became its brand for 10 years.
This name traditionally caused the question to what degree it was logically acceptable to make Israel outlined from the Middle East although the analysis of the economic and political structures of the region justified such an approach. Beginning from 2005 the number and professional activity of Israeli experts cooperating with the Institute has given the possibility to outline the studies relating to Israel and institutions of Jewish Diaspora into separate kind of activity supervised by the Institute of Israel within the framework of the general research program of the Institute of the Middle East. Some projects realized by the Institute of the Middle East in the field of Israeli Studies have nothing parallel with them in the World.
The results of the Institute activity in the beginning of the new century are represented by hundreds of articles in domestic and foreign mass-media as well as by a number of books coming close to 150 in quantity. There are monographs among them as well as collections of articles, country guides and such series as “The Contemporary Middle East”, “The Arab Countries” or “The Oriental Collection” for young orientalists. More than 400 highly qualified specialists including several dozens of them from abroad collaborate with the Institute as authors and experts. Conferences and round tables dedicated to the most sensitive Middle and Near Eastern problems have become a tradition. The experts of the Institute spend the significant part of their time in the Middle and Near East finding themselves in the very center of processes developing in the region under study.
The Institute closely cooperates in its work with the official Russian establishments and departments involved in dealing with the Middle Eastern problems as well as with the higher school institutions, scientific and research centers and institutions of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences. The strategy of the Institute of the Middle East is worked out by the Council of Experts headed by Eu. Satanovsky, the President while the current work is administered by E. Zhigun, the Director.
The work of the Institute is based on several fundamental principles.
It doesn’t go after any ideology. The experts’ task is the objective description and prognosis of events but not the valuations that meet current political demand. The single criteria for the work done is its quality.
The Institute is opened for cooperation with any partner whatever country or establishment he represents. Specialists are drawn to the work on the intradepartmental basis without consideration of relations among establishments they work in, on the base of contracts or within the framework of scientific exchange. The Institute has no bias towards policy. Its priority is realized thru fixing landmarks and thorough consideration of Russia’s national interests in the Region.
The Institute is not engaged in studying the processes developing in the Russian Federation or in the CIS countries. The sole exclusion is the sphere of interaction between those countries and the Middle and Near East as well as all forms of activity of the representatives of the Region in the post-soviet space. The work of the Institute comes to the study of the contemporary policy, economy, ecology in the region as a whole and covers the countries that comprise the region. Problems of history, ethnography, religion, linguistics and cultural development are examined in the context of modernity. Pragmatic approach is a compelled one but the only possible answer to the dictates of time.
Books issued by the Institute are limited in number and usually do not enter the market. They are distributed among the Russian departments and organizations dealing with the Middle Eastern problems as well as the Russian Federation representations in the Region and embassies of the Middle and Near Eastern countries in Moscow. Part of book stock comes to the libraries of main Russian and foreign universities, educational and scientific and research units.
The Institute is the sole center in its way specializing in the field of comprehensive study of modern Middle and Near East not only in Russia, but far behind her borders. The results of its work are the best answer to the question about how successful for Russian scholars can be the experiment based on the combination of home traditions and foreign experience.