Source: Sinology in St. Petersburg: Traditions and Contemporary Approaches, by Nikolay Samoylov, Faculty of Asian & African Studies, St.Petersburg State University, Russian Federation (July 2012). See the original text here
On the 18th of June 1700, Peter the Great issued an edict that is considered to be the first decree on Russian studies of Oriental languages. The Russian Tsar ordered that “two or three talented and not very old monks” be sent to Tobolsk (Siberia) to study Chinese and Mongolian. The first ecclesiastical mission arrived in Beijing in 1716 and remained there for the following three centuries, preaching Christianity. They studied the Qing dynasty, the Manchu army and relations between China and neighbouring countries, and translated Chinese and Manchu publications as well as Confucian classics into Russian. In 1741, Illarion Rossokhin founded the first school of Chinese studies in Saint Petersberg.
The Faculty of Oriental Studies at the University of Saint Petersburg was established in 1854. In 1899, an Institute of Oriental Studies was founded in Vladivostok, at which graduates of Saint Petersburg University were the first professors.
After the October Revolution in 1917, all the faculties and departments of Petrograd University (former Saint Petersburg) were reorganized. Gradually, the only method of scholarly research and teaching became Marxism-Leninism: the main fields studied were to be social and economic development and the history of the class struggle and the revolutionary movement in China. Between 1920 and 1950, Soviet officials imposed the Stalinist view on China in university courses, repudiating classical Sinology. During that period, many Russian Sinologists were arrested and put into prison or concentration camps or simply killed.
The Faculty of Oriental studies was re-established in 1944, and the best traditions of the Saint Petersburg School of Chinese studies were brought back to life by a group of renowned Russian Sinologists.
In 1960 to the 1980s, Sinology took a new direction, with the study of Chinese intellectual history, the history of Chinese secret societies and religious groups and the history of the Chinese peasant movement. From 1961 to the present, the Faculty of Oriental Studies has held special conferences on the problems of historiography. Today, it ranks among the world’s largest institutions in the field of Sinology.
PRESENT ORGANISATION AND FUNCTIONING – FIELDS STUDIED
- Saint Petersburg Faculty of Oriental Studies
A 4-year BA programme is offered at the Faculty of Oriental Studies of Saint Petersburg University.
Students must study at least two oriental and one European language. The theoretical courses cover a wide spectrum of disciplines: history of China, Chinese literature, linguistics, ethnography, philosophy, economy and religions.
Graduates are awarded a BA in the general field of Oriental and African studies.
The Faculty also offers five Masters degrees, and graduates are awarded an MA degree in Oriental and African studies.
Students learn Chinese, both modern and classical, literature, ethnography, religion, philosophy, politics and economics; they also study English and Japanese. This curriculum provides the students with extensive knowledge of Chinese civilization and Chinese society, to help them work in various fields as researchers, interpreters, diplomats, journalists, teachers, librarians and business representatives in East Asia.
Professors from Saint Petersburg State University contributed to the establishment of a new Sinology centre in Blagoveshensk, at the Russian-Chinese border.
Many eminent scholars maintain the best traditions of the classical Saint Petersburg School for Chinese studies. They are concentrated in two departments:
- Chinese Philology
- History of Far Eastern Countries
Fifteen professors and teachers hold seminars on various aspects of Chinese studies.
Specialists from other Saint Petersburg academic institutions, such as the Institute of Oriental Studies, the Institute of Anthropology and Ethnography and the State Hermitage Museum, are invited to teach special courses.
- Confucius Institute at Saint Petersburg State University
Founded in July 2005 under an agreement between Saint Petersburg State University and the Chinese national office for teaching Chinese as a foreign language. Its aims are to combine excellent traditions of teaching Chinese in Russia with the experience of Chinese partners and the latest techniques of distance education. The Confucius Institute offers courses in Chinese language, calligraphy and culture.
11 teachers of Chinese languages: nine are Russian and two are Chinese.
160 students are enrolled in language courses.
- Saint Petersburg branch of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies
Founded in 2010 as a branch of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. Its main task is cooperation in the scientific activities of Saint Petersburg and Moscow scholars engaged in East Asian studies.
- Library of the Russian Academy of science
The library of the Russian academy of science is a large State-owned library based in Saint Petersburg.
The library was founded in Saint Petersburg by a decree of Peter I in 1714 and subsequently integrated into the structure of the Saint Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Since 1747, all academic institutions, and since 1783 all publishers in the country have been legally obliged to provide the library with a free copy of each published item. Between 1728 and 1924, its collections were stored in the Kunstkamera building, with which it had formed a single academic institution until 1803. In 1924-1925, the collections were transferred to a new building built for the library in 1914 and occupied by a military hospital during the First World War. On 15 February 1988, the library suffered a catastrophic fire, which destroyed or damaged a considerable part of the collection.
The Asia and Africa Publications Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences Library was established in 1953.
- Institute of Oriental Manuscripts
Dvortsovaya nab. 18, Saint Petersburg
The Institute is divided into six academic divisions:
Department of Ancient Eastern Studies
Department of Central Asian and South Asian Studies
Department of Far Eastern Studies
Department of Manuscripts and Documents
Department of Middle Eastern and Near Eastern Studies
The Academic Library
Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography. Russian Academy of Sciences
3 University Embankment, Saint Petersburg
In autumn 1714, Peter the Great ordered Doctor Robert Areskin to move his personal collection and library from Moscow to Saint Petersburg, the new capital, and to begin work on the creation of the first State public museum – the Kunstkamera. For Peter the Great, it was extremely important to create an image of a changing Russia. The Emperor had the habit of receiving ambassadors in his museum, and a tour of the museum was part of the programme for all important guests.
The museum is divided in research departments:
- Saint Petersburg State University, Faculty of Philosophy
Saint Petersburg State University Faculty of Philosophy
Department of Oriental Philosophy and Culture established in the Faculty of Philosophy of Saint Petersburg State University in 1998.
It has four educational programmes, two of which are devoted to Far Eastern and South Asia regions: Chinese culture (headed by Professor Marina Kravtsova) and culture of India (headed by Professor Sergei Pahomov).
Overall enrolment in the Chinese culture programme is 100 students, currently with five full-time teachers. The programme covers a wide range of topics in the history of Chinese culture (including religion, philosophy, political thought in classical times and modernity). The teaching is based primarily on developing the linguistic skills of the students, enabling them to carry out their research on the basis of both primary sources and secondary literature. The course takes 5 years, which is traditional in the Russian higher educational system, and comprises both lectures such as on the history of China, the history of Chinese culture and philosophy, the history of Chinese art, the history of Chinese literature, Chinese popular beliefs and religions of modern China. There is also a variety of courses in both modern and classical Chinese and written Japanese. At the end of each school year, a research paper must be presented. The course is completed by a State examination and an oral examination on the final research topic. On the basis of their academic achievements, the students can continue to graduate school.
The programme on the culture of India is organized on the same model. The overall enrollment is 20 students, with four full-time teachers. It covers various areas of Indian culture, including religious, philosophical and social aspects, from antiquity until modern times, with numerous lectures on topics such as Indian philosophy, history of India, Vedic religion and Hinduism, Indian literature, Indian art and the social system of India. The programme also includes language classes in Sanskrit and in Hindi (the main language of modern India).
- Ho Chi Minh Institute
Saint Petersburg State University Faculty of Asian and African Studies
The Institute was founded in 2010 with support from the Government of Viet Nam and Saint Petersburg State University.
The main research areas:
Contemporary political situation in Viet Nam
International relations in South-East Asia
Foreign policy of Viet Nam
Modern and current history of Viet Nam