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  • Asian Studies—An Essential Subject for Students of Different Specialisations

Asian Studies—An Essential Subject for Students of Different Specialisations

Asian Studies—An Essential Subject for Students of Different Specialisations

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Russian society demonstrates a growing interest in Asia and North Africa, with economic, social, political and cultural expectations associated with the macro-region. What is more, demand for educational programmes and competencies related to Asian and African studies is projected to grow in Russian universities. HSE Vice Rector Sergey Roshchin and the heads of relevant HSE departments explain the university’s past and current efforts to respond to these challenges.

Vice Rector Sergey Roshchin, HSE University

‘HSE University is sometimes perceived as a western-oriented university, but this an uninformed point of view. Just as we have been teaching not only social and economic sciences for the last two decades, we also started our ‘educational pilgrimage’ to eastern countries quite a long time ago. It takes place on many different planes.

HSE University boasts excellent specialists not only in eastern languages, but also in the economics, politics, and culture of eastern countries. There’s Leonid Syukiyaynen, a Research Professor at the Faculty of Law and a unique specialist in Islamic law, or Olga Nefedova, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Humanitarian Sciences, an outstanding specialist in oriental artistic culture and the founder of the Orientalist Museum in Doha, Qatar, and many other colleagues.

Asian and African Studies educational programmes have been developing for quite a long time HSE University’s campuses in Moscow and St Petersburg.

In Moscow, the Bachelor’s in Asian and African Studies is run by the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs and provides training in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic and, as of this year, Turkish studies. Its graduates specialise in social and political processes and economics. They are also fluent in Asian languages, which opens the door to these cultures and the mentalities of people in regions that speak these languages. In addition, Asian languages are studied in the Bachelor's programmes in World Economics and International Relations. 

Students in Asian and African Studies, a programme offered by HSE University in St Petersburg, can study two eastern languages. The first can be Arabic, Chinese or Japanese, while the second can be Vietnamese, Persian or Hindi.

Every year, the HSE Institute for Oriental and Classical Studies (IOCS) announces admission to a different programme. This year, the institute is launching bachelor’s programmes in Egyptology, Korean Language, Literature, and Culture, and Languages and Literature of Southeast Asia (Indonesia and Malaysia). IOCS Students study programmes related to Arab studies, Assyriology, Japan, China, Iran, Ethiopia, Turkey, the Christian East, Mongolia and Tibet. They study two Oriental languages and, in some programmes, ancient languages as well.

Oriental languages can also be studied in the Foreign Languages and Intercultural Communication programme offered by the HSE School of Foreign Languages. Students study a western language as their first language, while Chinese or Japanese can be chosen as their second target language. In 2022, training in Turkish will also be available. The range of Oriental languages in our core programmes will continue to expand.

HSE Oriental studies are also represented in its master's programmes, which are more subject-oriented than its bachelor's programmes. Our master's programmes relate to the humanities (for instance, ancient and oriental archaeology), socio-economic processes, international relations, the political development of countries, business, etc. For example, HSE University in St Petersburg has a Business and Politics in Modern Asia programme.

Some of our programmes—both bachelor’s and master’s—are implemented in cooperation with universities in various Asian countries. The Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs offers HSE and Kyung Hee University (South Korea) double-degree Bachelor’s programmes: Economics and Politics in Asia and Economics, Politics, and Business in Asia. There is also the Master's programme Socioeconomic and Political Development of Modern Asia implemented jointly with the City University of Hong Kong.

It is worth noting that studies of the East aren’t restricted to students who have chosen it as their major—about ten of our one hundred minors are devoted to this field.

Students can choose minors related to regional studies (Middle East and North Africa: Economics, Politics, Security, Iran and the Iranian World: History, Culture, Politics, East in a Changing World: Socio-Political and Economic Transformations, South-East Asia: Traditions and Modernity), history (History of East Asia), and cultural studies (Visual Culture of the East).

Anastasia Likhacheva, Dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs, HSE University

‘Studying at the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs is a great opportunity to participate in research projects, including in the field of digital orientalism. This opportunity is offered, for example, by the basic departments of the profile institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The Consortium for Applied East Asian Studies (recently established by HSE University, the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and MGIMO) is ready to involve our students in projects to study the digital footprint of Asian countries.

Students participate in the development of Russian Orientalism in the 21st Century, a portal that brings together leading Russian orientalist centres. They collect expert commentary, record videos, find interesting materials for publication, etc.  

Oriental Studies today is a vibrant field of knowledge, and we see how many career opportunities it offers our graduates. Moreover, there is a growing awareness that it is not only orientalists who need to know Oriental languages and understand the role of Asia as a dynamic region. The trend for the coming years is one of increasing demand for oriental studies by non-East Asian researchers, an increasing diffusion of oriental studies knowledge, and a new interpretation of school curricula.’

Ilya Smirnov, Director of the Institute for Oriental and Classical Studies, HSE University

‘More than fifty Oriental and ancient languages are studied at IOCS, and the range of cultures, countries, and regions we study and teach about is truly extensive. These include the Sumerian, Assyrian, and Egyptian civilisations, ancient Palestine (the Bible), ancient China, ancient India and ancient Iran. These are the modern cultures of the Far East, Southeast, South and Central Asia, the Middle East, and the Christian East all the way to Ethiopia in Africa.

The above-mentioned traditions have never existed separately. On the contrary, since ancient times, they have been united in vast communities of languages, beliefs, and basic cultural ideas. This is why two Oriental languages is the minimum requirement for our students, while some educational programmes require knowledge of three or even four languages. The Far East is unthinkable without Chinese culture, which is why students of Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese studies study Chinese, in addition to corresponding modern languages and their ancient versions. Arabic is required for all programmes related to Islamic culture.

In addition to the indispensable English, our students should also be able to speak other Western languages. An Assyriologist or Classicist cannot work professionally without being fluent in German, an Egyptologist or a Vietnamese scholar cannot be efficient without French, because most of the scholarly literature in this field would not fit into their scholarly vocabulary. In short, we do our best to ensure that our graduates are prepared for both a research career and practical work.

Most of our students are involved in research projects during their studies, from researching Mesopotamian divination texts to analysing the dynamics of oil prices in the Middle East in the late 20th century. They are encouraged to work independently on ancient texts and the latest digital databases.

We plan to open a new master's programme called 'Classical and Modern East: Languages, Cultures, Religions' in 2023.’

Ekaterina Kolesnikova, Head of the School of Foreign Languages, HSE University

‘The School of Foreign Languages has been teaching Chinese and Japanese for more than five years. Students learn the language to the level of fluent professional communication and study the history, cultural realities, and contemporary life of China and Japan, supplemented by project activities.

From September 2022, our bachelor’s students will also be able to study Turkish. Particular attention will be paid to studying the specifics of intercultural corporate communication with Turkish people.

We have always attached great importance to the role of extracurricular activities in training modern specialists. This mainly means foreign language clubs, youth scientific conferences, and so-called help rooms—additional classes for students who need extra assistance with a subject.’

Evgeny Zelenev, Head of the Department of Asian and African Studies, HSE University in St Petersburg

‘HSE University in St Petersburg offers a general specialisation in Asian and African Studies. The first two years of training are devoted to studying a wide range of subjects (philology, history, anthropology, cultural studies, art history, economics, sociology, political science, international relations, law, psychology, etc.). At the end of the two-year programme, students are given a choice between two specialisations: ‘Oriental Society and Culture’ and ‘Oriental Political and Economic Development’.

The current situation will inevitably create a need for modern, newly educated Orientalists who combine a broad humanistic outlook, professional training in social sciences and economics, and practical intercultural communication skills with a brilliant knowledge of Oriental languages.’

See also:

Charming East: HSE University Hosts Anniversary Oriental Crazy Day 2024

At the end of May, HSE University hosted the traditional Oriental Crazy Day. This year the holiday was held for the tenth time. For students, this is an opportunity to show their talents on stage, take part in fortune-telling with the Book of Changes, and learn more about the diversity of Asian cultures as well as the bachelor’s programme ‘Asian and African Studies.’

Tea Ceremony, Naruto and Norigae: HSE Celebrates Year of the Green Wood Dragon

On the day of the second new moon after the winter solstice, the HSE Cultural Centre welcomed admirers of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese cultures. HSE students, teachers, and guests celebrated the Lunar New Year with South Korean hit songs and popular anime openings. They attended calligraphy and origami classes, tried regional sweets, and had Far Eastern teas. The festival ended with a big concert.

Oriental Crazy Day 2023: Photos with Panda, Calligraphy and Oriental Hospitality

On May 21, HSE School of Asian Studies organised their traditional Oriental Crazy Day for 2023. Prospective students learnt more about HSE degree programmes and admission process, and met with students and university teachers at the ‘Meeting under the Stars’ held at the HSE Cultural Centre.

‘Asian Studies is a New High Tech for Russia’

Russia's pivot to the East requires balanced actions, as well as knowledge of the languages, cultures, and traditions of Asian countries. Without this, Russian businesses will not be able to work there effectively. Experts and government representatives discussed the issue and the experience of Russia's regions working in Asia at ‘The Pivot to the East: The Regional Dimension’, the first interregional conference held by HSE University with the support of the Russian Ministry of Economic Development.

Talking Chinese, Writing Articles, and Drinking Tea: What Chinese Club Students Did this Year

The HSE Chinese Student Club at the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs School of Asian Studies has completed its 2021/22 season. Its participants and organisers talked to the HSE News Service about how they discuss China’s socio-economic, political, and cultural development as part of the club’s events.

Japanese Theatre, Dance and Calligraphy at Oriental Crazy Day 2022

Oriental Crazy Day is a traditional festival of the School of Asian Studies, which has been held at HSE University for eight years. This time, Asian Studies students taught guests Chinese calligraphy, Arabic script, Yemeni dancing and origami. They were also introduced to kabuki theatre and traditional Japanese drums.

Pivot to the East: A Comprehensive Study of the Cultural and Civilisational Centres of the Non-Western World is the Top Priority

China and the Chinese world, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Arab countries, Iran, Turkey, Central Asia and Africa are gaining new significance in Russia’s foreign policy. However, we do not know enough about the Eastern countries. It is necessary to change the priorities in education, starting from grammar school. Prospects for the development of domestic Oriental studies in the context of the new stage in the development of the system of international relations were discussed at a round table at HSE University.

Scientists Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Communicate. It’s Time to Speak Out

Aleksey Maslov, Professor at HSE University’s School of Asian Studies and one of its founders, has become a super-media persona this year. This is due to major interest in China amid the pandemic and Beijing’s strained relationship with Washington. In the column ‘HSE University Scientists’, Aleksey Maslov explains how to keep up with everything (spoiler: Shaolin Monastery!), why Russian science has become a ‘fossil’, what scientists should do for self-promotion and why it’s important to look good at the same time.

A Dossier of Deities: HSE University Scholars Create Electronic Database of Chinese Mythological Characters

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‘Tough Time Brings All of Us Closer Than Ever’

Thuy Tien Huynh from Vietnam is a second-year student in the Asian and African Studies Bachelor’s programme of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs, majoring in Arabic. She enrolled at HSE University after winning an HSE Global Scholarship Competition in 2018. Thuy Tien Huynh has talked to HSE News Service about her choice of major, distance learning, and life in lockdown in Moscow.