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Making a Discipline of Slavic Eurasian Studies

The Slavic Eurasian Region

The whole Slavic Eurasian region is often called that of the transition economies or of post-communist states but, while such terms may be appropriate for the current phase, they do not appropriately express the self-identification of the people of those countries or the geographical concepts employed by them. As yet, however, there is no academic consensus on what terms we should use instead. The term “Eurasia” is sometimes applied to the whole region. However “Eurasia” is a geographical name that includes all of Europe and Asia and, while it may be accepted among specialists as a sort of “password”, it is not commonly used elsewhere. In this project we call “Slavic Eurasia” those regions where the influence of Russia and Slavic culture are strong and we hope to give this terminology a global appeal.
Slavic Eurasia shares a common historical heritage in socialism and in the influence of Russia, but at the same time it is a fact that particular regions have continued to be formed within that space. In the east, for example, Siberia and the Russian Far East have strengthened economic relations with Japan, China and Korea. To the south, Central Eurasia has received a complex of cultural, political and economic influences from Islam, China and South Asia. In the west of Slavic Eurasia, Eastern Europe has increased its orientation toward Western Europe and the EU. Further sub-divisions are also possible. For example, Central Eurasia can be divided into Central Asia, the South Caucasus and southern Russia, the former Eastern Europe into the Balkans (recently also called Southeast Europe) and East Central Europe (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary), and the western parts of the former Soviet Union into the Baltic states and others (Ukraine, Belorus, and Moldova). In this way the various regions of Slavic Eurasia are divided according to their experience of change following the breakdown of the socialist system.

Slavic Studies across the World

When we look at the current state of Slavic studies across the world, in the past under the name of Cold War research the United States expended enormous sums of state money to lead the world in studies of socialism. After the Cold War and the “fall of the enemy” the objectives of this research disappeared and Slavic studies in the US tended to be scaled down and diversify. In Western Europe the trend to limit research to Eastern Europe and Russia became stronger. With the development of globalization in the late 1990s and the beginning of the 21st century, however, Islamic movements opposing globalization once again demonstrated the importance of Slavic Eurasia which has many points of contact and overlap with the Islamic world. In Europe and America opportunities for general research on this region increased.
With respect to these global research trends, the Slavic Research Center of Hokkaido University is taking a leading role in supporting and developing a system of synthetic research on the whole former socialist orbit within Slavic Eurasia. The present 21st Century COE Research and Educational Project was begun on the basis of this accumulated research and is an attempt to be the first in world to propose analytical methods appropriate to the era of globalization.


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