Now our symposium is over. The Slavic Research Center
has always been proud to organize conferences which deal with
the wide scope of problems of the Slavic Eurasian world, but this
symposium was characterized by special variety of participants
and topics : among the authors of the papers there were ethnologists ,
historians, political scientists, a writer, a low temperature scientist
and an economist, coming from ten countries; the topics of the
papers covered almost all regions of the former Soviet Union and
Eastern Europe (important blank spots were the Baltic and
Needless to say, national and ethnic problems are quite
delicate. It is no wonder, therefore, that in some sessions we
heard heated discussions- A great difference of opinion among
participants was observed on the point whether Russian territorial
expansion was positive or negative. Many scholars agree that the
Russian Empire and the Soviet Union were somewhat different
from the Western colonial powers in terms of ethnic policies, but
the question as to whether this "difference" indicates "posiuveness"
and "tolerance" of Russian rule remains unresolved,
When we deal with ethnic issues of different regions, we
must always take into account the traditions of each region and
ethnic group. Both papers for the session 5-A referred to the
traditional institutions in Central Asia. One of the discussants,
though admitting the importance of traditional institutions, pointed
out that some of the "traditions" might have been distorted, or
even invented, in modern times, and uncritical studies of
"traditions" could lead to an exaggeration of the "backwardness"
of a given region.
Another delicate problem is that of ethnic minorities, especially
when it is concerned with their languages. A discussant in the 3rd
session posed a fundamental question: why and for whom should
minority languages be preserved, if many people from minorities
themselves prefer to use major languages in order to have more
access to information and their career? Of course, this question
does not mean that minority languages should disappear, but it
urges us to seriously consider the problems of universality and
diversity, practical convenience and moral justice.
As a whole, the symposium provided various new information,
it revealed those problems which have not sufficiently been studied,
and it presented keys to structural and multi-dimensional
understandings of ethnic issues.
I would like to thank Akifumi Takeda, a COE research fellow
of the SRC, who assisted me in editing this volume; Mark Holst,
who corrected the English of papers written by non-native speakers;
Hitomi Nakamura, who carried out computer work; and all people
who helped us in organizing the symposium.