The Slavic Research Center of Hokkaido University is one of the research institutions in Japan which specialize in studies on certain regions of the world, i.e. so-called "regional studies" institutes. The Center celebrated its 40th anniversary in 1995. This fact itself demonstrates that the Center is one of the oldest of such institutions in Japan.
Prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union the scope of our specialization was rather simple and clear-cut, embracing the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. However, since 1991 it has become a rather vague and ambiguous notion even among the research fellows. This is why we have started redefining the scope of our specialization and restructuring its research scheme. For the time being, we have chosen a denotation of "the Slavic Eurasian World" embracing the same region for our research framework, thus maintaining the name of the Center as it was. That is to say that we are now in search of both a proper scope of specialization and a suitable research structure.
In so doing, we started in 1995 a new research program labelled "Changes in the Slavic Eurasian World", being subsidized by the Ministry of Education and Culture as a Priority Research Project. This is the third and final year for this special program. In this connection we have so far organized four symposia, dealing with the changes in economic dimensions (summer 1995); in socio-political changes (winter 1996); in socio-cultural changes (winter 1997); and a symposium dedicated to the East European issue (summer 1996). And now we present you with the fifth and penultimate occasion dealing with the changes in national and ethnic dimensions under the title of "Quest for Models of Coexistence".
Herewith, I should like to give a short account of "coexistence". Mankind has struggled throughout history to find a way of living together in peace and harmony. But history tells us about plenty of failures and, especially since the end of the cold war and the collapse of the USSR, we have seen more and more confrontations all over the world which are apparently rooted in national and ethnic issues. Regrettably enough, we cannot help but anticipate the continuation of such a situation in the 21st century. Therefore it is quite timely and important to search for and discuss the models of coexistence by analyzing these changes in the Slavic Eurasian world.
It goes without saying that, although this quest is obviously a global task, as specialists in particular regions, we are nevertheless responsible for proposing at least a few sustainable models, based on our own achievements. On the other hand, we should be humble enough to listen to the experience of specialists in other regions, too. This is why we have asked Professor Henry Stewart to make a speech on the Canadian situation. Canada is comparable at least with Siberia, despite the difference that the former was a British, and the latter a Russian colony.
Talking about coexistence on a national and ethnic level, rather than on a politico-socio-economic level, it is indispensable nowadays to pay due attention to minority problems, in particular to the violated rights of aboriginal peoples, and to the deteriorating environment. Both are urgent global questions at the turn of the present century. I completely agree with Professor Tsukimura when he says: "Generosity and respect by the ethnic majority towards the ethnic minority is required, and when the interests of the two are completely in opposition, cultural autonomy will fail unless the majority and minority both show strong support for maintaining cultural autonomy." And due respect to the minority is, in my opinion, almost synonymous with the protection of environment.
Insofar as the majority is concerned, the Russian question may inevitably arise. Who are the Russians, and what is Russia? With regard to these questions, controversial disputes may arise. Hereby, we are eager to express our sincere hope that all participants of every session, first of all, all speakers and commentators might speak of their own personal professional convictions with no reference to their state or national interests.
Now our symposium starts. We are looking forward to some creative and fruitful discussions.
Koichi Inoue
Sapporo, July 1997
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