Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Kazan Institute Seeks to Link Tatarstan to the World

Paul Goble

Vienna, January 7 – The Center for Eurasian and International Research of Kazan State University provides a brain trust for the leadership of Tatarstan in its efforts to develop ties with foreign countries in much the same way that several research centers in Ukraine did before that republic gained its independence.
In an interview posted on the site, the center’s director Bulat Yagudin describes what he calls “the only scientific research center in Tatarstan” which focuses on foreign policy issues in general and those across the Eurasian landmass in particular (
(Because the word “Eurasian” in the institute’s name might lead some to think that it is associated with either classical Eurasianism or the neo-Eurasianism of Aleksandr Dugin, Yagudin hastens to say that is not the case and that researchers at his institute has no specific ideological agenda.)
The center’s goal, Yagudin says, is to be an interdisciplinary institute where researchers will be able to provide broad assessments f social, economic and political phenomena across Eurasia and thereby be in a position to help the peoples and governments of these regions find “adequate paths for the resolution of problems.”
To that end, he continues, the center “does not avoid cooperation with politicians, political scientists, religious activists and even charlatans,” a commitment that “requires much time and effort” but one that reflects “the principle of openness” on which the center was founded two years ago.
The center earns its own way by doing contract research and transfers up to 40 percent of its earning to the university. But what is particularly important, Yagudin continues, is that the center provides “young specialists, graduate students, and even volunteers” of various kinds with the change to work “for the well-being of the entire republic.”
The center already has an active program of publications and conferences. It launched a newspaper, “Eurasian Horizons,” last year and has now converted it into a monthly publication. In addition, it publishes a journal, “Eurasian Research,” a yearbook, “The Year in Eurasia,” and occasional papers.
And Yagudin listed the following upcoming conferences: Later this month, the center plans a symposium on Tatarstan in 2008. In February, it will host on Islamic Studies in Post-Soviet Russia and the CIS. In March, it will be the venue for a meeting on the Caspian Region. And in July, it will host a forum on Geopolitics and Economics in Eurasia Today.
As is often the case with new institutions, the Kazan Center reflects the personality and experience of its organizer. Born in Kazakhstan in 1957, Yagudin grew up in the Fergana valley, studied in a German language school, and served in the Soviet army in Ukraine, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Subsequently, he studied at the historical faculty of the Fergana State Pedagogical Institute. There he worked with the internationally known David Achildiyev, an Afghanist who later moved to the United States, where he published a highly regarded two-volume history of the Jews of Bukhara.
With the collapse of the USSR, Yagudin, like many other members of the Tatar diaspora in the former Soviet space, returned to Tatarstan in order to support his nation. And on arrival, he became a graduate student at the historical faculty of Kazan State University, from which he graduated in 1992. Since that time, he has taught courses there on Africa and Asia.
Yagudin is much less well-known abroad than many other scholars in Kazan, but his aspirations for his institute and his ability both to raise funds and organize publications and conferences suggest that he and his center are going to be increasingly important players in Kazan’s growing efforts to reach out to the broader world.

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