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History and Research priorities

The elements from which the Institute of Oriental Studies has grown date back to 1769 when the translator and interpreter of Kazan Admiralty Sagit Khalfin (1732-1785) started teaching the Tatar language in the first classical school (gymnasium) of Kazan. His grandson Ibrahim Khalfin (1778-1829), a renown Tatar scholar and educator, became the first lecturer of Tatar in the newly founded Kazan University which opened its doors in 1804-1805.

Another noted scholar, M.N.Fren (1782-1851) who taught Arabic and Persian languages in the years 1807-1817, made an important contributions to the research development in the fields of Arabic Philology, Archaeology and Paleogeography, thus laying the foundations of Arabic Studies in Russia.

It was during N.I. Lobachevsky's rectorship (1827-1846) that Kazan School of Orientalistics reached its prime. In 1828 two new separate departments: of Tatar & Turkish and of Arabic & Persian were established, headed by Professor A.K. Kasem-bek (1802-1870) and Professor F.I. Erdman (1773-1863), respectively.

In 1833 O.M. Kovalevsky, the ethnographer and prolific writer, became the holder of the first, in Russia and in Europe, chair of Mongol Language & Studies, which made Kazan the leading research centre in this field. Four years later, in 1832, Professor D.P. Sivillov, author of General History of China, took the chair in the department of Chinese Language, also the first in Russia. The departments of Armenian, headed by S.I.Nazariants, and of Sanskrit, headed by P.Ya. Petrov, completed the organizational structure of the Division of Oriental Studies.

The research interests of Kazan orientalists were focused on the problems of history, literature and legislative features of Turkic peoples. A.K. Kazem-bek, I.N. Berezin and O.M. Kovalevsky had their works published in European academic journals and gained international acclaim. Textbooks written by Kazan scholars helped Austrian, German and French students to learn Oriental languages.

In November, 1851, on the edict of Nickolai I, the Institute of Asia was established in Saint-Petersburg and some of the leading professors were transformed there.

The idea of restoration of the Oriental Studies in Kazan State University has always been alive and in the 1950's teaching Arabic and Persian found its place in the curriculum of the Tatar Language and Literature Department in the Faculty of Philology. In 1990 the Department of Oriental Studies was set up when a distinguished turkologist, Professor D.M.Tumasheva, became its head.

Finally, on the 27-th of April in 2000, the Academic Board of KSU passed a resolution to found a new academic subdivision, the Institute of Oriental Studies. Professor D.G. Zainullin was appointed to head the new formation.

Professor D.G. Zainullin regards it as a basic task to restore, preserve and further develop the Oriental Studies in Kazan. The interaction of Oriental languages with Tatar and other Turkic languages in terms of historical and cultural aspects is the major theme of research for the Institute scholars. The Institute also participates in programs with other academic schools, namely: the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Science and the Institute of Asia and Africa at Moscow State University. It has become a great tradition for professors from these institutions to come to Kazan to deliver lectures on different issues of their research.

Besides providing excellent research facilities, the Institute is also engaged in teaching. The departments of Oriental Languages, of Turkology, and of History & Culture of the Oriental countries prepare undergraduate and postgraduate students for degrees in Philology and Oriental Studies. The University Library and the Minor Oriental Literature Library provide students and researchers with invaluable collections of books and manuscripts. As a result, students make notable contributions to much original research carried out at the Institute.

 

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