The Valdai Discussion Club has held a breakout session entitled "Euro-Asian Cultural Dialogue: Philosophical and Culturological Approaches to Joint Development of Eurasian States
" at the 2nd Silk Road International Cultural Forum. In recent years, Russia and China have been actively collaborating to unite the vast space between them into a single, consolidated economic and political entity. The ancient entwinement of trade routes, the Silk Road, is now being revived to serve as the framework of the Eurasian integration mechanism.
Before the beginning of the conference
One of the crucial factors in putting the complex system together lies in finding and understanding the cultural peculiarities, values and origins of the peoples inhabiting the Eurasian expanse. Experts from Russia, China and Central Asia expressed their outlook on the history of the Silk Road, its role in connecting peoples, mutual enrichment of their cultures, stimulation of science and progress, as well as its significance for the modern world.
The session was attended by:
- Valery Tishkov
, Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), Scientific Adviser of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, RAS;
- Roman Bogdasarov
, Clergyman of the Moscow Patriarchy, Vice-Chairman of the Synodal Department for Church-Society Relations;
- Alexander Lomanov
, Chief Researcher of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies, RAS;
- Alexei Muravyov,
Associate Professor, Department of Civilizational Development of the East, School of Asian Studies, National Research University – Higher School of Economics (HSE);
- Timofei Bordachev
, Programme Director for Eurasia, Valdai Discussion Club, Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies, Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs, HSE;
- Chen Tsungtsuang
, Honorary Member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences;
- Liu Kuyli
, Honorary Member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences;
- Liu Insheng
, Professor, Department of History, Nanjing University;
- Lyudmila Stavskaya
, Rector of the Historical and Archeological Museum, Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University;
- Munzifakhon Babadzhanova
, Head of the UNESCO Chair of Intercultural Dialogue in the Modern World.
The session was moderated by Fyodor Lukyanov
, Academic director of the Valdai Discussion Club, Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs journal.
Forum participant studies a report of the Valdai Discussion Club
Eurasia possesses colossal diversity and heritage, it has always been a challenge in many aspects, an intellectual challenge amongst others, yet lacked the much needed unity, Timofei Bordachev
reminded at the session. In his words, the breakout session could become one of the first steps towards unity, through understanding of common values and the cultural background.
Timofei Bordachev, Programme Director for Eurasia, Valdai Discussion Club, Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies, Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs, HSE, and Fyodor Lukyanov, Academic director of the Valdai Discussion Club, Chairman, Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, Editor-in-Chief, Russia in Global Affairs journal. Chen Tsungtsuang
noted that ethnological differences of Eurasia's population were a pillar of cultural diversity, which, in its turn, enriched the world with countless cultures. China created three Silk Roads (northern, western and southern). Nations were constantly exchanging their discoveries. Therefore no culture is absolutely distinctive and original. The scientist emphasized that developing states seeking after greater welfare should protect their traditional culture and identity. Conflicts, he said, were not caused by cultural differences. Countries sharing similar cultures have occasionally confronted each other, while states whose cultures differed, such as Russia and China, were oftentimes cooperating. Tsungtsuang summarized that finding harmony was the key to cooperation and peaceful coexistence.
Chen Tsungtsuang, Honorary Member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; Alexander Lomanov, Chief Researcher of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies, RAS; Liu Kuyli, Honorary Member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Valery Tishkov
outlined two cultural streams in Eurasia: Islam and Christianity. The "panic" around conflicts between religions and lifestyles could easily be averted by the experience of their coexistence in Russia, he noted. The experience has universal value, especially for Central Asia, where it could be adopted to put an end to ethnic conflicts. Russia and China have a long history of ethnic-territorial constituencies, where people of different origins lived under single citizenship.
Concerning Russia's identity, Tishkov admitted that Russia was following the European norms. However, the established order was not quiescent, "culture is a mobile phenomenon" in both time and space. According to the expert, the Eurasian model Russia is trying to build should not be an antithesis to Europe: "Unity is possible upon recognition of diversity."
put limelight on the fact that value-oriented approaches were gaining more significance and that scientists were engaged in finding common values hidden in the underpinnings of every civilization. The Orientalist opined that peoples along the Silk Road shared similar values. As an example, Muravyov
reminded that Ancient Russia and Turkic peoples had begun their ascension practically simultaneously throughout the 8-10th centuries.
Alexei Muravyov, Associate Professor, Department of Civilizational Development of the East, School of Asian Studies, National Research University – Higher School of Economics (HSE); Fyodor Lukyanov, Academic Director of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club; Valery Tishkov, Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Scientific Adviser of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, RAS
China, he said, had always been very interested in other nations behind the Great Wall. Though constructed as a shield from the outer world, "the Great Wall was penetrable", it could be compared to a membrane that allowed China to interact with other cultures and the Silk Road to become a bridge connecting them.
looked upon cultural correlations between Eurasian peoples from a religious angle. The cleric noted that each civilization was trying to foster both physical and spiritual development. According to Christianity, no man is perfect, so one should aspire after self-development and progress, should be self-critical. This is where, in his opinion, Russia's values and philosophy coincide with those of China. Both countries will continue working together, they will be unyielding to any external pressure, be it sanctions or any other acts, and their spirit will never be broken, Bogdasarov
Father Roman Bogdasarov, Vice-Chairman of the Synodal Department for Church-Society Relations
Speaking about basic values, Alexander Lomanov
said that their revival in China had started in the 1990s. Scientists need to decipher the so-called "cultural gene" to see how old values still exist today and reflect the past. The Orientalist noted that the principles of harmony and equality were the platform of cooperation and needed further filling. Countries should not be compelled to adopt cultures they interact with. However, adaption to new times and conditions is vital. Lomanov reminded that the dream of rejuvenation in China had been born after the country's defeat in the First Opium War in the 19th century. Pursuing the dream encouraged China to adapt to the new reality. The revolution in the Russian Empire seemed like a means of adapting in the eyes of China. Munzifakhon Babadzhanova
accentuated that globalization was a threat to preservation of uniqueness of cultures, but interest in their distinctions was on the rise. In its turn, UNESCO, which she represented, contributed to studies of cultures along the Silk Road by passing a long-term international project "The Silk Road - Road of Dialogue" in 1987. Besides accumulating knowledge about history and culture, the grand project is also aimed at stimulating cooperation between scientists, help peoples resume the dialogue established by the Silk Road, form new contacts and encourage cultural exchange.
As a member of the Kyrgyz academia, Lyudmila Stavskaya
stated that the Silk Road had always acted as a resource for her country. The trade and communication along the Silk Road was so intense that finding the origin of the items exchanged was oftentimes impossible. She said that Kyrgyzstan had about 100 ethnicities living on its territory, making mutual understanding all the more crucial. Cultural interpenetration is a resource for forming platforms of ethnicities' coexistence. Conflicts, in Stavskaya's opinion, are often rooted in mundane life, sparked by appearance-based judgement with disregard to cultural background. The expert is steadfast that teaching young people to understand other cultures could prevent many conflicts.
Participants of the conference
Summarizing the discussion, Fyodor Lukyanov
once again underlined that the “moment of Eurasia” which is emerging in international politics and economy, can lead all regional countries to the new quality only if socio-economic and political moves will be accompanied with creation of common conceptual framework. Culture and philosophy matter no less than infrastructure and investment, and the Valdai Discussion Club will enhance its efforts to achieve harmonious development of the Eurasian continent.