The Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) has a long history, starting from November, 1818, when an Asiatic Museum under the Imperial Academy of Sciences was set up in St. Petersburg. From the very beginning of its activity the Asian Museum simultaneously performed a number of functions: cultural, educational and scientific. It was a depository of oriental manuscripts, a museum with exposition for visitors, a scientific and organizing center for oriental studies as well as a library for scientific work.
At the beginning of the 20th century, by the 100th anniversary of its foundation, the Asian Museum became a major Oriental center with a remarkable collection of manuscripts in 45 oriental languages and a rich library. In 1929-30 the Oriental Department of the Academy of Sciences was reorganized, and the Institute of Oriental Studies was created on the basis of the Museum under the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. In 1950 the Institute was transferred to Moscow. A number of structural changes at the end of the 1950s transformed the Institute into a center of oriental studies, the largest one in the USSR.
Nowadays, the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences is a leading research center in Russia where history and culture, economics and politics, languages and literature of the countries of Asia and North Africa are studied. The chronology covers all periods of the history of the Orient - from antiquity to the present day. About 500 experts work there. Most scientific centers and departments of the Institute conduct research of certain countries and regions (e.g., Center for Arab Studies, Center for Japanese Studies, Center for the Indian Studies, etc.). A number of departments conduct research of the most relevant problems of the Orient (in particular, the Center for Energy and Transport Studies, etc.). The Institute’s depositories contain invaluable collections of ancient books and manuscripts, and the library’s collection exceeds one million volumes. Publishing, expeditionary, educational and humanitarian activities of the Institute of Oriental Studies, on the international level as well, make this academic structure a unique phenomenon in scientific, cultural and social life of modern Russia.
Today over 100 Russian post-graduate students from Moscow and other cities of Russia as well as from foreign countries are trained here. Over 60 doctors and candidates of science perform theses advising of post-graduate students. Those post-graduate students and post-PhD. students who have defended their theses get state diplomas with international recognition. A number of agreements on scientific exchange of post-graduate students were signed with many countries of the world.
The organization and holding of various conferences take a peculiar place in scientific exchange, academic discussions, in cultural, international and social life of the Institute. The following conferences of the Institute are held on constant basis: “Rerikhovskie chteniya” (Roerich’s Readings) on historical, cultural and religious problems of countries of Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent; Problems of modern Iran; The society and state in China; Annual conference of Arabists; Australia and Oceania: history and modernity; Russia and the Orient: problems of interaction, etc. In 2004 the Institute of Oriental Studies organized the International Congress of Asian and North African Studies (ICANAS XXXVII).
The members of the Institute regularly take part in a number of prestigious international conferences, congresses, symposia and ”round tables” including the Permanent International Altaistic Conference (PIAC), the International Congress of Mongolists, the International Congresses of the Turkish Historical Society and of Turkish Linguistic Society, International Congresses of Sanskritologists, of Sinologists, etc. The Institute develops traditional contacts with the Indian Council for Social Sciences Researches and with some universities of India, with the International Association for Mongol Studies as well as with the scientific and non-governmental organization of Arab countries (e.g. ALECSO).
Scientific expeditions have always been an impressive component of oriental studies in Russia. Since the foundation of Russian Academy of Sciences its expeditions have been of a wide-ranging character. Nowadays the Institute of Oriental Studies continues this tradition: scientific analysis of archeological artifacts, ethnographic, linguistic, folkloric and written materials, of heritage of spiritual culture is carried out in inseparable linking with each other. The Institute is the base for performing the long-term comprehensive expeditions.
The Institute publishes the following periodical editions: journals "Southeast Asia: current problems of development", “Eastern Archives,” “Epigraphics of the Orient,” a year-book “Japan,” “Altaica” and “Irano-Slavica.” The journal “Vostok/Oriens” for specialists and magazine “Asia and Africa Today” for general public are issued together with the Institute of Africa of the RAS. All of them are published on an ongoing basis and based on the annual scientific conferences. Also the Institute has an Internet-journal "New Eastern Outlook" (www.journal-neo.com), which consider the processes, events and phenomena occurring in all regions of the planet in terms of their relation with the interests of the Eastern world. Among the authors and readers of the journal there are policy makers and experts, government officials, military officers, journalists and religious figures, representatives of private businesses and economists, political scientists and scholars.
The Institute is making a big contribution to the preparation of new specialists. The Institute founded the Oriental University (www.orun.ru), which trains experts in regional studies, Orientalists of high professional skill for scientific and teaching work, public service, to work at international organizations and commercial enterprises, etc. The programs of training, textbooks and original methods have been worked out by the scholars of the Institute of Oriental Studies.
A specific character of the Institute’s activity comprises a wide range of international contacts. At present its international cooperation with foreign colleagues and partners is performed in various forms and ways.
Partnerships in international programs of scientific cooperation, research projects and publishing programs, representation in academic institutions of near and distant foreign countries, participation in international expeditions, conferences and seminars, teaching activity abroad in the sphere of Orientalism, training courses of members of the Institute at foreign universities and visits of trainers from abroad, membership in international Oriental associations and in societies of business, cultural and humanitarian cooperation – this is not a complete list of the forms of the Institute’s participation in the scientific and cultural spheres of the modern world.
Scientific contacts of the Institute with Turkey, India, Egypt, Japan, Iran, China and other countries develop on a constant basis.
A high level and effectiveness of Institute's joint activity with foreign partners are predetermined by its strategy adequate to the requirements of the modern time and by the policy of uniting the applied and fundamental studies.
The direct participation of the Institute in public and cultural life of Russia and in its contacts with the external world has given a deserved reputation to the Institute – both in the country and abroad. Today the Institute of Oriental Studies of the RAS is not only an academic structure but also a brilliant example of a cultural dialogue between various countries, regions, ethnic groups and confessions in the modern world.
Many scientists of the Institute are awarded high honors, both Russian and foreign, honorary degrees and awards for outstanding achievements in various fields of Oriental studies, and also for contributing to the development of national and international science, public relations, the strengthening of international scientific contacts and other services.
The scientists of the Institute conduct research on various topics, such as "Comprehensive study of ethnogenesis, ethnic and cultural image of the people, contemporary ethnic processes, historical and cultural cooperation in Eurasia", "Studying the historical roots of terrorism, monitoring of xenophobia and extremism in Russian society, anthropology of extreme groups and subcultures, an analysis of the complex ethnic and religious factors in the local and global processes of the past and present", "Problems of the theory of historical process, summarizing the experience of social transformation and social potential of the history", "The evolution of human societies and civilizations: the man in the history and the history of everyday life. Retrospective analysis of forms and contents of relations between the authorities and society", "Study of the spiritual and aesthetic values of national and world literature and folklore", "Genesis and the interaction of social, cultural and linguistic communities", "The historical experience of social transformation and conflict" and others.