International Conference 2008

WINDOW INTO RUSSIA: ART AND SOCIETY IN THE XXI CENTURY

From the desk of the office bearers of INDAPRYAL

10-12 December 2008

The ties between India and Russia have a long history. Separated by a vast geographical space, the Russians did not have direct links with our country for many years. Information about India did reach Russia through their trade contacts with the other Eastern peoples, who had contacts with the peoples of the Indian subcontinent. The other route crossed through Europe, Christianity and the advent of the Russian script. At least the literate Russian having access to Greek texts could have been confronted with reports about India. The idea of India as the ‘country of wonders’, thus got fixed in many a Russian mind thereafter.

Nonetheless, there are many direct references that have been found in later Russian writings about India. The origins of an Indo-Russian interface can be dated back to the visit of traders like Afanasy Nikitin, the first traveler who visited the western coast of India in the second half of the XV century. The very first reference to India is in the Russian newspaper which dates back to the year 1703, which carried a news item stating that the “Indian king had gifted the Russian monarch an elephant amongst various other things”. Indian traders had started to settle in the Russian land beginning from the first half of the XVII century. Astrakhan had been a settlement of Indian traders, who also periodically went to live in Nizhniy Novgorod and Moscow.

Since long India has long been the spiritually coveted land for the Russian perceptive mind. India has been the source of inspiration for large numbers of Russian writers, painters and poets: Zhukovskiy, Vershagin, Fet, Gumilev, Beliy, Merezhkovskiy, Bal’mont….The list goes on. India has also not been untouched by Russia. Tolstoy’s philosophy of non-violence left a deep impact on Gandhi. This interaction was furthered by the famous Russian painter Nikolai Roerich, who made India his home and his son married Svyataslav Roerich Devika Rani, the well- known Indian actress. M N Roy had been an important member of the COMINTERN and lived in Russia for many years in the first half of the XX century. Later, travelers such as Rahul Sanskritayan had written extensively about their visits to the Soviet Union. Gorky, Tolstoy and Chekhov were as much known by progressive associations of writers in India, as much as by the common people.

For India, Russia has been a friend from the early days of its Independence, the changing world, Indo-Soviet and now Indo-Russian ties have remained cc stand. However these ties did experience a relative low after the fall of the Soviet Union, as both India and Russia were engaged in exploring new economic a political alliances which were partly guided by the compulsions of ‘a new order’. During the last decade of the X century, both India and Russia he’ embarked on the path of economic liberalization. For India this journey into 1 realms of a new economic order was not as difficult as it was for Russia. For the the transition from ‘command’ to ‘free economy’ was saddled with ‘shock the pie’. The first international conference that INDAPRYAL had organized and had examined ‘Russia at the Crossroads’ of this transition.

Russia and India, today, are fast developing economies of the global space. A … in political stature and in the economy, Russia is now in a resurgent me Even if it is no longer one of the two superpowers of the world that it was …ing the Soviet era, it is now in a position to create multipolar fields of pow… the global order. India is also emerging as leading force of the ‘new world or* Russia and India are both a multi-nation and multicultural state. Both the cc tries are following a neo-liberal agenda for development.

Russia stands as a colossus between two continents. It looks to the West, to Europe and to Asia in the East. Russia had been under the Mongol-Tatar influence for several centuries and it was Ivan the Terrible who moved towards the East and established the Russian Empire. It was Peter the great who opened the ‘Window to the West’. Russia since then, tried to be part of the European ethos The annexation of the Trans Caucasian and Central Asian regions in the XIX century opened up very deep and complex interrelationships between the two regions. The October Socialist Revolution and the creation of the Soviet Union led to new kinds of relationships between the newly formed communist stat* and the ‘third world’. The new Soviet man was to think beyond national identities and inculcate within himself/herself the new Soviet supranational, multicultural values.

Thus over the past many centuries, different windows were opened onto Russian and from Russia onto the world. Whatever the Cold War ideology of the Iron Curtain, with the Eurasian landmass of the Soviet Union and with the decolonizing and developing countries of the Third World, there were complex socio-political and cultural processes at work. There was also the Russian emigrant population that opened its own specific kind of window onto dissidence in Russia. The fall of the Soviet Union and the formation of the Commonwealth Independent States created a new space for interaction between the new states. Now direct relations were possible with all the states on an equal base making way for re-evaluation of past relationships. The disappearance of the Soviet Union also impacted the economic and political existence of the countries of the ‘Third World’.

  • We- the people vs. the nation-state
  • Displacement and diaspora

Language Translation:

  1. Current issues in Russian Linguistics
  2. Russian language today
  3. Russian as a means of international and interethnic communication
  4. The changing fate of translation

Literature:

  1. Debates on Realism today
  2. Poetics of the Russian literary Postmodernism; From Avant-garde to Postmodernism
  3. Readings of new Russian writings
  4. ‘The idea of Russia’ in contemporary Russian literature

Socially and culturally people-to-people contacts between Russia and India have always been active and vibrant. Apart from having a time-tested relationship, on which it is imperative that both these countries keep working, their partnership is an important strategic development in the post-cold War period. In this context and with the aim to further strengthen the ties between our two people, in this Year of Russia in India, INDAPRYAL, the Indian Association of Teachers of Russian Language and Literature, plans to organize an international conference with leading Russian academics, writers and critics to understand the new Russia and exchange our observations about ‘new world order’, We therefore need to look through the window to Russia to understand the fast-changing realities of society, cultures, languages and literatures today. We need to understand the challenges that confront the society that we live in. We invite papers on the following themes: Russian Society:

  1. Russia after the transition: the new economic order
  2. The new Russian intelligentsia sis,
  3. Dialogue of Generations today and/or Conflict of ‘Fathers and Sons’

Culture:

  1. Multiculturalism today: problems and prospects
  2. Cross-cultural and intercultural communication: challenges and possibilities
  3. Cultural diversity vs. global homogenous culture
  4. Intersecting identities, marginalized cultures and the ‘global village