Events (5)

Четверг, 04 Февраль 2016 03:07

“US-Russian Cooperation in Syria” at the Woodrow Wilson Center


After a year that has seen increased turmoil in the Middle East, there is growing attention in the region from outside powers. A distinguished Russian delegation, led by Vitaliy Naumkin, presented their views on the geopolitical challenges in the region. In particular, they discusses Russia’s role in resolving the Syrian crisis, and outlined opportunities for collaboration with the United States. 

Four experts offered their analysis on Russia’s position in resolving the Syrian crisis and identified opportunities for U.S. collaboration.

On January 27, 2016 the Kennan Institute and the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, hosted the event “US-Russian Cooperation in Syria,” with Vitaly V. Naumkin, Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), President of the Institute of Oriental Studies, RAS, President of the Center for Strategic and Political Research, Head of Chair of the World Politics Faculty of the Moscow State University, and professor; Irina D. Zvyagelskaya, Chief Researcher for the Institute of Oriental Studies, RAS, Professor at the Moscow Institute of International Relations and the Institute of African and Asian Studies at Moscow State University; Vassily A. Kuznetsov, Head of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies and the Institute of Oriental Studies at RAS and Head of the Centre for Political Systems and Cultures, World Politics Faculty at Moscow State University; and Henri J. Barkey, Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Matthew Rojansky, Director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center, moderated the event.

Naumkin began by emphasizing the difficulty of describing Russia’s relationship with Syria. He noted that Russia’s position is based on two tracks: the military track, in which Russia uses direct military involvement to assist Syria in confronting jihadism and extremism, and the political track, in which Russia focuses on efforts to establish reconciliation, citing that Moscow hosted intra-Syria talks in January and April 2015. Naumkin, Zvyagelskaya, and Kuznetsov all agreed the political track was the more important of the two. Though Russia is continuing efforts on the political front, Naumkin acknowledged the obstacles to negotiations. Among these are the difficulty in determining representation of opposition groups and working to improve broader representation of these groups. He went on to discuss the game changers in the region, such as the drop in oil prices and the tension between Russia and Turkey.

Zvyagelskaya agreed that Russia has the potential to assist in this crisis, and the primary focus should be to overcome tensions through the political track. She stressed Russia’s concern with preserving the last secular regime in the region. Although there is currently a continuation of military action, she said it will not suffice to end the conflict because without political settlement there is no room to find common ground on important issues in the Middle East. Zvyagelskaya expressed that this should be the most important issue for all international actors right now.

Kuznetsov stated that from Russia’s point of view, jihadism is the main threat, but there is still not a clear understanding of what terrorism is. He urged the audience to think about the ideological struggle within the jihadist movement. Presently there is a conflict between young and old jihadists, between regions, and between groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS. The escalation of these conflicts could be positive for Russia, Kuznetsov noted. He went on to stress that jihadism extends outside territorial identities, such as the case of al-Nusra and ISIS.

Barkey asked the panel what Russia thinks Syria’s future should be, beyond preserving the last secular regime. Naumkin responded that Russia has a clear vision of what Syria should look like; there should be no return to pre-war conditions, and it should be Syrians who determine who will be in charge of the regime. Naumkin affirmed his opposition to outside countries deciding how long Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should remain in power. Barkey closed the discussion by stating that if in 2011 we had predicted Syria would be in the hands of a jihadist organization like ISIS, no one would have believed it. He noted that although we do not know what is next, what is clear is that regional powers have not done nearly enough, and asserted that perhaps this is why the United States and Russia have come together to find a solution.

By Elena Scott-Kakures, Middle East Program

On July 2, 2015 at 13:00 at Institute of Oriental studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the presentation of the book of the Chairman of the Russian Central Electoral Commission, Vladimir Evgenyevich Churov "Travel to Morocco with Anastas Ivanovich Mikoyan" was held with assistance of IMESClub, first of all in the person of the vice-president of Club – Nikolay Sukhov who gave significant assistance to the author in the process of materials collection.

The bookis remarkable by the fact that it was written on the basis of a personal, family document – the traveling diary belonging to the author's father. In the book illustrated by a set of unique photos, documents and other visual materials, V.E. Churov skillfully connected microhistory, an episode in the biography of a captain of the first rank, a senior teacher of Naval academy of the USSR, with recent global history, with a big political game in which world powers were involved in the 60th years of the last century. So the notebook became not less important and valuable document, than government telegrams, shorthand reports of official talks or reports of the officials. For the orientalists Evgeny Petrovich Churov's diary is an invaluable source of data on public life of Morocco, life and customs of its inhabitants during the period of history about which there are no other unofficial records in Russian.

The presentation of the book passed in the cozy informal atmosphere. For the current moment the book is available in bookstores in Russia only.

During the meeting a proposal on the translation of the book into French with the adaptation for the foreign reader with its subsequent presentation in Morocco was made. IMESClub is extremely interested in assistance with initiatives such kind.


Среда, 27 Май 2015 02:51

MGIMO Middle East Week by IMESClub


An opening ceremony of the MGIMO Mid-East week took place 12 May 2015. The leading orientalists are taking part in the event.

The conference was opened by the Rector of MGIMO Anatoliy Torkunov. He declared that the Mid-East week was the first in the series of events devoted to the 200-year anniversary of Lazarev institute of oriental languages. As A. Torkunov has mentioned that there is no group of people untouched by the region’s issues - it attracts politicians, economists and businessmen as well. According to the Rector this part of the world is seeing the epoch of transformations now. The “Arab Spring” that started four years ago has not only created expectations for the positive change, but has also revealed a conflict potential of the region that has been accumulating for a long period. The conflicts that are happening in their turn increase the level of disintegration, which can lead to the deterioration of the international security problems and to the change of world trade and energy flows. The strengthening of the radical Islamist forces may have a negative impact on the situation in some Russian regions. A. Torkunov believes that a balanced approach should be maintained in the conditions of the growing instability on the Middle East and active involvement is required on several directions – Russia should contribute to the strengthening of the regional security and perform as a mediator in the regional conflict resolution.

Mr. Torkunov has also highlighted the importance of the anniversary events for Soviet and Russian orientalism – the experts have already been studying the Middle Eastern issues for several centuries.  The Rector mentioned a rich collection of Arabic books in the library of MGIMO university. Manuscripts of 13-15 century are already available on MGIMO portal in the electronic versions, and a book about MGIMO orientalism and editions left from Lazarev institute is to be published soon.

In his speech Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs has emphasized the importance of celebration of the 200 year anniversary of Lazarev institute for Russian diplomacy: “Already then we had a professional school of orientalism”.  Moreover, he has noted that the East in general and Middle East in particular always had an important place in Russian history. M. Bogdanov has noted a consistent and principal character of Russia’s policy on the Middle East. The sharp intrapolitical conflicts that emerged in the region during the last years have revealed this character of Russian policy. The representative of Ministry of Foreign Affairs has pointed out that Russia was always for the peaceful conflict resolution without the military means.

The event was attended by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Iraqi republic S. Muhsin, the Ambassador of Egypt M. Al-Badri and the Ambassador of Syrian republic R.Haddad.

Many actual international issues were covered during the session and all the speakers have emphasized the importance of fruitful and close cooperation between Russia and regions of the Middle East. “Islam should not be set equal to the terrorism! It is a grave mistake” – declared the Egyptian Ambassador during his speech.

Moreover, the representative of the Council of Muftis of Russia was among the guest of the event and he has noted that religion has gained the same importance as such aspects of public life like business and politic.

In the conclusion the Deputy Chairman of the Council of the Association of Russian diplomats, Advisor to the Deputy Chairman of The Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation  A. Baklanov has stated that Russian School of arabists is recognized internationally and thanks to the efforts of MGIMO management team it still holds the leading positions in the scientific studies. Moreover, Baklanov has emphasized the importance of the Arab countries for Russia, both in economic and political spheres.

The Mid-East Week will last till 15 May. Round tables with the participation of the leading Russian experts-orientalists, Ambassadors and representatives of the diplomatic missions, and also presentations of books and film screenings are planned within the framework of the event. An opening of paintings and photo expositions took place in the atrium of the new building of MGIMO.

The Mid-East week is organized by IMESClub, MGIMO and the Institute of Oriental Studies of Russian Academy of Sciences with the support of MGIMO Foundation of development and MGIMO Alumni Association. Interprombbank was an official partner of the week.

A round table “Sunni-Shia divide: the roots of the phenomenon and the ways to overcome it” on the situation in the Middle East took place at MGIMO-University (Moscow State Institute of International Relations) on the 14th of April. The leading experts (from MGIMO, Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, of the Institute of the General History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, of the Diplomatic Academy, Institute of International Relations and World Economy of the Russian Academy of Science, Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs representatives and from other political and scientific institutions were brought together. The eminent Russian diplomat Veniamin Popov, who leads the Center for Dialogues of Civilizations at the MGIMO-University and holds IMESClub membership, chaired the meeting.

The participants of the meeting have discussed the Shia-Sunni clash on the current historical moment, the origins of this clash in the historical perspective, the reasons of the regional conflicts. Yemeni, Syrian and Iraqi crises were in a special focus.

In the opening address to the audience Alexander Orlov, the director of the Center of international Studies of MGIMO, shared his thoughts over the current destabilization in the Middle East that he links with international crisis having brought the global system to the state of a deep imbalance. 

George Mirsky, famous Russian expert from IMEMO, has noted among other important issues an aspect, that there is a dangerous trend of simplification of all the processes in the region to the level of Saudi Arabia vs Iran clash, that is irrelevant for the understanding of the processes we witness now, as there are numerous inner processes that rather often form the core of the ongoing developments. 

Andrey Fedorchenko, the director of the Center of the Middle Eastern Studies, IMESClub member, has mentioned in his speech, that the tradition of compromises is not well developed in the Middle East, particularly in the religious field. Maria Dubovikova, President of IMESClub, has stressed that there is a dangerous trend of politicization of the religion and instrumentalisation of the existing discords, that is often used by the external and non-regional players as well serving their national interests they have in the region. All these trends, according to Ms. Dubovikova, lead to the extreme aggravation of the regional situation.

Nikolay Soukhov, researcher of the Institute of Oriental Studies, IMESClub member, has focused in his speech mostly on the Russia's role in the current discords and the role the Russia's expats and children from the mixed marriages can play as a factor of mediation and harmonization of the processes, and has also shared the observation, based on the Pew Research Center report over how Sunnis and Shia's percept each other, that the farer the country is situated from the Shiite concentrated region, the less positive attitude the Sunnis have towards the Shiites, even considering them as non-Muslims. And the nearer the country is to the Shia concentrated region, the more neutral attitude to Shiites is.

During their speeches the experts have noted taking into consideration the controversial interests of both regional and external players, the solution of the existing problems seems rather unlikely in the near future.


On the 4 March, 2015 in the «Ritz Carlton» Hotel a solemn ceremony of awarding an honorary doctorate (honoris causa) of the Institute of Oriental Studies with handling of the diploma and the mantle to the prominent Lebanese figure – Mr. Amal Hikmat Abou Zeid took place.

The ceremony was attended by notorious political figures, scientists, representatives of the diplomatic corps of the foreign countries and also by Mitropolit Niphon Saikali (Russia),  Representative of the Patriarch of Antioch in Moscow.

The congratulatory addresses  were delivered by Vitaly Naumkin (Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies, corresponding member of RAS), Shawki Bou Nassar (Lebanese Ambassador in Moscow), Vladimir  Sautov (Vice president of JSC "SPC Irkut", orientalist, Ph.D., Alexander Panov (Deputy director of the Department of the Middle East and North Africa, the Russian Foreign Ministry), Alexey Sarabiev (Head of Research and Publications of the Institute of the Oriental Studies, Ph.D.).

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Amal Hikmat Abou Zeid thanked the audience and the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences in the person of its Director Vitaly Naumkin for the honour to become its honoris causa.

LBC Group TV release on the event


Article covering the event on

أكاديمية العلوم الروسية تكرمّ أبو زيد .بانوف: لمساته واضحة في تطوير العلاقات ..بو نصار: ثروة لبنان في ابنائه المبدعين


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بالصور: أكاديمية العلوم الروسية تكرمّ أمل أبو زيد


Article covering the event on :


أكاديمية العلوم الروسية تكرم أبو زيد


Article covering the event on :

الاكاديمية الروسية كرمت ابو زيد ومنحته الدكتوراه وتقديراً لنجاحه في تطوير العلاقات بين البلديــــن


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بالصور - أكاديمية العلوم الروسية تكرمّ أبو زيد


The speech of his excellency  Doctor Amal Hikmat Abou Zeid in English:


Ladies and Gentlemen,

In such a moment, we realize the true concept of the “honorary doctorate”. The Latin roots of word PhD mean that we master knowledge, and who would be more worthy than your prestigious academy to be the great guardian of science and learning. And all the pride isn’t but being among you. Such Pride isn’t equaled unless by my feeling of gratitude and thanks.

Having said so, I’m here today, simply because I was and will remain a diligent assiduous student, walking on the path of historical communication and interaction, between the Great Russia and the country of Cedars. I say a simple student, because the relationship history of our two countries is so great that not only one person or people can preserve it. It belongs to History itself.

Nestorius tells in his history, that our relationship dates back to more than a thousand years. He says that Prince Vladimir of Kiev, and upon wanting to be guided to the upright religion, sent his envoys to various countries of the World. They went to the Volga Bulgarian people, where they found their faith, but without joy. They visited the countries of the Germanic and Rome, where they discovered their faith was deprived of beauty. Finally, they reached Byzantine, a neighbor of both your and our countries, and the twin of our Antiochian Church. They attended mass at “Hagia Sophia of Constantinople Church”, and wrote to Vladimir, telling him: “We did not know whether we were on Earth or in Heaven! All we can say that God was there among humans and that moment is unforgettable.”  This is how our life age extends back to more than one thousand years. Historian Platonov says about Russia Holy Church: “We owe it all to St. Mikhail, he was the first who established Christianity among us, and the first to build a monastery on our land. And St. Mikhail comes from Syria, and was the pupil of Patriarch John.”

Over thousand years, friendship, cooperation and solidarity ties went growing and consolidated between our region and your great country. Patriarchs, coming from our countries, participated in the synagogues of Moscow, since 1661.  Afterwards The Russian Government had a Consulate in Jerusalem, in 1819, aiming to surround with care the largest number possible among the Russian faithful people, who were going to pilgrimage in the holy land, through Syria and Lebanon. Hence, Russia became the owner of many properties in those territories: the Monastery of St. Theodora, the Monastery of Abraham (Ibrahim), as well as the Monastery of Tulkarem. Additionally, the Russian Church missionaries contributed in rooting our people in our home and surroundings. Our histories even remember that thanks to a Russian monk, Ospjanski, who due to his merit, the Arabic was adopted as the language of the Church of Antioch in 1891. Few years later, in 1895, the Russian Imperial Palestinian Association was established for providing free education, in Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. Its spreading went on increasing till having founded more than hundred schools. From Cairo in Egypt to Beit-Jala in Palestine, reaching Shoueifat and Baskinta in Mount Lebanon, Amyoun , Tripoli and Bayno in northern Lebanon, and ending in  Homs, Syria.

What is even more important than our common history is the fact that Russia did not only provide our children with school and education, but it gave them even more than this: It gave them freedom, especially the freedom of faith and belief. After Russia’s victory over the Ottomans and the imposition of Kucuk Qanarjh Treaty, 1774, Russia did not ask the Ottoman State for any properties or lands. But it imposed and obliged it to guarantee the religious freedom of the Christians living in the Sultanate territories. According to the terms of that treaty, Istanbul was committed to provide Christian religion, and churches with permanent protection. The Minister of the Russian Court was empowered to object, whenever he wanted to, before the Sultanate, about any violation of the freedom of the latter, additionally to having imposed the construction of the Church of the Embassy of Russia, and other church in the city of Galati, called the Russian Greek Church. This treaty between Russia and the Ottoman Empire formed the first evolution in our history, resulting some 65 years later and leading to the beginning of the establishment of the State of Lebanon, with the first international protection regime of Mount Lebanon, in 1841.

Today, Russia, the “Third Rome” is back as Soloviev wrote, the Holy Russia, with the two-headed Eagle. And thus its relationship with our country has become more important and strategic, because, the basic holder of  the Russian external and international dimension nowadays is nurtured on the global level, by the principle of freedom to groups and communities. Russia the Great in its people, land, history, economy and wealth, is even greater today, because it is the only superpower in the World, carrying the banner of defending those freedoms.


In contrast, the unique Lebanon shows to be the only place in the world, where Christians and Muslims live equally together despite all their ethnic differences. In the entire Islamic world, there are some Christian minorities living, while bowing under the yoke of their incomplete rights, threatened with their presence and existence, dying and gradually disappearing, either through self-immigration or forced displacement. In the entire Western world, there are Muslims living in a complete inner struggle on keeping their identity and integrating in their new societies. They even live the contradiction between themselves and the other ones, until often reaching rejection, violence and terrorism. Only Lebanon, among all the countries of the earth, is a different model. It is the place where Christians and Muslims, share equally their duties and obligations, with accurate and complete calculations, in one state and under the same one authority and power. It is a model that deserves to succeed, and the whole world needs its success, because if Christians and Muslims fail to live together in Lebanon, it will inevitably mean the failure of coexistence together on earth.

However, the threats to our unique Lebanese model are more than a few. The first one refers to the terrorism expiatory groups on our borders. The Second one refers to some policies of the West that care for their interest only, regardless of any values or moral dimension. The third one refers to the failure to establish a just solution to the Palestinian Cause. Russia, alone, understands these imminent threats against us. Only Russia can and is able to help us, through its resistance or Veto, because you also encountered terrorism, you knew as well the negative impacts of Western interests and disadvantages. You were and still are the first to commit, to find a just solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

A sovereign, strong and independent Lebanon is not only a need for his surroundings, region and to the world, but it is also a necessity and element of attraction. Democracy cannot be transferred to the Arabic region without the Lebanese model. There can be no concept of pluralism to the Middle Eastern societies, without the Lebanese model.  No lasting peace can be established in the Orient, without the stability of the Lebanese model. In exchange, Such Lebanon, being a friend of Russia, is the main partner of your great country, in cultural communication, human interaction, political and economic integration, between you and the entire Arab world. This world who is living today a state of anxiety, as an expression of undergoing some transition era, between a fallen past regime, and an alternative but not yet found one.

On this occasion, and before closing, let me first thank my family, especially my wife, for her support and understanding of the tasks that I accomplished and which sometimes required from me a long absence.

Second, let me also thank the Unknown Soldier, my friend Vladimir Sautov and his friends who believed and supported me in my endeavor.

Third, I address my thanks to the representative of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in Moscow Metropolitan Nifon Seikaly, for his support and help in all that would strengthen cooperation between the Eastern and Western Church.

The fourth thanks and last one is attributed to the Embassy of Lebanon in Russia, today represented by Ambassador Shawki Bou Nassar and his predecessors who played a helpful role in all visits of the  Lebanese officials to Russia and vice versa.

The Prophecy of an old Russian hermit says: “Rome I and II have fallen. The third one is Moscow, and the fourth will never show”. Our hope and trust, as we are today in Moscow, that “The Third Rome” will never fall, and shall remain for our people and our countries a beacon on top of the hill. Long live Lebanon, Long live Russia.




The text of the speech in Arabic:

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