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Campus inSaint Petersburg

Minorities in Asia and Africa in Focus

HSE St Petersburg initiated and organised an international conference on Minorities and Conflicts: Asian and African States in the Modern World.  Academics from Russia, South Korea, South Africa, Turkey and Armenia gathered for the event on 9th and 10th October.

The conference was organised by the Centre for Asian and African Studies and the Department of Asian and African studies at HSE St Petersburg.

Director of HSE St Petersburg, Sergey Kadochnikov opened the conference and Professor Sang Chul Park of the Korean Polytechnical University, who moderated the plenary session, gave a welcoming address. 

The participants discussed approaches to studying racial, ethnic, religious and other minorities, the current situation these groups find themselves in Asian and African countries, their participation in politics and social and economic life and current racial, ethnic and religious conflicts they are involved in.

There were presentations on defending the rights of Shiite children in Bahrain, the deportation of Greeks from Istanbul in 1964 and on violence against women in Iraq. The participants discussed the results of research on probably the most serious issues in the Middle East today - the religious ideas and practices of Islamic State and the Arabic language as one of the instruments this terror organisation uses to mobilise support.        

Evgeny Zelenev, Director of the Department of Asian and African Studies said it is essential the academic community focusses attention sharply on minorities in Asia and Africa. 

‘Our practical aim is to bring together an international team to do further research in this area. It’s vital to bear in mind that minorities often form powerful social groups. And in many cases their political, economic, social and cultural self-determination turns passive political unions active. This process is often accompanied by problems and conflicts. These conflicts are particularly intense and have most significant consequences for the groups involved and the international community in the East which is why it is so important for us join forces today to examine and describe them.’    

Alexander Poddiakov, Professor at HSE School of Psychology, Leonid Ionin, Professor at the Department of Theoretical EconomicsEvgeny Zelenev, and Gerrit Olivier,  Professor at the Department of Political Science (University of Pretoria) discussed the development of theoretical and practical approaches to the study of racial, ethnic, religious and other minorities, and conflicts in sociology, psychology, philosophy and political science during the plenary session ‘Minorities and Conflicts: Research Questions and Theoretical Approaches’.

During the session ‘Small Social Groups in Multicultural Societies’ the participants learned about the current status of minorities and their participation in the political and socio-economic life of several countries in the East – the Kurds in Turkey, the Zaidi in Yemen, the Yazidis in Iraq and Koreans in Japan.

Gerrit Olivier and his fellow professor from South Africa Deon Geldenhuys, gave papers on racial and ethnic discrimination after the end of Apartheid and about the possibility of creating cultural autonomy. Professor Sang Chul Park talked about Korean policies for attracting migrant workers. Professor Vahe Boyajian of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences, presented the results of his field work on ethnic minorities in Iranian Balochistan.