Interfax 12.04.2021. Alexander Massov.

For my part, I would like to draw attention to another important aspect of the activities of the All-Russian Association of the South Pacific Researchers. Along with a strictly scientific analysis of the current state of affairs in the countries of this region, international relations in the South Pacific and other regional studies that are of exceptional importance for the formation of the foreign policy of the Russian Federation, strengthening its position and influence in this region, another very significant task of the newly formed Association is the intensification of academic research of history, geography, ethnography and culture of the countries of the South Pacific.

At the same time, a number of areas of such research can be identified. Primarily, this is the study and understanding of the Russian contribution to the study of this part of the globe. And I must say that this contribution is quite huge. Let us recall the voyages, geographical and ethnographic research of the participants of the Russian round-the-world expeditions of the first half of the XIX century in the South Pacific. During these expeditions, many islands in the Pacific were discovered and given Russian names. Nowadays, it seems, it is time to raise up the issue of restoring at least some of those geographical names. Let us recall the voyages of the ships of the Russian Pacific squadron south of the equator in the second half of the XIX and early XX centuries, which marked the presence of Russia in the southern part of the Pacific, formed the balance of power in the South Pacific and, incidentally, caused completely unfounded fears in the Pacific resettlement colonies of Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Further study of the history of relations between Russia, Australia and New Zealand, the most influential states in the region, should be continued, while at the same time it is necessary to study the Russian presence in the XIX-XX centuries in the countries of Oceania.

Russian studies of ethnography of the indigenous population of Australia and Oceania have long-standing traditions. A great Russian explorer, scientist and humanist, Nikolay Miklouho-Maclay followed the path of research activities of the Russian circumnavigators. His unique field research in New Guinea and the islands of Oceania fully retains its scientific significance to this day. Later, the traditions of studying the ethnography of the peoples of this region were continued by Alexander Leonidovich Yashchenko in 1903 and by the Soviet ethnographic expeditions to New Guinea and the islands of Oceania in 1971 and 1977. Nowadays, the expeditions of 2017 and 2019, organized by the Miklouho-Maclay Foundation and successfully conducted by Nickolay Miklouho-Maclay Jr, have become a continuation of not only ethnographic research.

The study of the history and current situation of the Russian Diaspora in Australia and New Zealand should be considered as a special area of research, which nowadays, is of great importance for understanding the history of the Russian Diaspora in general and for clarifying the role of Russian compatriots in these countries in shaping a positive image of Russia in the Antipodes.

I must be said, that in general, Russians have been studying and continue to study the South Pacific quite fruitfully. Moreover, there are not only researchers from institutions of Moscow and St. Petersburg, for example, the Moscow and St. Petersburg State Universities, Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies and the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, the Kunstkamera. Studies of history, economy, and culture of the countries of the South Seas are carried out at Irkutsk University, where a serious scientific school of New Zealand studies has been formed, at the Vladivostok Institute of History, Archeology, and Ethnography of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and at the Far Eastern Federal University and Krasnoyarsk University, at the Khabarovsk Center for the Study of International Relations in the Asia-Pacific Region. Scientific work on the South Pacific has begun at the Universities of Tomsk and Chelyabinsk. The purpose of the newly formed Association, in close cooperation with the Center of the South Pacific Studies of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, is to coordinate and intensify these studies, to become a platform for information exchange and scientific discussions, to organize conferences, round tables and other scientific forums. Publishing of a scientific journal “South Pacific World” will also serve this purpose. Currently, the compiling of the first issue of the journal is underway, which will contain articles in Russian and English by domestic and foreign scientists. In this regard, the Association expects to establish strong ties with foreign specialists and research organizations engaged in the study of the past and present of the South Pacific. Contacts have already been established with scientists from Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. In addition, the activity of the Association will help solve practical, but no less significant issues of studying the South Pacific. Primarily, this is an expert assessment of scientific works, digitization of published scientific works of domestic researchers, which will make them available to people who do not have access to libraries in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Finally, it will be possible to solve such a very difficult issue due to the demands of the Higher Attestation Commission, as the search for reviewers and opponents for defending dissertations and theses on South Pacific.

We believe that the activity of the Association will increase interest in the countries of the South Pacific, in the rich and valuable heritage of Russian studies of this region. As a result, more scientific fellows and students of the historical faculties of higher education institutions of our country will be involved in the study. Working with promising young people is an essential part of the course of the Association’s activity. For carrying this out, a special youth section was formed in the organization’s structure of the Association.

Finally, we should not discount the educational role of the Association. Due to the productive cooperation between the Association and the Miklouho-Maclay Foundation extensive educational activities have been already started. The Foundation organizes exhibitions, lectures, round tables, publishes illustrated books and produces films that not only promote the scientific heritage and social activities of N. N. Miklouho-Maclay, but also reveal the contribution of Russians to the study of the South Pacific as a whole. This activity, in which the Association members actively participate, expands the cultural horizons of pupils and students, attracts everyone interested in the past and present of the peoples and states of the South Seas.

As we can see, the scale of the activities of the All-Russian Association of the South Pacific Researchers is quite huge. Moreover, these are not only the plans of the newly formed organization – much of them is already being implemented. One can express, as it seems, a reasonable hope that the Association will fulfill its plans and will be able to contribute both to the coordination and intensification of scientific activity, and simply to the growth of interest of our citizens in this geographically distant, but in its own way close to Russia, vast region of our planet.

Alexander Massov

Chairman of the Scientific Expert Board. PhD in History, Professor, Head of the Department of Historical and Cultural Studies at the St. Petersburg State Maritime Technical University

Expert opinion