Center for Arab and Islamic Studies

Institute of Oriental Studies RAS


History of the Center: Between Past and Present

The Center for Arab and Islamic Studies was established after relocating the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences from Leningrad to Moscow in 1950.

The Center began to work in new research directions that differed from the classical Leningrad Oriental studies. The main subject of the Center's research became the modern socio-economic and political processes in the East, particularly anti-colonial national liberation movements.

Despite the change in scientific priorities, the researchers of the Center were still distinguished by deep knowledge of Eastern societies, their culture, and history.  At the same time, the Center had close cooperation with the Soviet and later the Russian state authorities, which contributed to diplomats' active participation in the Center's work. Moreover, for several decades, researchers of the Center have been replenishing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs personnel reserve. Such scientific and public diplomacy and expert and analytical support of foreign policy always have been a vital Center's activity.

From the beginning of the Center's existence, its' structure was organized based on the need to study all Arab countries, their political situation, and economic development. The Center's researchers wrote a lot of papers on the national liberation struggle, socio-political structures, and features of the formation of independent statehood. Over time, this collective scientific experience was summarized in several editions of the "Modern History of Arab Countries". 

As the economic cooperation of the USSR with the Arab countries strengthened, information on their economies was required. There also was a need to collect and systematize information about other spheres of life in Arab countries. The Center has performed these researches. The results were included in the reference books for individual states. These books were in demand and had several editions. At the same time, both historians and economists were involved in joint institute research projects and developed theoretical issues relevant for that time. As a result, the staff of the Center wrote an actual work, "The Development of Capitalism in the Arab World" (Moscow, 1988). Another important work of the Center's staff, together with other prominent Russian scientists, was the "History of the East" in 6 volumes.

By the 1980s, the scope of the Center's research expanded and became more complex, mainly due to Islamic and cultural studies and the history of Oriental studies. New research projects have emerged, for instance, the Soviet-Yemeni Integrated Expedition.

Over the past two decades, the Center's work has resulted in a wide range of papers, individual and collective monographs, scientific collections, academic notes, and analytical reports on specific issues of the Middle East. Every year the Center's staff publishes about 10-15 books, almost 100 articles in leading Russian and foreign journals, and conducts several dozen Russian and international scientific conferences and seminars.

Nowadays, the work of the Center is carried out on a wide range of fundamental and applied research, covering the main trends and features of the development of Arab society in the past and at the present stage, namely:

  • Russian foreign policy and the Arab World;
  • the political transformation of the Middle East during the Arab Awakening;
  • nation-building processes in the Arab East;
  • modernization of the MENA societies;
  • economic studies (problems of economic growth, peculiarities of transition from a planned economy to a market economy, industrialization and de-industrialization, economic liberalization, and so on);
  • resource studies;
  • conflict studies;
  • religious extremism in Arab countries;
  • history (medieval Arab-Muslim historiography, political and intellectual history of the Middle Ages and modern times);
  • inter-civilizational communication;
  • Islamic studies;
  • ethno-confessional composition of Arab countries;
  • armies in Arab countries;
  • Socotra studies.