Mandana Tisheyar

Expanding Cultural Cooperation between Iran and Russia

Date of publication : February 22, 2016 15:31 pm
Expanding Cultural Cooperation between Iran and Russia

Iran and Russia are two neighboring countries, but both nations do not have an extensive and deep understanding of each other. In Iran, understanding Russian culture and society is acquired through the translated Russian literature texts. Although the impact of Russian plays and novels on Iranian literature is obvious during the last two centuries, the books and articles which introduce Russia's contemporary society and literature, especially, in the era following the collapse of the Soviet Union, are rarely read by the Iranians.

On the other hand, Russians also have a limited knowledge about Iranians. A limited number of Russian experts on Iran and orientalists are interested in studying Iranian culture and society, and even their limited number has been in decline in recent years. Like the Iranian experts on Russia, the Russian experts on Iran are busy studying Iranian classic literature and have strayed away from the new intellectual trends in the Iranian society. Therefore, we can find rarely sound and precise analyses based on a sociological view (including cultural, economic and political elements) made by Russian and Iranian experts on each other's social affairs.

If we believe that the underpinnings of political and economic cooperation between nations are based on mutual trust and confidence, and if we admit the assumption that confidence-building needs mutual understanding of each other's manners, customs and lifestyles, then we could say that the main reason for the failure of the decision-makers in the two countries to further developing relations, despite their emphasis on the necessity of increasing cooperation in various fields, has been the cultural separation of the two nations.

Peaceful coexistence between Iranians and Russians could be realized on the condition that these two nations have the opportunity to become familiar with each other's behavior, habits, and beliefs. The understanding of the two great Iranian and Russian civilizations in today's world can contribute to the convergence of the common civilizational elements of the two nations. This also can pave the way for the formation of a common civilizational zone in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Emphasis on common identity building elements between the Iranians and the Russians can even gradually blur the bitter historical memories of the two nations and open the door for interaction and convergence, instead.

Iran under the leadership of moderate Rouhani seeks to draw upon its rich cultural and civilizational potential to expand its political and economic cooperation with other countries by means of a vigilant cultural and scientific diplomacy. Therefore, universities and scientific centers play a key role in expanding convergence and cooperation between this country and other countries in the world. The Iranian ministry of foreign affairs and the Iranian ministry of science, research and technology (MSRT) have adopted the policy of the internationalization of scientific activities and support and facilitate international academic relations pursued by universities in Iran.

Since a sound and scientific knowledge of different societies through establishing links between their thinkers and researchers can lead to the development of sustainable relations between their countries and the growth of intellectual synergy between their scientists and scholars, thus, using cultural and scientific diplomacy could be useful for enhancing mutual understanding of Iranians and Russians with the goal of confidence-building and further cooperation between their countries. Although, linguistic differences and false propaganda might create serious obstacles for the process of scientific and cultural convergence, there is no way to expand cooperation but to overcome these difficulties.

Mandana Tisheyar, an assistant professor at Allameh Tabatabai' University, is the senior fellow at The IRAS Institute.
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Author : Mandana Tisheyar