Build "living contacts" to stem decline in Indology studies: Pranab

The Indian film industry has also come to the rescue of Indology studies says St Petersburg university professor Yulia Alikhanova.

May 10, 2015 05:28 pm | Updated November 16, 2021 05:05 pm IST - Moscow

President Mukherjee with Russian Indologist Dr. Yuliya Alikhova in Moscow. Also in photo are Ambassador to Russia PS Raghavan and MoS Railways Manoj Sinha.

President Mukherjee with Russian Indologist Dr. Yuliya Alikhova in Moscow. Also in photo are Ambassador to Russia PS Raghavan and MoS Railways Manoj Sinha.

Faced with a declining interest in the study of “Indology” in Russia, President Pranab Mukherjee urged scholars to try and build “living contacts” with Indian universities and academics, and announced a new prize for Indology, instituted by the ICCR. President Mukherjee met with a group of professors and indologists during his visit to Moscow, where he attended the 70th year commemoration of Russia’s World War two victory.

“It is a political reality that Russia and India have drifted apart as compared to the Soviet days, and as a result the interest in Indology has suffered,” Dr. Klara Dryukova, who teaches at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, tells The Hindu , but adds that this year she has twenty-two students who have submitted diplomas on Indian studies on subjects as diverse as Indian history, the Kashmir conflict and SAARC relations, which is the highest number in a decade. The President also responded to a scholar who called for Indian cooperation in strengthening the election process in Russia which they said is “often suspect”, ahead of Duma, or parliamentary elections in Russia in 2016.

The president said that the Indian parliamentary system is successful because the Election commission is “ferociously independent.” “We cherish it and we celebrate it," he added.

The scholars also spoke of the problems with making Indology studies relevant to a new generation of Russians. Interestingly, the Indian film industry has also come to the rescue of Indology studies St Petersburg university professor Yulia Alikhanova, one of the few people in the group of Indologists in a younger age-group under 50, told The Hindu . Professor Alikhanova says she has even incorporated the Mani Ratnam film “RaOne” and Bollywood hit “Hum Saath Saath Hain”, as a part of her course on the influences of the Ramayana text.

“While literature and language are more difficult to imbibe, crowds of students sign up, as they know more about Indian films, food, and Yoga.”

The study of Indology (history and politics of the Subcontinent) is considered to have been founded in Russia by Sanskrit scholar Ivan Minayev, who died in 1890. Over the years, the Indian government has helped fund programmes on Indology in Russia at the University of Moscow, St. Petersburg and Vladivostok. However, given lower numbers of students studying Hindi and other Indian languages in Russia, “the stream of Indologists” is shrinking, says State University for

Humanities professor Dr. Sergey Serebriany, who also attended the event, addressing his remarks in Bengali to a visibly pleased President Mukherjee. According to Dr. Serebriany, Indian authors who write in English like Amitav Ghosh, Vikram Seth and Kiran Desai, are now more popular amongst young Russians than older writings in vernacular languages. Dr. Serebriany also told The Hindu that there was a new rush in the country to learn Chinese instead. “It is easy to be impressed by China’s development in Russia. We (Russia and China) were both communist countries, and yet China has progressed so much faster economically.” However, Professor Tatyana Shaumyan, a reknowned indologist disagrees, saying that “Our interest in China is about pragmatism and economic practicality. The link with India is spiritual, and so is and will always be there.”

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