GRM 2010 GRM 2011

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Russian Knowledge Relations with the Persian Gulf Countries: State and Non-state Actors Conjunction
Paper Proposal Text :
Russian institutions, state ones and non-state alike represent a mixed group of actors which do not look as inter-connected. At the first glance it is so. However, landscape of Russian presence and activities has its own logic and explanation.
On the one hand, Russian Foreign Ministry has acted more actively after President Putin coming to power in 2000. Diplomats of the country have restored previous ties with Islamic world and introduced something new to this field.
Soft power effort is made in advancing Russian centers of culture and science to Gulf area. Affiliated with Ministry for Foreign Affairs these centers have been designed to become poles of intellectual life of local population and to coordinate many things with Russian Embassy. Knowledge about Russian history, culture and education is messaged through the centers and is going to come to a wave of Arab young people wishing to study in Russian institutions of higher education. Haj topic as an opportunity for Russian diplomacy also deserves to be mentioned because of hundreds of Moslems from the Russian Federation coming every year to Saudi Arabia in the month zu\'ul hajj. Along with that Russian soft power policy in the region differs from country to country. If, say, Iran has become more close to Russia because of Western sanctions and common international agenda, then Saudi Arabia, a very important power, remains territory to be cultivated yet in terms of soft power. And it is to Saudi Arabia where Oleg Ozerov a well-experienced ‘Arabist’, a specialist on Arab politics and culture was appointed as Russian Ambassador in 2010.
From this name we can pass to non-state actors which are very closely cooperate with Russian diplomacy. We say of such organizations like Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society (IOPS) and Russian Geographic Society. Both were supported with enthusiasm by President Putin at the time of their restoration in 2000s. It was obvious that Moscow planned to come back to the Middle East, to the Christian Holy Places after long years of post-Soviet weakness. Sergey Stepashin, ex-Prime Minister and ex-Director of Russian Counter-Intelligence Service still is Chairman of the Society and this very fact is remarkable for more adequate understanding of real mission of non-state actors in the region.
Analysts can ask some questions about IOPS activities in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other countries that do not relate to Holy Land proper. Nevertheless, the Society has declared quite ambitious goals to do research in and about the Middle East where Persian Gulf area must be present. The Society is well known by its continued assistance to Orthodox pilgrims from Russia to Holy Places of the Middle East. The Society has also stated about its mission to protect Christian Orthodoxy and Christianity in general in the area. IOPS and Russian Geographic Society have contributed to establishing channels of knowledge exchange between academics, business community and civil society. We also should take into account that the above-mentioned Ambassador Ozerov also is a member of the IOPS. Generally speaking many officials of Russian Foreign Ministry with many years service in the area are members of the Society.
Those Russian diplomats and scientists who know Persian Gulf very well decided to join and act together in the Russia-Islamic World Strategic Vision Group in 2006. Initiated by highly-respected academician and Arab World researcher, diplomat and intelligence veteran Eugene Primakov, the Group looked for moderate partners to have a counter-extremism dialogue with. The Group recognized the Kuwaiti Al-Wasatyia movement as a pattern of moderate Islam.
Russian Orthodox Church has also should be addressed at as an important element of the country’s knowledge relations. Here, there are two, at least, vectors of activities.
First, ROC has developed a dialogue with Iranian Shiite ulems. Both sides are extremely interested in the exchange of knowledge and continue to share estimations on what is going on in contemporary world and international relations, to what extent that reflects the Holy Scriptures of two religions, and what is to be done in order to prevent dramatic deterioration of spiritual life of Western and Oriental societies. It is ROC Division for External Relations that is responsible for maintaining of the Russian Church-Iranian Shiites dialogue.
Second, Moscow Patriarch Cyril has started the process of building (or reinforcing) Orthodox civilization that does not know geographical borders since his election in 2009. According to Patriarch, missionary work of Russian parishes across the globe can become a source of faith, peace-making and knowledge about Russia and its 1000-year history and heritage. Regarding to Persian Gulf three points of Orthodox parish life can be found in the religious atlas. They are situated in Emirates where a large Russian colony has been formed over the last 25 years, in Iran with small Russian emigration of post-1917 Revolution community and in Afghanistan where local Russian diplomats and Russian labor migrants have a wish to preserve their ethnic and religious identity.
In conclusion, this seemingly strange conjunction of state and non-state actors has much to develop and to change. Along with that, Russian diplomats, scientists, priests and others have made a significant contribution to the country’s image in Persian Gulf area. They have done so due to the skillful transfer of different knowledge to state and society of the region.