A new institute for the study of contemporary Russia is to be established at a London university, the latest in a network of institutes at King’s College London devoted to mapping the rise of emerging powers.
The university’s Russia Institute, due to open in 2013, joins an India Institute which opened in September and institutes focusing on Brazil and China that were set up in 2008.
Rick Trainor, the King’s College principa, said: “Although we’re providing a historical perspective to these students, we’re concentrating on the economy, society, politics and international relations aspects of these countries which in the past I think have been too little understood in the UK, in terms of the new identity, the new roles in the world that they’re playing.
“So for Russia, for example, during the cold war, there was a huge amount of attention to Russia as a superpower – rather less attention to the new Russia, which has a different competitive position in the world and is playing a very different role in it.”
The centre will examine how Russia and its neighbouring states function, as well as considering the country’s role in the world. The institute is expected to establish specific programmes looking at the northern Caucasus, Siberia and the Russian Far East.
Marat Shterin, a King’s College academic who is helping establish thecentre, said the institute would differ from tradional academic approaches because of its emphasis on contemporary Russia, rather the country’s history or literature.
The institute will also foster a close relationship with London’s expatriate Russian population.
Shterin said: “London is now home to tens of thousands of Russians and, more generally, Russian-speaking people, many of whom are highly successful professionals in business, arts, academia, and other walks of life. The institute will be a natural intellectual home for these people and will provide a forum for exchanging views and developing new ideas and projects.”
Students will be able to combine Russia-focused modules and projects with those from the university’s other global institutes as well as subject areas like medicine and law.
“The proposed inclusion of medicine and health issues is a good example of our interdisciplinary and practice-oriented approach. King’s is a world leading university in these disciplines which are also of central importance in the rising global economies and rapidly changing societies, such as Russia,” Shterin said.
The institute will seek sponsorship from Russian business “providing our potential sponsors share our moral values and academic principles,” the academic added.
He said: “I think we need to appreciate that the stereotypical view of Russian businessmen as reckless and self-indulgent people is based on a few spectacular cases and is far from accurate as far as a great number of entrepreneurially successful Russians are concerned.”
King’s India Institute last week announced it had received a £3.5m gift from the Indian business conglomerate Avantha Group. The gift will endow a chair that accompanies the directorship of the institute.
Gautam Thapar, chairman and CEO of Avantha, said in a statement: “The institute’s vision dovetails with our belief that a holistic and nuanced understanding of contemporary India is essential to explore and fruitfully engage with India. It is also vital for India to develop new tools, strategies and outlook in its dealings with the international community.”