Address of Prof. Dr. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, Director General of IRCICA

INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON ISLAMIC CIVILISATION IN VOLGA-URAL REGION, 2001

Your Excellency the President, distinguished guests,
We are proud that the symposium convenes under the highest auspices a scholarly gathering can be granted, as His Excellency President Mintimer Shaimiev, President of the Republic of Tatarstan has honoured the symposium with his high patronage and his presence. This symposium has a special importance for us and in the history of our institutions, because the initiative to organise it brought IRCICA together with such select institutions as the Tatarstan Academy of Sciences, the State University of Kazan, the Oriental Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Union of Orientalists of the Russian Federation. It is also meaningful that this impressive new National Cultural Centre of Kazan offered its premises for this meeting. I believe that this high patronage and this collaborative institutional environment surrounding the symposium will contribute in increasing its effect and make of it a landmark scholarly event.

These structural features of the symposium, coupled with the authenticity of the theme, have increased the general enthusiasm towards this meeting. I believe this enthusiasm is shared equally by all participants. Rare are those scholarly initiatives which bring forth themes to be studied for their own sake and for pure academic interests while at the same time promise to yield benefits for the wider community and evoke the spirit of international closeness in the public opinion. The present symposium is certainly one.

The title of the symposium by itself reflects a pivotal aspect of this theme, that is, the peaceful coexistence that has been achieved in this region among a variety of nations. For more than 1110 years now, Muslims and Christians have lived together peacefully in this multi-national and multi-cultural context. Located centrally at a crossroads between East and West, the area bridged together peoples from the Far East to Europe and played the role of a cultural and intellectual, as well as commercial and economic intermediary. In particular, the Muslim peoples of this area played a unique role and contributed to the Islamic civilisation with the benefits gained from their relations with Christian peoples and other cultures far and near. Another special trait of the region is that in the 19th century, the Tatar Djadidism movement emerged as an authentic example of religious, cultural and educational reformation. Though very much peculiar to the region, it was influenced by the trends of modernisation taking place in the Ottoman State and by the innovative reforms implemented in Russia, which resulted in the establishment of modern European-type educational institutions. With the ethnic and cultural variety of its resident populations and through these cross-cultural exchanges, the region has been a meeting place of civilisations. The hospitability offered by Kazan for the present meeting is also a manifestation of this civilisational role it assumed.

This meeting is the first of its kind to deal with the theme of Islamic civilisation in the Volga-Ural and to be held within the region itself. From the standpoint of IRCICA’s activities, it comes under a series of symposia which focus on the history of Islamic civilisation in various specific regions within and outside the OIC Member States. As is known to some of the honourable participants present, IRCICA is in charge of activities relating to research, publishing, documentation and information on a wide range of subjects, including the history of Muslim nations, arts and sciences. It acts as a catalyst of cooperation between governments, universities, researchers, artists and the interested public. On the whole, its activities help to introduce the Islamic culture and civilisation in the world, reinforce relations between its Member States and other nations, and create an atmosphere conducive to mutual understanding between cultures and civilisations. With these objectives, IRCICA published until today eighty books in total. The present symposium is the fourty-first international meeting undertaken by IRCICA jointly with other cultural and scholarly institutions. I am also pleased to mention that the Centre commemorated its twentieth anniversary in 2000, with a ceremony and cultural activities held under the high patronage of the President of the Republic of Turkey and with the participation of Ministers of the OIC Member States and representatives of international organisations.

Previously, the Centre organised international symposia dealing with the history of Islamic culture and civilisation in South Asia, Southeast Asia, West Africa, Caucasia, and the Balkans. Their proceedings were published in the form of books. The present symposium on the Volga-Ural dimension builds a formal link in IRCICA’s network of institutional relations with the countries of the region. I am pleased to mention that relations between the Volga-Ural academic institutions and IRCICA have been going on for many years. Members of the cultural and artistic circles, especially from Tatarstan, participated in the various scholarly seminars, art competitions and festivals organised by IRCICA. University rectors and scholars, in particular from Bashcortostan and Tatarstan, and professionals engaged in arts and museology, visited our Centre. Moreover, a Russian edition of the Centre’s comprehensive two-volume book on the History of the Ottoman State and Civilisation is being prepared with the cooperation of academicians of the Russian Federation. We hope that this relationship will continue to grow in future. For our part, we will make efforts to keep the cooperation with this region in progress. This symposium is a major step in this direction. As the program of sessions and the papers will show it, the present field of research is vast, lively and productive.

On this significant occasion, I would like to renew our gratitude to His Excellency President Shaimiev for having graciously given his patronage to this event and honoured this ceremony with his presence. I would also like to convey our deep appreciation and gratitude to the Presidency of the Republic of Tatarstan for the high-level support and close assistance they have extended. Our special gratitude and appreciation are due for His Excellency the Mayor and the Municipality of Kazan for their crucial contribution in making this meeting a reality. May I also take this opportunity to thank once again the co-organisers of the symposium for their positive approach and productive cooperation, namely the Tatarstan Academy of Sciences, the State University of Kazan, the Oriental Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Union of Orientalists of the Russian Federation. I also express my warm greetings and appreciation to the distinguished participants for their interest in this event and wish them success. I greet you and thank you all.