The importance of Afghanistan’s problématique is beyond any doubt due to this country’s key position in the global political developments as well as due to the peculiarities of the Afghan society shaping the resilience of its socio-political and cultural patterns vis-à-vis external impacts. Afghanistan and some of its environs is also unique as a liminal region between the Iranian world, Turkic Central Asia and South Asia that may be described in terms of the Afghan trans-boundary cultural and linguistic oecumene.
However, notwithstanding the practical and academic significance of that region its study is rather unbalanced. Regular policy-oriented conferences on Afghanistan bringing together policy-making professionals and scholars of Afghanistan are of applied nature, however important they may be. They mainly focus on the current problématique and primarily deal with policies, socio-economic and security issues.
There has been no exclusively academic conference focusing on a fundamental study of Afghanistan and the Afghan trans-boundary cultural and linguistic oecumene for decades. Insufficient knowledge of academic research on Afghanistan sometimes causes a distorted view of the country that may lead to inadequate political decisions, which is vividly illustrated by the USA and its allies’ actions in Afghanistan.
This is a common knowledge for those engaged in the Afghan Studies. In light of that, there was the first attempt to have an academic moot dealing with the Afghan studies in London, the UK on 6-7 November 2015, however its scope was mainly limited to the heritage of Sir Mounstuart Elphinstone.
Thus, a comprehensive academic conference on Afghanistan and the Afghan trans-boundary cultural and linguistic oecumene is long overdue and still remains of paramount importance for international Afghan studies. A conference organised by St Petersburg State University Faculty of Oriental Studies will serve this purpose.
The conference also commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Afghan Studies and teaching the Pashto language at St Petersburg University initiated by Academician B. A. Dorn. Moreover, the years 2015-2017 also see other anniversaries of the prominent Russian scholars of Afghanistan, viz., in 2017 – 175 years of the appointment of B. A. Dorn as Director of Asiatic Museum of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in 2016 the 200th birthday of Prof V. V. Grigoriev, in 2017 the 80th anniversary of the death of Lt General A. E. Snesarev, in 2015 the 85th birthday and the 20th anniversary of death of Prof A. L. Griunberg, in 2017 the 90th birthday of Prof V. V. Kushev. In light of that a plenary session will be devoted to the discussion of the establishment and development of Russian Afghan Studies and anniversaries mentioned above.
The Organising Committee also seeks to discuss the establishment of The European Society for Afghan Studies (Societas Afghanologica Europаea) at the margins of the conference. A similar idea was proposed by British and German scholars of Afghanistan; however, it has never materialized. The Organising Committee is optimistic that this proposal may be implemented on that occasion.