IIAS | IIAS Newsletter Online | No. 17 | General

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The EurAsian Orientalists' Server as a Tool to Maintain National Cultural Heritage

One of the main goals of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IOS/RAS) is to establish fruitful co-operation and confidence between different scientific institutions, centres, and research teams working in the field of Oriental Studies both in Russia and in other CIS republics.

By Rostislav B. Rybakov, Alexander A. Stolyarov, and Dimitry D. Vasilyev

Since mid-1997 IOS/RAS has had Internet access through the EurAsian Orientalist Server (EAOS) http://www.orient.ru. IOS/RAS is using the EAOS to develop the All-Russian Information Space (RusInfoSpace) in the field of Oriental Studies. This is a complex task and the EAOS is only one of the tools for implementing it. Another one is the newly established Association of Orientalist Information Centers. The work on computerizing the Oriental sources started in 1985 in various scientific centres of the USSR. It began with bibliographical description, abstracts of books and articles published both in Russia and abroad.
At the end of 1991 scholars of the IOS/RAS, in collaboration with their colleagues working in Russian and CIS Oriental Studies institutions and centres launched the Program for Computerized Researches on the mediaeval history of Eurasia. The Program envisaged the creation of a complex computerized information system including the creation of some databases which would encompass the contents of archive depositories and museums, and collections of manuscripts. The main feature of the system was the use of multi-language texts, graphic illustrations, and photo and video documents within a single database. The basic department of the Institute designed for the realization of the Program was that of the History of the Orient. Intermediate results of these activities were presented at the International Conference 'Monuments of Spiritual, Material, and Written Culture of the Peoples of Ancient and Mediaeval Orient (Databases Creation)' in Moscow, 1995. In the same year scholars working on the Program of Computerized Researches began to display some of the results of their work on-line.

Present situation
There is a great discrepancy between the amount of cultural matters studied in Russia and the degree of their technological and financial support. This is due to deficit financing of Russian science and culture, the main reason why Russian Oriental Studies have not been integrated into the global information network, but have instead fallen apart into local re-search groups.
Now that Internet reaches out over the world, opportunities have arisen for spreading up-to-date Orientalist information through networks available to scholars working in different re-gions. The EurAsian Orientalist Internet Server (EAOS), established in Moscow in 1997, is seen as one effective tool for maintaining this process. It is a multifunctional tool for as-sembling and spreading information on Oriental Studies. In the first place it is the centre for gathering and reproducing information in Oriental Studies.
The EAOS is also an educational and consulting centre which holds training workshops, helps colleagues to master hardware, and to create their own sites and place them on the Internet. Thirdly, the EAOS is a standardization centre, which helps colleagues to adopt standard methods and software for working out electronic editions, catalogues, and libraries. Finally, the centre spreads information on new developments, publications, events in Oriental Studies, and on new software which can be applied in scholarly research.

In order to broaden the scope developed by the EAOS and to increase the process of main-taining the spirit of co-operation and confidence between different scientific institutions, centres and research teams, the International Association of Oriental Information Centers (IAOIC) has recently been established. The IAOIC is supposed to tie together all Information Centres working in the field of Oriental Studies. In its initial stage it linked about fifteen Orientalist centres (institutions, museums, libraries, etc.) in Russia as well as in CIS republics, such as Georgia and Tadjikistan. These centres are supposed to be supplied with appropriate equipment, technologies, and education so that the specialists working in them can create an integrated set of catalogues, electronic libraries, and databases for different historical sources and research materials. They are also supposed to be interlinked by Internet, e-mail, web-sites, teleconferences, regional conferences, and workshops.

Within the IAOIC some sections are laid down in different fields of Oriental Studies such as: Turkic Studies, Islamic Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Chinese Studies, South Asian Stud-ies, Buddhist Studies, Central Asian Studies, etc. These sections are will have their own tele-conferences and home pages on the EAOS. One of the first steps taken by the newly established Association has been working on the electronic catalogue 'Two Hundred Years of Russian Oriental Studies' containing information on scientific organizations and groups, their history, work priorities, descriptions of holdings, bibliographies, personalia and so on.

Prospects and problems
One of the most essential tasks now is to support all these activities by a printed and on-line periodical 'EurAsian Internet Journal' which is intended to spread information and know-how among scientific teams and individual colleagues. It is also necessary to link the EAOS with as many Russian and international servers and sites with information on Asian Studies as possible. The EAOS 'Resources' division is specially destined to be filled with electronic editions of monographs prepared by the scientific staff of the IOS/RAS.The annual number of publica-tions exceeds two hundred. Placing each electronic edition on the EAOS implies creating special sites.

This listing of the prospects for developing integration, co-operation, and dissemination proc-esses is purely provisional. We have the material, the scientific resources, specialists and - to some extent - the know-how, but the present state of our activities cannot be given a high as-sessment rating because of deficit financing. The budget does not support Internet activities: they are too expensive. We have some support from the Russian Foundation for Basic Re-search but this is entirely Russia-oriented. It is difficult for us to develop international projects even with our CIS partners.

Alexander Stolyarov can be reached at astol@glasnet.ru

   IIAS | IIAS Newsletter Online | No. 17 | General