Resources, Environment and Infrastructures between Russia and the Asia-Pacific: Cooperation and Conflicts

This article is part of the TRAFO series “Emerging Topics. Insights from ‘Behind the Scenes’”. Today, we put the spotlight on the conference “Resources, Environment and Infrastructures between Russia and the Asia-Pacific: Cooperation and Conflicts (18th–21st cent.)” which will take place on February 21-22 2019 in Seoul. The conference is a collaboration of the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (Seoul), the German Historical Institute Moscow and the Ludwig Maximilians University (Munich).

The call for papers is open till September 15, 2018, please find more information here.

Together with Joonseo Song (Hankuk University of Foreign Studies), Sandra Dahlke (German Historical Institute Moscow) and Andreas Renner (Ludwig Maximilians University Munich), you are organizing the upcoming conference “Resources, Environment and Infrastructures between Russia and the Asia-Pacific”: How did you come up with the idea for this event?

Last year, we (the German Historical Institute Moscow together with Andreas Renner from the LMU in Munich) started to develop a new collaborative research project called “Russia´s North Pacific”. The idea behind the project is that the Asia-Pacific Region has become a strategic and economic key region (which is mirrored e.g. in the talk about a “Pacific Century”) and that the historic and current role of Russia and various Russian actors within this region has so far been underresearched. The objective of the project is to bring together scholars from different disciplines who are interested (broadly) in how Russian actors have participated in the shaping of the North Pacific region and how interactions between them and actors from other neighbouring countries have developed over time. Our first workshop was held last March in Moscow.

Joonseo Song from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies has not only been a participant in this event, but he and his university have been cooperation partners of our new project from its very start (which makes particular sense considering the fact that on an international academic level, so far there has been given considerably less attention to Russian-Korean interactions than e.g. to Russian-Chinese or Russian-Japanese ones). The idea to locate our next conference in Seoul arose already during a meeting we had in September 2017 in Munich. After the workshop in Moscow we sat together and agreed that we should go ahead with it and that the topic of this next conference should be (within the framework of “Russia´s North Pacific”) more focused than the more general outline of our first workshop in Moscow. The topic we agreed on touches on some main scientific interests of Andreas Renner and me – among others –, but also resonates with part of the Korean scientific community dealing with Russia. This is how we came to the conception of this next conference in Seoul, which will be generously hosted by the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

 The conference will particularly focus on the time period from the 18th to the 21st century: why did you choose this time frame and what advantages might it have?

This time period is of course quite a broad one, corresponding with the one we chose for our collaborative project. Although the first Russian settlements on the Pacific date back as far as the middle of the 17th century, Bering´s expedition in the 1740s was clearly a turning point in the Russian acquisition of knowledge on and possession of large parts of the North Pacific coasts. In addition, the 18th and the 20th/21th  centuries can be regarded as particularly appropriate for framing such a project, as it was during the former that the balance of power within the North Pacific world shifted decisively towards Western and European powers (including Russia), whereas since the 20th century we have seen a reversal of this development by the rise of first Japan, then (economically) South Korea and the other “Asian Tigers”, and finally the People´s Republic of China.

When we conceptualized the conference, we had the choice to either focus on a certain, more restricted time period, or to choose a specific thematic focus and angle through which to explore interactions between Russian actors and those of other neighbouring countries during our whole period of investigation. We chose the latter option, and I think this was a good decision.

Which questions regarding resources and infrastructures between Russia and the Asia-Pacific are still understudied and in which ways will your upcoming conference contribute to fill these gaps?

We still know relatively little about how interactions, cooperation and conflicts in the realm of various resources (goods, energy, natural resources etc.) and infrastructure between Russian actors and Chinese, Korean, Japanese and North American ones have been shaped and have developed over time on a regional and local basis in the North Pacific region. The conference can help to shed more light on these aspects. However, in general I would say that the conference is not so much about filling gaps than about bringing to the foreground and linking together research which is already been done e.g. at universities in Russia, China, South Korea, Japan, North America and Europe. Quite often, there is still a lack of communication and of exchange between various scientific communities, and the conference is a chance to bring together researchers from various countries and disciplines who share their interest for this region, our thematic focus, and its historic and current development. I have little doubts that this will be a fruitful experience and exchange, and I hope that we can contribute to create scientific links which will live on after the conference.

Benjamin Beuele (Picture: Evgeny Markov/ GHI Moscow)

Benjamin Beuerle is a research fellow at the German Historical Institute Moscow. He holds a PhD from Humboldt University (Berlin) where he graduated in 2014 with a study on “Russia’s West. Orientation towards the West and Reform Legislation in the Late Tsarist Empire, 1905–1917”. In March 2017, he joined the German Historical Institute Moscow where he is now the academic coordinator of the new research area “Russia’s North Pacific”.

Citation: Benjamin Beuerle, Resources, Environment and Infrastructures between Russia and the Asia-Pacific: Cooperation and Conflicts, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 07.09.2018

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Editorial Board (2018, 7. September). Resources, Environment and Infrastructures between Russia and the Asia-Pacific: Cooperation and Conflicts. TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research. Abgerufen am 18. Mai 2024, von

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