Jubilee of the Outstanding Africanist A.M. Vasiliev



“The inequality of most Muslim countries in relation to the Euro-Atlantic region fuels protests, including their ugliest – terrorist – form. Terrorism was, is, and, alas! – will always be. The question is its scale. (…) The turmoil in the region, which manifests itself in terrorist attacks, bombings and even wars will continue at the present level of lower level of chaos” .

This is how Alexey Mikhailovich Vasiliev, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Honored Scientist of the Russian Federation, Chairman of the Scientific Council of the Russian Academy of Sciences on the Problems of Economic, Socio-Political and Cultural Development of African Countries, Honorary President of the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Editor-in-Chief of “Asia and Africa Today”, writes about the most sensitive problem of our time in his book “Russia’s Middle East Policy. From Lenin to Putin”. He, a man who has dedicated his life to studying our multilayered and complex world, puts the problem of terrorism at the top of the list of today’s challenges. And, unfortunately, his words find constant confirmation, including in the events of recent months.

Alexei Mikhailovich has always had a keen sense of current affairs, which is why the graduate of the Moscow Institute of International Relations, the “cradle” of the country’s diplomatic personnel, chose journalism after graduation. The career of the young journalist took off brilliantly – the leading newspaper “Pravda” sent the 28-year-old Alexei Vasiliev to Vietnam, to the front line of the military confrontation between the two systems. Then came business trips to other “hot spots”, followed by a new long-term assignment overseas, this time as a special correspondent for the newspaper “Pravda” in the influential regional center of Ankara, to cover events in a vast region that includes Iran, Afghanistan, the Arab countries, and Syria, in addition to Turkey. The experience of a war correspondent is again in demand – A.M. Vasiliev covers the events of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Then, from 1975 to 1979, he was Pravda’s special correspondent in Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, Ethiopia… His books of observations were published one after another.

It would seem that he could continue along the same path from success to success, but A.M. Vasiliev does not limit himself to describing what he has seen, he asks questions: “Why do communist ideas strike root in the most backward areas of our planet (…), why do they have to be imposed by tanks in developed countries like Hungary, Czechoslovakia and East Germany? What do we need here, and in the Near and Middle East more generally? Is it oil? But at this time it seems – though it does not seem so any longer! – that we have enough oil of our own to drown in. Or is it our economic position? But we have nothing to trade with. Should we drive away the local sheikhs and kings? But do they disturb us at all? Shall we benefit or lose from the spread of communism? But who are “we”? The Soviet Union? Russia? The Party’s top leaders? The Russian intelligentsia? A Siberian miner or an ordinary peasant?”

As we can see, the questions are honest, profound, without ideological prejudices, but filled with responsibility for his work, for the fate of his country. The search for answers led him to science. The relevance of the topic of his PhD thesis, “Wahhabism and the first Saudid state in Arabia (18th century),” will become more apparent with time, when “Wahhabism” will pass from scientific terms to applied concepts of political language. Developing the study of the Arab East, in 1981 A.M. Vasiliev defended his doctoral thesis on “Development of the Socio-Political Structure of Saudi Arabia 1745–1973.”

Two years later, he became the Deputy Director of the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and from 1992 on, he headed the Institute for almost a quarter of a century, during the most difficult period of the formation of modern Russian science.

A.M. Vasiliev is the editor-in-chief of nearly a hundred monographs, including those translated into English, Arabic, Armenian, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Danish, Italian, Spanish, Latvian, German, Portuguese, Farsi, French, Estonian, and Japanese. He continues his active journalistic work, with an archive of about a thousand media appearances and speeches.
And in each of his speeches, in each of his scientific researches, the scientist searches for an answer to the question he formulated for himself in his youth: What exactly can this give to his country? This formulation of the problem has the most direct applied significance in developing a foreign policy course, and his professional knowledge is in demand in the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation, in the Russian Government, and Parliament.

With such an impressive scientific and journalistic background, Alexey Mikhailovich Vasiliev is celebrating his anniversary, full of strength, plans, and, most importantly, questions to be answered.

The administration and staff of the Institute for African Studies, the editorial board of the Journal of the Institute for African Studies wish their distinguished colleague good health and new discoveries on the path he has chosen!