Many-Sided Vietnam

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Abstract

The article presents the survey of the reports on Vietnam delivered at the All-Russian scientific-practical conference of the 7th Guber’s scientific readings “Southeast Asia: Historical Past and Current Reality” held from October 5 to 6, 2021. Researchers of different academic, research and training institutes took part in the conference hosted by the Chair of History of the Far Eastern and Southeast Asian countries of the Institute of Asian and African Studies at M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University (IAAS MSU). Numerous reports were devoted to Vietnam; the subjects of the papers varied, which allowed to show various sides of such an interesting country.

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A survey of reports on Vietnam delivered at the All-Russian scientific-practical conference in the scope of the 7th Guber’s readings “Southeast Asia: Historical Past and Current Reality

From October 5 to 6, 2021, the All-Russian scientific-practical conference with international participation in the scope of the 7th Guber’s scientific readings (in mixed format) “Southeast Asia: Historical Past and Current Reality” was held at the IAAS MSU.

The readings were held in the scope of two large subject blocks: “The Current Problems of the SEA Countries Development” and “The Traditional World of the SEA Countries”. Papers both on individual SEA countries and on the region as a whole were presented to the audience. As usual, the theme of most papers (7 of 24) was Vietnam. It is quite natural, taking into consideration the highest level of bilateral relations of our countries and rich traditions of the Russian School of Vietnamese Studies. This conference has approved the variety of scientific interests of Russian Vietnamists.

The Vietnamese theme opened with the conceptional report by O.V. Novakova (IAAS MSU), a pupil of Academician A.A. Guber (1902–1971) and the patriarch of Russian Vietnamese studies: “Vietnam: From East Asian Empire to the Socialist Republic: View through the Prism of Historical Continuity”. In her presentation illustrated with interesting material, Oksana Vladimirovna, who for several years has been pursuing the theme of the continuity of power and the role of traditions in current Vietnam, showed the way Vietnam passed from monarchical state with its very closed social system to the state of a republican type. The author emphasized the strive of the state-Party leadership pursuing the Renovation policy to retain the continuity with the support on the ideology of stability and national cohesion, traditional for Vietnamese society, attaching the entire ideological and cultural legacy creatively perceived from the Empire of Dai Nam (the Great South), the former state entity (Fig. 1).

 

Fig. 1. Illustration for the report by O.V. Novakova.

Photo by the author

 

It is interesting that the second report on Vietnam was presented by P.Yu. Tsvetov (the MFA Diplomatic Academy, Russia), O.V. Novakova’s colleague and coauthor (“History of Vietnam, Part 2”), a prominent specialist in sociopolitical, ideological, and international issues. In his report “The Problem of ‘Historical Past’ in Current Vietnamese and South Korean Relations” the author addressed the problem relevant for numerous countries, i.e., military crimes of one of the countries on the territory of the other. Here the question is the crimes of South Korean soldiers in Vietnam in the years of the Vietnam War, murders and violations of civilians. The author showed that the negative page of the past had not become the irresistible stumbling-block in the development of bilateral relations since the early 1990s, as it often occurs, even in the absence of the official apology from the side of the leadership of the Republic of Korea. The problem itself is to some extent the one of civil society, while the leadership is more pragmatic, having concentrated on bilateral collaboration.

Relations of Vietnam with another country was the theme of the report by M.A. Shpakovskaya (RUDN University): “Sino-Vietnamese Relations: the US Factor”. The author showed that Vietnam with its advantageous geographical location, taking into account its successful economic development, its army, one of the strongest in Asia, and the strong position in SEA found itself in the field of conflict of interests of the US and China. M.A. Shpakovskaya paid attention to the fact that Washington took advantage “and easily enough reclassified Vietnam, a Communist totalitarian state, in a like-minded country for mutual promotion of peace and security in the region”. The author believes, that bearing in mind these factors, the struggle for influence in Vietnam may be fateful for the strategic equation in the region.

The Chinese theme was continued at an unusual angle by E.V. Lyutik in her report entitled “The SRV Studies in the PRC (methodology, themes, goal-setting)”. The report was a rare opportunity to know the functioning of the School of Vietnamese Studies in China, the country with the most lasting and richest history of relations with Vietnam. It is noteworthy that the author’s affiliation is the Vietnam Research Institute at Guangxi Normal University (PRC, Guilin): for instance, in Russia, there is no institution specialized in Vietnam. Such centers (they are several for Vietnam) in the PRC are associated with the task “to assist government organs of the country to develop conceptual strategies and programs”. The author mentioned the main problems investigated in the research institute. For a short time of its existence, it has already issued more than 100 monographs on Vietnam. In the author’s opinion, it is important for Russia to understand the current level of Sino-Vietnamese relations and the PRC use of such research institutes as a kind of the “soft power” tool. It may be useful to Russia in correcting its SRV policy, in particular, in the framework of scientific and humanitarian projects.

The second section “The Traditional World of the Southeast Asia Countries” opened the report by A.L. Fedorin (IFES RAS). His sphere of professional interests is first of all connected with the Russian commented translation of the Vietnamese greatest historical source – “Complete Annals of Dai Viet”. The report “Personalities of the Trinh, Informal Rulers of Vietnam, and the Problems of Transition of Power in the Scope of these Lords in the 17th Century. New Facts” was also based on the facts the author had found while translating the source, as well as using other rare historical evidences, in particular, family chronicles (Viet. gia phả) (Fig. 2).

 

Fig. 2. A.L. Fedorin delivers a report at the conferenc.

Photo by the author

 

The author paid a special attention to the motivation of chúa-rulers when taking the decision in the matter of the state primary importance – the appointment of the heir – and reconstructed and interpreted the subsequent events. The audience was interested to know little-known facts of the power transition process in the Trinh chúa-rulers in the 17th century. The author showed that various factors are often involved in the theoretical mechanism of the transition of power; they could be noticed only due to detailed investigation and comparison of different types of historical sources.

The conference paid attention to the legal system of the SEA countries, rather rare theme, so far, for Russian Oriental studies. One of such reports was presented by M.A. Syunnerberg (IAAS MSU). In the scope of his many years’ lasting project “Women in History of Vietnam” the author addressed the legal aspect of this problem and the Vietnamese law on the whole, first and foremost the civil law. His paper “The Evolution of Family Legislation in Vietnam” showed the types of sources which can be used when addressing the theme as far as precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial periods are concerned, and gave a possible variant of their classification. On the basis of the given sources, the evolution of legal regulation of family and marriage relations was shown, as well as its transition from the sphere of criminal law to the civil one and the changes it had undergone. The part on the 20th century emphasized the comparative analysis of the family law of the DRV and RV, as well as the demonstration of the key provisions of the current SRV legal framework.

The theme of Vietnam was concluded with the report by E.V. Gordiyenko (RSUH adjunct fellow) “’Three Heavenly Spirits of the Trung Rulers…’: Sacralization of Antiquity in Vietnamese Narratives of Spirits-Protectors of Village Communities)”. The author analyzed the sacral text, having been written by the court chronists of the Le dynasty probably in the 16th century. It is the narration of spirits-protectors of one of the village communities in the coastal town of Haiphong. The text tells of the triplet, who showed themselves in the armed actions of the Vietnamese with the Trung sisters at the head against the Chinese administration in the 1st century, when northern provinces of current Vietnam were part of the East Han Empire. The use of such a material may increase the knowledge of those historical events, based first of all on the official historical chronicles. It was this report, that initiated the longest substantive discussion. Thus, the section’s moderator A.Ye. Kirichenko (IAAS MSU) raised the problem of the representativeness of the ancient sources, having been written centuries after the described events. Everyone agreed with the necessity to study such documents, opening a new field for researches of Russian Vietnamists-historians.

Interesting reports and productive discussions as part of every one helped to find new aspects in the studies of Vietnam.

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About the authors

Maxim A. Syunnerberg

Lomonosov Moscow State University

Author for correspondence.
Email: hongik@mail.ru
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0111-9551

Ph.D. (History), Assistant Professor, Institute of Asian and African Studies

Russian Federation, Moscow

References

Supplementary files

Supplementary Files
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1. Fig. 1. Illustration for the report by O.V. Novakova.

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2. Fig. 2. A.L. Fedorin delivers a report at the conferenc.

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Copyright (c) 2021 Syunnerberg M.A.

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