|This article appears in the March 18, 2016 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.
ACADEMICIAN MIKHAIL TITARENKO IN MEMORIAM
Visionary of Eurasian Cooperation
by Rachel Douglas
March 10—A man passed away on Feb. 25, 2016, whose name the reader likely has never heard, although he changed your life. Academician Mikhail Titarenko, who died at the age of 81 after a lengthy illness, headed the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IFES RAS) from 1985 until last year.
Founder of the Schiller Institutes, Helga Zepp-LaRouche wrote in a message of condolence to the late academician’s colleagues, “If the world is pulled back from the abyss and a new paradigm brings about a new chapter in human history, it will be thanks to the strategic alliance between Russia and China, and Mikhail Titarenko has probably contributed more than anyone else for it to come into being.”
Titarenko was, Zepp-LaRouche continued, “the perfect example of why the study and knowledge of other cultures is the basis for peace.” He was one of the foremost intellectual authors of what has become the Eurasian development perspective of the New Silk Road, the Eurasian Land-bridge, and the BRICS (the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa group of countries).
Academician Titarenko became one of Russia’s leading Sinologists during years when Chinese-Russian relations were rocky, to say the least. As a young graduate of Moscow State University in philosophy, he went in 1957 to study for two years at Beijing University, earning qualifications in Chinese language and philosophy. He studied not only socialist teachings, but also philosophy as taught by scholars of an older generation, such as Feng Youlan (1895-1990), who had reintroduced the study of all schools of ancient Chinese thought, and, in particular, the “neo-Confucianism” of Zhu Xi (1130-1200AD).
Following his studies, Titarenko’s career coincided with the Sino-Soviet split, beginning in 1960. Despite intense economic cooperation in the 1950s, relations between the two countries deteriorated to the point of armed clashes on the Ussuri River in 1969. During these years, Titarenko was in the diplomatic service at the Soviet Consulate in Shanghai (1961-62) and the Embassy in Beijing (1963-65). He then worked for twenty years as a China expert at the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, all the while pursuing his studies of China and earning advanced degrees.
He later supervised the production of a Russian encyclopedic dictionary of Chinese philosophy, and the five-volume Encyclopedia of the Spiritual and Intellectual Culture of China. In one of his last writings, the 2014 book Russia and China: Strategic Partnership and the Challenges of Today, Academician Titarenko termed the Russia-China strategic partnership in the Twenty-first Century “a tectonic shift” in the world.
The Strategic Triangle
Titarenko assumed leadership of the IFES RAS in 1985, on the eve of the beginnings of a turnaround in Chinese-Russian Relations. Though Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachov visited Beijing in 1989 and met with Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, ending three decades of hostility, diplomatic contacts between the countries were sporadic in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
A visit to Russia by then-President Jiang Zemin in 1998 served as a keynote for coming changes. Arriving three months after the August 1998 financial crash in Russia, Jiang not only visited Moscow, but stopped at the science center of Akademgorodok in Novosibirsk. There Jiang spoke to the real Russia, pointing to Russian prowess in science and technology as a “shining beacon” of the “inexhaustible” human wisdom that makes possible the progress of mankind.
One month later while visiting New Delhi, Russian Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov announced his initiative for the formation of a Russia-India-China “strategic triangle” in Eurasia. This step opened the door to greatly intensified bilateral and trilateral diplomacy among the great powers of the Eurasian continent, and to the formalization of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in 2001 and, ultimately, of BRICS. As the 2014 EIR Special Report put it, the collaboration of the Eurasian powers, proposed by Primakov, “came to life through a years-long sequence of three-way academic and diplomatic meetings; after many turns in the road, the ‘RIC’ combination today is the core of the alliance called the BRICS.”
Pages and pages of condolence messages on the IFES RAS website, in Chinese, English, and Russian, make clear that Mikhail Titarenko was a prime mover of this process. They can be read : Perusing these messages from prominent scholars around the world provides a unique window into current history.
Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty of the Indian Institute of Chinese Studies wrote to the acting director of the IFES RAS, Dr. Sergei Luzyanin:
The birth of the RIC (Russia-India-China) academic forum largely was the outcome of Professor Titarenko’s initiative. It was he who had proposed the idea of cooperation among scholars and governments of India, China, and Russia in 1998 to the Institute of Chinese Studies, after which we took it up with the Chinese scholars who warmly responded to the proposal. That academic forum had inspired the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of RIC, leading to many high-level initiatives. On its efforts today BRICS has emerged as a globally significant force, playing a major role in restructuring of the international political economy. The RIC Academic Forum continues to meet alternately in the three countries, taking up crucial matters of peace, security and sustainable development. Having closely worked with Academician Titarenko on this multilateral initiative, I particularly remember his contribution to this process, his research-based writing on the subject and critical interventions on policy issues, his vision for creating a just and equitable world, in the making of which our three countries can play a significant role.
There are scores of such tributes on the IFES RAS site, from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the Russian Ambassadors to China and India; from dozens of Chinese government officials and university scholars, the Chinese-Russian Friendship Society, China’s national Anti-Terrorism Committee, and leading Chinese publications; from Korea, Vietnam, more from India, from institutes of the RAS and regional Russian universities, and a handful of American and European scholars.
Ambassador A.M. Kadakin, currently representing Russia in India, called Titarenko a “wise mentor” to several generations of Russian diplomats. Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church hailed his work on promoting the study of China’s ancient culture in Russia, developing Chinese-Russian relations, and helping to revive the Orthodox Church in China, where it had a historical presence especially in the northeast.
My colleague Ramtanu Maitra of EIR wrote to the IFES that he “had the good fortune of meeting [Academician Titarenko] once in New Delhi in the late 1990s after Prime Minister Primakov had initiated the concept of developing the Russia-China-India triangle to stabilize the world in the post-Cold War days. Academician Titarenko was speaking at a conference which I, along with a few Indian friends, some of whom he knew, attended. On the side, discussing the world affairs, I was impressed not only about his understanding of the region, but his sincere goodwill about us all. I found him a man of great integrity, deeply opposed to geopolitics and conflicts.”
Academician Titarenko’s acquaintance with the Schiller Institute and Helga Zepp-LaRouche’s campaign for the Eurasian Land-Bridge dates back to the mid-1990s, when his IFES colleagues were inspired by and publicized the Eurasian Land-Bridge concept and map, published in the EIR Special Report . That report contained Zepp-LaRouche’s address to the May 1996 Beijing International Symposium on Economic Development of the Regions along the New Euro-Asia Continental Bridge. In 1998, both she and Titarenko took part in the mobile Beijing International Symposium on Economic Development of the Regions along the New Euro-Asia Continental Bridge, in which, as participant Mary Burdman reported in EIR at the time, delegates from eight nations toured four Chinese cities to inspect the actual conditions in the land-bridge region, and discuss its future development with national and regional Chinese leaders.
Titarenko fought for many years to overcome the prejudice of some in Russia who believed that Chinese continental bridge routes would be developed to the detriment of Russia’s Trans-Siberian Railway. In 2011 he welcomed “Chinese interest in creating a transcontinental transport corridor from Southeast Asia to Europe through Russia.” While noting that “China recognizes this corridor through Russia, and is even offering certain efforts to develop this project,” Titarenko admonished Russian officials that the corridor would function only if Russia’s own railways, including the Trans-Sib, were drastically modernized to handle fast container shipping.
The meeting of minds between Academician Titarenko and the Schiller Institute is well expressed by his 30th anniversary greeting to the institute in October 2014, and Zepp-LaRouche’s condolence letter to Prof. Luzyanin.