After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the disintegration of the former European communist sphere, there is an ever increasing importance of interaction between the Slavic and Eurasian spheres and its surrounding areas. The sphere of the former communist countries was under a complex of cultural, political and economic influences and its borderlines are being redrawn not only in the sense of °»actual or real°… borderlines but also in the consciousness of the people.
Many new but small to mid-size countries created in the Slavic and Eurasian regions often trigger conflicts among neighbors and are a source for potential regional disorder. Some cases are peaceful but most cases threaten human security and the previous stability in the regions such as Bosnia, Black Sea Rim and Central Asia.
Such phenomena are not confined within the borders of the Slavic and Eurasian communities. The processes of de-borderlization and re-borderlization can be observed simultaneously throughout the world. However, what we face today is the lack or insufficiency in the previous framework of area studies that limit the areas in ways such as, °»Slavic Eurasia,°… °»East Asia,°… °»South Asia,°… and the °»Middle East°… as tools to analyze state borders in an increasingly globalized world. Therefore, a reconsideration of area studies is urgently required.
There is no doubt that border issues are directly caused by the realities of the boundary line exclusively managed by a sovereignty state. Therefore, border research must be targeted to investigate on-site boundary issues as a fact-finding mission first, and then, to compare the challenges with similar but different cases in another area through a more credible methodology. However, border-related phenomena are not necessary influenced by the factual borderline itself. Rather, the local inhabitants°« representation on where they should live and what they should share with others might be often more critical. Perceptions of the border, in turn, could reflect on the border related challenges. For example, where is the line of °»Europe/non-Europe°… in the consciousness of the people in °»common°… Europe? What is °»Asia°…? Is an °»Asian value°… really shared by Asian people? Why do many Russians feel threatened by an ascending China? This kind of °»soft°… border studies should collaborate with and support the studies of the more °»visible°… issues of demarcation, migration and its management on/around the borderland.
This is why the establishment of a new methodology to compare similar phenomena in different areas is required as a form of common border studies. Such border studies could be a tool, even if not well coordinated yet, to make suggestions on wide-ranging border-related phenomena free from the constriction of segregated area studies.
The Slavic Research Center as the core organization of the GCOE Program
The Slavic Research Center at Hokkaido University, as a unique center for area studies in Japan, is well-situated to create a nation-wide network on border studies. First of all, Hokkaido, which is located in the borderland historically and geographically, faces the frontline with other areas and different cultural spaces, such as Eastern Asia and Russia. This gives natural advantages to the SRC to conduct research on border-related studies.
Moreover, the SRC, the core organization of the proposed GCOE program, is regarded as one of the most active institutions on area studies, particularly in Slavic and Eurasian area studies, in the world. During the 21st Century COE Program (21-COE Program), °»Making a Discipline of Slavic Eurasian Studies°… , the SRC organized ten large-scale and twenty mid-scale international conferences, and published twenty-seven monographs and collections in English and Russian and six volumes of collections and twenty-two volumes of occasional papers in Japanese. This program utilizes the listed resources, experiences, and international connections of the SRC to establish a new research field and united discipline dedicated to border-related issues.