The Saint-Petersburg Branch of the Russian Institute of Cultural Research
UNESCO Moscow Office for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Republic of Moldova and Russian Federation


Русская версия

UNESCO launched the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme in 1991 as an international action plan for academic solidarity to strengthen inter-university co-operation with particular emphasis on support to higher education in the developing countries.
The programme works towards establishing and reinforcing strong and durable linkages amongst higher education and scientific institutions worldwide and at facilitating the transfer of knowledge while combating the brain drain. Special attention is paid to providing assistance through inter-regional and (sub)regional linkages.
The UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme encompasses a broad spectrum of activities requiring very flexible modes of action. It is based on genuine, equal partnership among the higher education institutions which initiate various projects within its framework.
Two types of closely interrelated and interdependent activities have emerged as the base for the major strategies for implementing the Programme: inter-university networks and international UNESCO Chairs. While individual chairs responding to specific needs are possible, the programme endeavours to create the proper conditions to allow each chair to be a focal point of a network or to be a part of a network.

The UNITWIN network on Interreligious studies

UNESCO Chair on Comparative Studies of Spiritual Traditions, their Specific Cultures and Interreligious Dialogue was initiated on March 14, 2001 in St.Petersburg, Russia, basing primarily on the facilities of the St.Petersburg Branch of the Russian Institute for Cultural Research, Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. Its main objectives were defined by its founding chairperson, Dr.Liubava Moreva, acting in close contact with the UNESCO authorities as elaborating, improving and/or promoting:
  • strategies of leading cross- and inter-cultural dialogues, aimed at withstanding any form of discrimination or violence, securing creative patterns existing in the framework of traditional cultures, and contributing to amplification of global culture of peaceful co-existence and sustainable development;
  • strategies of leading inter- and pluri-religious dialogues, directed at appeasement of open or latent contradictions, frictions or conflicts between adherents of different religious or spiritual practices, introducing values of these subcultures into comparative scientific research and societal debate;
  • transdisciplinary methodologies, regarded as indispensable tools of leading creative and innovative dialogue over traditionally defined and delimited borders between different scientific and/or philosophical disciplines, religious and/or spiritual doctrines, as well as different forms of social activism and inter-communal discourse.
The city of St.Petersburg was chosen as location of this new chair, as having long-ranging tradition of manifold cultural, scientific and religious contacts, being led at this historical, geographical and geopolitical point of meeting between the Eurasian East and West, their mutual accommodation and fusion. At the same time, good practices and positive experiences, accumulated by UNESCO chairs for intercultural and/or interfaith studies, existing by that time in various countries (Birmingham, UK; Bishkek, Kyrghyzstan; Bucarest, Romania; Jerusalem, Israel; Tashkent, Uzbekistan; Troyes, France; Villejuif, France) were carefully regarded and taken into account.
Initially five prominent researchers were appointed as professors of the UNESCO chair in St.Petersburg (S. S.Khoruzhy, E. P. Ostrovskaya, D .L. Spivak, R. V .Svetlov, and E .A .Torchinov), representing respectively following research realms: Russian Orthodox Christianity and its religious philosophy, Indian religions and religious philosophies, religious and transpersonal psychology, classical (Graeco-Roman) religious philosophy and literature, and the Buddhist tradition. This list was expanded in the course of the following years, to meet new prospects and challenges. Thus an affiliation of our chair, dedicated to study of the spiritual traditions of Russian culture, was opened in May, 2003, under the guidance of professor D. A. Ivashintsov, to provide deeper insight into basic spiritual trends of the Russian-speaking world, both in Russia and abroad. Institute of foreign associate members was introduced in 2004, which was initially a pragmatic step, taken to support in organizational terms manifold activities of Ms. S.Burn (USA).
There was a grand meeting on the occasion of opening the renewed Chair on the 31st of May, 2007. The following Honoured Professors have been at the Chair since then: O. N. Astafieva, A. L. Vassoyevich, V. S. Zhidkov, S. N. Ikonnikova, L. M. Mosolova, N. L. Muskhelishvili, R. G. Piotrowski, K. E. Razlogov, E. A. Rezvan. Deputy head of the Chair is A. V. Venkova, science secretary is E. V. Lunyaev, coordinators are E. L. Chudnovskaya and I. B. Sokolova.
Regarding our start as fairly prompt and effective, we feel it is timely to double our efforts, in order to meet challenges of the modern civilization, as well as to use possibilities created by its development. The former consist in necessity to trace back, define and present to both academic and public attention conflicts and crises rooted in the spiritual and religious realms, especially at the background of struggle against global terrorism, and to elaborate intellectual, educational, and organizational means and strategies for their appeasement and harmonization – or, as we prefer to put it, for practicing the art of optimal behaviour in extreme conditions. The latter consist primarily in widening the scope of our works, recurring to help of modern information technologies, as well as deepening them, mostly on the basis of transdisciplinary research and discourse.

The same year D. L. Spivak stepped into the position of chairperson.
Since 2006, the Chair has been a part of a leading UNESCO project — the UNESCO UNITWIN network on interreligious dialogue for intercultural understanding. The Chair was the only UNESCO chair in the Russian Federation chosen to be a member of the new network. D. L. Spivak signed the founding article at the meeting in Paris in the presence of Director-General of UNESCO.
In 2007, the Chair initiated The First International Meeting of the chairs in the UNESCO UNITWIN network for interreligious dialogue. The meeting occurred in Moscow, 15 September 2007, at the Russian Academy of Public Administration, under the auspices of the President of the Russian Federation.
In 2008, the Chair joined the web-project of the UNESCO UNITWIN network for interreligious communication, the “I-dialogue” for the UNESCO chair community.
In 2009, the chair participated in the Second International Meeting of the UNESCO UNITWIN chair network for interreligious communication, in Eugene, Oregon, USA, 8–12 May 2009. D. L. Spivak was elected to the Executive Committee of the network. On 21 May 2009, Associate Professors N.A.Kochelyaeva and E. Yu. Endoltseva were elected to the Chair staff.
The next International Meeting of the UNESCO UNITWIN network for interreligious communication will be timed to coincide with the International Day of Cultural Diversity in 2011.


UNESCO Chair in Comparative Religious Studies (592), established in 2002 at Saint-Joseph University, (Lebanon)


College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oregon. Oregon Humanities Center

Center Leo Apostel (CLEA), Brussels Free University
(Brussels, Belgium)

Center for XX Century Studies, Milwaukee University, Milwaukee
(Wisconsin, USA)

European Society for Study of Science and Theology (ESSSAT) - Lund university, Department of Theology and Religious Studies
(Lund, Sweden)

The Elijah School for the Study of the Wisdom of the World Religions
(Jerusalem, Izrael)