The 32nd seminar, "Past and Future of International Cooperation for Cultural Heritage in Central Europe", was held on January 28, 2023.
In considering international cooperation for the cultural heritage of Ukraine, which has suffered significant damage due to the ongoing Russian invasion since last spring, it is necessary to understand the geographical and cultural characteristics of the region where the country is located and to fully consider its historical background. On the other hand, Japan's international cooperation achievements for cultural heritage in Central and Southeast Europe, including Ukraine have not been shared sufficiently. This seminar was held to review the features of this region referring to the concept of Central Europe, looking back at Japan's past international cooperation activities for cultural heritage there, and thinking about the future of cooperation.
On the event day, after the opening remarks by Yasuyoshi OKADA (Vice Chair, Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage), a keynote lecture titled "The Historical World of Central Europe" was given by Taku Shinohara (Professor, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies). It was pointed out that the region, traditionally called Eastern Europe, is a mix of Western European culture and the traditions of the Eastern Roman Empire. There are many cultural heritages with various religious and cultural influences. It was also introduced that the concept of "Central Europe," which emerged in the 1980s, has functioned not only as a regional designation but also as an ideology to culturally recover the losses caused by two world wars, such as the Holocaust and forced population relocation and that cultural heritage plays a symbolic role in this context. It was also reported that the International Cultural Centre in Krakow, Poland, has been supporting the restoration of shared heritage, promoting social awareness, research, and stakeholder interaction.
Next, a presentation titled "International Aids for Central Europe and Japan's International Cooperation" was given by Koki MAEDA (Research Fellow, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties). In the transition of Japan's government assistance to the region, it was pointed out that after cooperation in cultural heritage, such as technical cooperation and human resource exchange, was implemented mainly in Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia, the framework and targets of collaboration have changed with the expansion of the EU. It was also reported that the EU is providing support in cooperation with UN organizations and that support from neighbouring countries such as the EU and Poland is particularly prominent in Ukraine.
Following this, as a specific example of international cooperation for cultural heritage in the region, Sachiko Shimada (Part-time Lecturer, Jissen Women's University) gave a presentation titled "Cultural Heritage Protection and International Cooperation in Serbia," introducing the history of cultural heritage protection in Serbia and the mural restoration project she coordinated. Relying on local researchers and restorers, many local stakeholders, including clergy, cooperated in selecting monasteries for preservation and restoration, inspection and documentation of work processes, and media response. At the same time, the importance of building trust relationships with local researchers and restorers while paying attention to sensitive issues such as ownership of Serbian cultural heritage was emphasized.
Furthermore, Riichi MIYAKE (Guest Professor, Tokyo University of Science) gave a presentation titled "Historical Cultural Heritage in Romania and its Protection," in which he discussed the history of cultural heritage protection in Romania and the projects he was involved in. In particular, the conservation and restoration project of Probota Monastery carried out under the UNESCO Japan Funds-in-Trust, served as the starting point for the comprehensive restoration of monasteries in the country, contributing academically and nurturing human networks that developed into numerous follow-up projects. On the other hand, it was pointed out that there has yet to be continuous follow-up from Japan after Romania's EU accession, and building a cooperative relationship between the two countries beyond academic ties remains a challenge.
Following these presentations, a panel discussion featuring the presenters was held under the moderation of Yasuo KINBARA (Honorary Professor, Tokai University /Chair of the Regional Committee of Europe of JCIC-Heritage). The debate began with a review of the presentations and an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of international cooperation in cultural heritage in Central Europe. Opinions were exchanged regarding the future direction of international cooperation in cultural heritage in the region, including Ukraine. Observer Maiko Tatezaki (Japan Cultural Heritage Consultancy) emphasized the importance of international cooperation based on mutual understanding and consideration of local history and culture. Also, Yasufumi UEKITA (Professior , University of Tsukuba) noted the need to assist in developing local human resources and organizational structures to ensure sustainable cultural heritage protection in Ukraine. Moving forward, it was agreed that it is necessary to continuously explore desirable forms of international cooperation, including information sharing and human exchange, and areas where Japan can demonstrate its strengths in collaboration with regional hub organizations.