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Research at the Slavic Research Center of Hokkaido University

From 1 September until 1 November 2005 Tjeerd de Graaf, research associate at the Frisian Academy is working at the Slavic Research Center of Hokkaido University in Japan. He is invited by this Center in the framework of its Center of Excellence Program . Part of hiswork concerns the minority situation for two ethnic minorities and their languages: the Ainu of Japan and the Nivkh of Sakhalin. He will compare the similarities of and differences between those groups and use this for a contribution to an article on Endangered Languages for the UNESCO encyclopedia of life support systems.

One of his tasks consists of the study of archive material in Sapporo (in particular at the Slavic Research Center) and the analysis of recordings made for the Ainu language and the Nivkh language and to set up an acoustic database for these languages and their oral literature and folklore. He is working in the Ainu research centers of Hokkaido and comparing their facilities with those of centers in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk where important data are stored.

The archives of the Sakhalin Regional Ethnographic Museum contain material collected by famous researchers of Nivkh. One of the  research topics will be the reconstruction and further analysis of these recordings and the creation of similar facilities as for the Ainu. This work is financially supported by a research grant of the Netherlands National Science Foundation NWO and sponsored by the Sakhalin Energy Investment Company Ltd. Co-ordination of the related research program Voices of Tundra and Taiga is possible in Sapporo. During his stay in Sapporohe continues the joint work with his research student Hidetoshi Shiraishi who has a position at Sapporo Gakuin Daigaku since April 2005 and prepares his PhD at GroningenUniversity.

The work at the Slavic Research Center will also be related to the Nicolaas Witsen Project, which is aimed at an investigation of the minor peoples of Northeast Asia, their history, culture, language and way of life. It gets its inspiration from the book ‘Noord en Oost Tartarije’ by Nicolaas Witsen who traveled to in 1664/65 and collected data on the physical appearance of the country, its fauna and flora and, in particular, on the peoples of the Asian Far East. An interdisciplinary team of specialists has been created which considers the various aspects of this project and started research in the archives in order to find out from where Witsen got his information. The whole text of the book has been translated from 17th century Dutch into Russian and part of it will be published together with annotations. In Sapporo Tjeerd de Graaf continues the investigation of Witsens material in relation to the border areas of and and prepares a publication on this topic.