Libmonster ID: JP-1242
Author(s) of the publication: E. V. MOLODYAKOVA

E. V. MOLODYAKOVA

Doctor of Historical Sciences, Deputy Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Shinzo Abe Keywords:Prime Minister of JapanLiberal Democratic Party

The Japanese Constitution does not clearly define the concept of "head of state", and the powers that, according to constitutional and legal theory, are exercised by the head of state belong to the Prime Minister. According to the Constitution, the Prime Minister is elected by the Parliament, so it is usually the majority leader. The impressive success of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the House of Representatives elections on December 16, 2012, brought its Chairman Shinzo Abe to the post of Prime Minister.

This is only the second time in Japan's post-war history that a retired prime minister has re-become party leader and head of government.1

OPERATION SUCCESSOR

Shinzo Abe first served as Prime Minister from 2006 to 2007. At that time, his election to the highest positions in the party and government was largely predetermined by the fact that he was named his successor by the charismatic Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, whose name and policy are strongly associated with the first half of the 2000s.Traditionally, the election of the LDP chairman took place in a sharp inter-factional struggle. But at that time, the leader of none of the existing factions could claim to be Koizumi's successor, so only those who showed loyalty to him personally had the preferred chances.

Shinzo Abe had the best chance of doing so. By birth, he belongs to the famous conservative Abe-Kishi political family, being on his mother's side the grandson of Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi and the great-nephew of Kishi's own brother, also Prime Minister Eisaku Sato. Shinzo's father, Shintaro Abe, the son-in-law and political secretary of Kishi, held high positions as LDP general secretary and Foreign Minister, and only his untimely death in May 1991, according to many political scientists, prevented him from becoming prime minister. Perhaps that's why his son Shinzo, the" heir of all his relatives", got the nickname"prince".

Abe Jr.'s political career has successfully combined traditional positions and modern trends. He belongs to a new generation in the establishment, among which there are people from old political clans and those who made themselves. They share common characteristics. They are well educated, many have studied or worked abroad, are committed to democratic values in the Western sense, but in relation to Japan, are well versed in business, and have a good understanding of the international context.

The biography of Shinzo Abe fully meets these parameters. He was born on September 21, 1954, graduated in 1977 from the Political Science Department of the Seikei University School of Law in Tokyo and continued his education in the same specialty at the University of Southern California. From April 1979 to November 1982, he worked at Kobe Steel, and then became his father's political secretary and in less than ten years passed a real training school for a top-ranking politician. Two years after his father's death, Abe ran for the House of Representatives for the first time, inheriting, in accordance with Japanese tradition, his constituency in Yamaguchi Prefecture. This is ti-

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a typical story of a political "prince", far from any populism or radicalism.

POLITICAL CAREER

Abe's career progression was rapid. In early 2000, he assumed the post of Deputy General Secretary of the Cabinet under Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and retained it in the first cabinet of Koizumi, who succeeded Mori in April 2001. Forming the new leadership of the party and government after his re-election in 2003 for a term until September 2006, Koizumi tried to create a group of like-minded professionals around him. At his suggestion, Abe became the new general secretary of the LDP - in fact, the second person in the party. Having made such an extraordinary decision, Koizumi triumphantly asked the journalists at the press conference: "You never imagined that such a young man could become the general secretary?!"2.

By the standards of the Japanese establishment, Abe, who was elected to parliament only four times, had too short a political career to hold such a high post. Only politicians who were elected at least 10 to 12 times made up a thin layer of the highest party elite. But Koizumi needed this promising, influential politician in the team, a real successor, and he broke the established tradition of age-based appointments.

When Shinzo Abe took up the post of general Secretary of the Cabinet of Ministers, he became the second person in the government, which made him the main candidate for successor. In terms of popularity, Abe was second only to Koizumi himself. By status, he was the" mouthpiece " of the cabinet, the main coordinator of the policies and interests of the government, the LDP and its allies.

Abe won a landslide victory for party chairman and was later elected head of government, becoming the first prime minister born after World War II and the youngest head of government in Japan's post-war history. The "darling of fate" almost did not have to deal with routine party work, and the highest post in the party and government was actually presented to him by Koizumi.

According to his views, Abe is considered a "nationalist"and a "hawk". For example, the BBC called him "much more right-wing than most of his predecessors"3. Evidence is usually given for the fact that he supported visits by politicians (in particular, Koizumi) to the Yasukuni Shrine, where all those who "fell for the Japanese Empire" are honored, including during World War II. Abe himself refrained from making such a pilgrimage during his time in power, although he later expressed "extremely bitter" feelings about it.4 He is also blamed for the support of"revisionist" historians, whose statements and assessments cause discontent in China and the Republic of Korea. His book "Towards a Beautiful Japan" (2006) is also regarded as a manifestation of nationalism, some of the stories of which also caused irritation in neighboring countries. Abe, indeed, is characterized by some nationalistic rhetoric. However, according to his views, he is a typical conservative elitist*.

UNSUCCESSFUL PREMIERSHIP

Prime Minister Abe had to solve complex domestic and foreign policy tasks. In particular, the agenda included revising the basic law on education, implementing tax reform, and improving relations with neighboring Asian countries. The first foreign policy action of the head of government was official visits to China and the Republic of Korea. He sought to ease tensions in bilateral relations caused by the reaction of the governments and public of these countries to some of the actions of his predecessor Koizumi. Beijing saw the move as a goodwill gesture by the new prime Minister.

Shinzo Abe, who served as Prime Minister for only one year out of a possible three, was acutely lacking in practical skills of tough inter-factional struggle and experience in recruiting personnel. Five of his cabinet ministers were forced to resign. After the suicide of the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the government's support rating dropped to 30%.

The LDP's defeat in the regular elections to the House of Councillors in July 2007 and the loss of its majority in this chamber allowed the opposition to block the Government's initiatives. In particular, this happened with the bill on extending the mission of the Japanese Navy forces in the Indian Ocean in support of the US-led multinational coalition's anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan. This was followed by scandals involving the financial fraud of two more heads of the agricultural department.

As a result, on September 12, 2007, just three days after the start of the regular parliamentary session, Abe announced his resignation, citing poor health.5 The unsuccessful premiership ended due to the need for urgent treatment of intestinal dysfunction caused by stress. But, of course, the main reason was the inability of the Liberal Democrats to cope with serious problems that have been accumulating for decades.

CRISIS OF LIBERAL DEMOCRAT RULE

The LDP was experiencing a serious crisis that required immediate constructive action. First of all, it was necessary to solve such long-overdue problems as the dismantling of the factional structure, the inheritance of electoral districts, the practical irremovability of the top layer of the party elite, the lack of candidates for top positions in the party and government, the lack of bright leaders and new ideas, the difficulty of activating party activities due to the influx of new cadres, etc. It was these problems that Koizumi began to deal with, proclaiming the slogan " Let's change the LDP. Let's change Japan." This course was to be continued by Abe.


* Elitist-a proponent of the ideology of elitism, according to which the elite is a select group of people who, due to their origin, abilities, wealth, knowledge or experience, have a great influence on the development of society and/or are particularly suitable for public administration (editor's note).

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But events in the country - serious shifts in the opposition camp, the loss of popular confidence by the ruling party, a prolonged parliamentary crisis, the appearance of the first serious application of the opposition forces in the person of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) to remove the LDP from power, a certain "fatigue" of the population from the long rule of the Liberal Democrats-led to a rapid loss of public support. It was with Abe that the uncharacteristic Japanese political culture leapfrog of prime ministers began. After his resignation and before the Liberal Democrats lost power in 2009, two more prime ministers were replaced: Yasuo Fukuda, the son of Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, and Taro Aso, the maternal grandson of Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida. Truly, Japanese politics is a family affair.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS IN OPPOSITION

Having suffered a crushing defeat in the general elections of August 30, 2009 and won only 119 seats out of 300 previously available, the LDP became the main force in the opposition camp. Now it was dealing with the Democratic government in the same way that the opposition parties had done before, using "pin pricks" tactics to criticize and counter it, without making any constructive proposals. The tough confrontation lasted all three years of the Democrats ' rule.

Only after the natural disaster of March 11, 2011, did the LDP slightly change its line of behavior, changing its opposition to partial cooperation with the ruling coalition. In response to then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan's suggestion that he form a "grand coalition" or join the government, Liberal Democrat leader Sadakazu Tanigaki said that his party would cooperate with the Democrats in dealing with the disaster and rebuilding the country, even without being part of the government. [6] However, the LDP refused to form a "grand coalition" without reaching an agreement on fundamental political and economic issues that are not related to the tragedy*. "Until March, our policy was to put pressure on the government wherever possible, but after the tragic events, we cannot continue it," Tanigaki said after consulting with former prime Ministers Yasuhiro Nakasone, Toshiki Kaifu and Junichiro Koizumi.7

In September 2012, Shinzo Abe defeated former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba in the second round of the general election for Chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party. The immediate question was whether Abe would be able to win back people's trust as a politician, because the circumstances of his resignation five years ago were still fresh in the mind, and his tenure as prime minister was remembered mainly by the loss of the Liberal Democrats ' majority in the House of Councillors.

Abe's re-nomination and election to the party leadership post indicated a leadership crisis, and that the Liberal Democrats do not have a very large selection of "leadership cadres". His return to the political Olympus gave rise to talk about the strengthening of "hawks" and a "new wave of nationalism". The right-wing conservative Abe is actively supported by the older generation of voters, who are impressed by his appeal to traditional values and calls to make Japan a "beautiful country". Anyway, the LDP made a bet on Abe and won.

THE TRIUMPHANT RETURN LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

Early elections to the key lower house of parliament ended with a complete victory for the Conservatives as a whole, and not just the Liberal Democratic Party. With 294 seats out of 480, the LDP improved its 2009 performance by almost two and a half times. Its permanent coalition partner, the New Komeito Party, won 31 seats, but also won back its previous defeat (it had 21). This party with a stable electorate (the Soka Gakkai Buddhist lay organization), but without its own political face, actually became a satellite of the LDP. With 325 seats, the LDP-New Komeito coalition won more than two-thirds of the seats in the 480-seat lower house needed to overcome the veto of the opposition-controlled upper house.

The second most important winner is the Japan Renaissance Party (JVP), which was created on the eve of the election and is headed by former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara and Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto. It won 54 seats, compared to the 11 it held at the expense of people from other parties. Its success gives the victory of the Conservatives a total character.

However, the Liberal Democrats 'victory looks less certain when you consider that the number of voters who came to the polls was the lowest since the 1996 general election - only 59.32% compared to 69.28% in 2009." Millions of young people ignored the election altogether. As a result, older, conservative voters, who traditionally vote for the LDP, gained the upper hand. The result of the election did not give this party carte blanche, since it does not have a majority in the upper house of parliament. This means that almost all of its initiatives passed in the House of Representatives can be blocked in the House of Councillors.

The election results showed that the Japanese electorate voted: for raising the consumer tax, which the Liberal Democrats did not dare to do for many decades, but the Democrats did during the three years of their rule; for preserving nuclear energy, which causes fierce disputes in society; for participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), about which there are polar points in Japan for loyalty to the military-political alliance with the United States and, therefore, to the agreements on military bases adopted earlier. In other words, the choice is made in favor of relatively unpopular things.

Abe admitted that the voters secured his victory not out of love for the LDP or its ideas, but out of disillusionment with Democracy.-


* For more information, see: Streltsov D. V. Japan. Asia and Africa Today, 2012, No. 12 (Editor's note).

page 54

coy parties. The impressive organizational potential of the LDP9 itself played a significant role in its success. At the same time, Abe noted that "voters still ask us how much we have changed." Obviously, the appointment of two women to key party posts should serve as a demonstration of the changes: Seiko Noda headed the LDP General Council (a staff center), and Sanae Takaichi headed the Policy Research Council (a think tank). The appointment of young women to these posts, which were usually occupied by party veterans, is an unprecedented example of image change for conservatives in Japanese politics.

The new government is a combination of old (among key ministers, the predominance of former members of Abe's 2006-2007 cabinet is noticeable) and new faces, loyalty to traditions and learning from the previous defeat. After revising its platform in 2010, the LDP stressed that it was making a new start as a "conservative party". "The new platform," says Naoto Nanoka, a respected Japanese political analyst, " is painted in the classic right-wing color. The LDP was once a party for all, gathering members from the extreme right to the centrist left. However, today it is so right-wing that, in principle, even centrists are not necessary. "10 So now, under Abe, the Liberal Democrats are more focused than ever on revising the Japanese Constitution, including transforming the self-defense forces into a "real army" so that Japan can participate in collective self-defense.

The return to power of the Liberal Democratic Party and Shinzo Abe, who became its face, caused a mixed reaction not only in Japan, but also abroad. Immediately there were voices that the arrival of "hawks" poses a threat to neighboring countries. A senior representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan expressed concern about the shift of the Japanese leadership to the right and the fact that such a policy "can cause serious damage to the geopolitical and trade climate in Northeast Asia." A Chinese analyst believes that Japan will arouse new suspicions among its neighbors if the current political turn to the right does not stop in time. 11 Abe is remembered for his nationalism and tendency to condescend and even deny Japan's crimes during World War II.

KEY POLICY DIRECTIONS OF THE ABE CABINET

Analysts say that in Abe's first administration, his energy was focused on eliminating ministerial blunders and futile arguments about Japan's culpability in World War II. It is hoped that he has learned from the painful failures of his first term, when his arguments about "patriotism" and "justice" did not make much impression on voters.12

Abe's arrival as Prime minister means pursuing the traditional conservative policies that the old guard of Liberal Democrats is committed to: putting decision-making back in the hands of bureaucrats (the Democrats tried to break this long tradition); working more closely with big business; and publicly appealing to national and traditional values. The solid conservatism of a charismatic prime minister should give the impression of stability and reliability.

Abe's government has made it its main task to revive an economy hit by deflation. The population expects the Liberal Democrats to perform a" miracle " in the economy, and very quickly. They do not have much time, as elections will be held in the summer of 2013, where half of the House of Councillors will be re-elected. Much will depend on their results in the fate of the Prime Minister himself.

Abe's first policy speech as head of government at the regular session of Parliament on January 28, 2013, was fundamentally different from the one he delivered in 2006. Then he emphasized the historical, cultural, and traditional values of Japan, and also spoke of his intention to revise the Constitution. Now he did not voice his idea to change the official interpretation of Article 9 of the Basic Law, which rejects war, so that Japan can exercise its right to collective self-defense, as well as change the article itself. This is obviously due to the fact that such actions could completely change the very nature of the post-war Japanese state, increase tensions in East Asia and make neighboring countries look at Japan with suspicion. 13

The Prime Minister acknowledged that Japan is facing a crisis in the fields of economy, diplomacy, education, as well as as a result of the damage caused by the disaster of March 11, 2011. Accordingly, the government intends to focus primarily on reviving the economy, as prolonged deflation and a high yen exchange rate undermine "the foundations of public confidence." Abe's strategy, which has already been dubbed "abenomics," has three main elements. The first is an agreement with the Bank of Japan to bring inflation to 2% per year in order to bring the economy out of prolonged deflation; the second is an attempt to pump money into the economy through a new public spending program, in other words, to develop public projects; the third is the implementation of structural reform, but its content is still very uncertain.

Abe said he intends to pursue " bold monetary policies, flexible fiscal policies, and a development strategy that will boost private sector investment." He also stressed the importance of "systemic reform" to encourage and support innovation. Since it is not possible to increase financial spending indefinitely, the Government intends to implement a growth strategy by significantly increasing private investment and consumption. The Prime Minister called for building a society in which people who have suffered setbacks in life have a chance to start anew; small and medium-sized enterprises will become more active; and the resources of agricultural and fishing settlements will become sources of growth. However, when

page 55

at the same time, almost no mention was made of social security issues 14.

Many experts at home and abroad called Abe's decision to appoint Hakuhiko Kuroda to the post of Governor of the Bank of Japan" revolutionary " even by international standards. The new central bank governor's ambitious action plan, unveiled in early April 2013, aims to raise inflation to 2% over two years by doubling purchases of government bonds (up to 60-70 trillion yen, or about $630-693 billion annually) and the monetary base (up to 50 trillion yen, or about $538 billion, annually). With these far-reaching measures, the central bank hopes to lift the economy out of a decade-and-a-half of deflation. Experts note that such a policy is fraught with serious risks, in particular, in connection with a further increase in the national debt, which has already broken all records, reaching, according to the IMF, almost 240% of the country's GDP. But almost everyone recognizes that drastic measures are needed.15

Apparently, Abe's strategy provides for the maximum improvement of the economic situation, or at least the hope of such a change in the run-up to the elections to the House of Councillors, so that the LDP wins them and lays the foundations for changing the interpretation of the Constitution and the document itself.

Abe began his second parliamentary speech on February 28, 2013 with the phrase "strong Japan" .16 He seems to like the word "strong", as he talked about "strong economy", "strong agriculture", etc. The Prime Minister's main economic activities show his penchant for market fundamentalism, implementing reforms without "sacred cows", and creating a sustainable social security system in which financial benefits and burdens on people are balanced. Abe confirmed his intention to resume the operation of nuclear power plants after checking the safety of their nuclear reactors and join negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. On the issue of revising the country's basic law, he only called for discussions in the constitutional commissions in both houses of Parliament and deepening the discussion of this issue in society.

Using modern opportunities to spread information without any reservations or verbal blunders, Abe started a Facebook page instead of giving daily short interviews to the media. According to him, this is "an easy-to-understand and obvious way of communicating", although in fact it provides strictly controlled information. By doing this, the Prime Minister bypasses journalists, so the media and the public should monitor the government and its head more closely than ever.

The Prime Minister spoke little and cautiously about foreign policy issues, keeping mostly a positive tone. In particular, he carefully avoided mentioning the PRC and the Republic of Korea in connection with the disputes over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Dao Islands in the East China Sea and the Takeshima Islands/Dokdo in the Sea of Japan. At the same time, Abe promised to resolutely protect Japanese territories and airspace and at the same time look for ways to deepen dialogue with these countries to improve bilateral relations. In conclusion, he called on his compatriots to revive their pride and self-confidence: "No one else will create a 'strong Japan'. No one else will do it but ourselves. " 17

Already the first months of his tenure as head of state indicate that Shinzo Abe intends to personally lead the country's diplomacy. In Japan, traditionally, the main vector of diplomacy was "read" from the direction of the first foreign trips of prime ministers who took office. Abe's first visit to a number of Southeast Asian countries-Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia-fits into Japan's "strategic diplomacy", but tactical goals come to the fore. In particular, the leaders of Japan and Vietnam agreed to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation. Indonesia and Thailand are becoming increasingly important investment bases for Japanese companies.

In the context of serious changes in the situation in the Asia - Pacific region, Tokyo attaches great importance to the first official visit of a Japanese Prime Minister to Russia in the last decade on April 28-30. As a result of the summit, a number of documents on cooperation in various fields were signed, and a decision was made to step up negotiations on the conclusion of a peace treaty. According to the Prime Minister, his visit to Russia "gave a new impetus, and also indicated a long-term direction for the further development of Japanese-Russian relations." 18

Thus, the talks in Moscow, which demonstrated a certain convergence of positions on both sides, can be considered as a diplomatic success of the Prime Minister, so important on the eve of the upcoming elections to the House of Councillors.

In general, the return of the Liberal Democrats to power was marked by the introduction of a number of important adjustments in Japan's domestic and foreign policy. Time will tell what fruits the new policy will bring to the country.


1 The Japan Times. 28.09.2012.

2 Ibid., 22.03.2003.

3 Daily Yomiuri. 07.10.2006.

4 The Japan Times. 10.02.2013.

5 Why did Prime-minister Abe Shinzo resign? - http://www.japanprobe.com/2008/ 01/12

6 Kyodo tsushin. 18.03.2011.

7 NHK. 04.04.2011.

8 Asahi. 11.01.2013.

9 Fxonomist online. 22.12.2012.

10 The Japan Times. 26.09.2012.

11 http://campaing.ru20.constantcontact. com

12 Economist online...

13 The Japan Times. 30.01.2013.

14 Ibidem.

Nakamichi Takashi, Ito Tatsuo 15 and Dvorak Fred. Bank of Japan Mounts Bold Bid for Revival ,// The Wall Street Journal, 4.04.2013.

16 http://www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/96a-be/statement/201302 /28 siseu housin e.html

17 http://www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/96abe/ statement/201301/28suosin e.html

18 Website of the President of the Russian Federation. Press statements and answers to journalists ' questions on the results of the Russian-Japanese talks. 29.04.2013 - http://xn-dlabbgf6aiiy.xn-plai/%D0%B2%Dl%8B%Dl%81%Dl%82% D1%83%D0%BF%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%B D%D0%B8%D1%8F/18000


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