40th Meeting Provo, 1997

(pp. vii–viii, Altaic Affinities. Proceedings of the 40th Meeting of the Permanent International Altaistic Conference (PIAC). Edited by David B. Honey & David C. Wright. Indiana University Uralic and Altaic Series, vol. 168. (Bloomington, Indiana, 2001). 290pp. ISBN 0-93307049-7.)


From June 2 to June 6, 1997, forty scholars from around the globe gathered at Provo, Utah, for the fortieth annual meeting of the Permanent International Altaistic Conference. They represented Buryatia, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Japan, The People’s Republic of China, Russia, Turkey, and the United States. After four years of “wandering in the wilderness”—a year for each decade of the existence of PI AC—the proceedings are finally able to be brought to press.
Provo seemed an apt location for this anniversary year of PIAC, given that it was the institutional home base of Sechin Jagchid, who has been an active PIAC habitué for many years; he was kind enough to return from retirement in San Jose, California, to serve as Honorary President of the conference. His sometime collaborator on Mongolian history, Paul Hyer, is still in residence here. But apart from this is Provo’s proximity to the Red Rock country of Moab and Arches, which we were able to visit on the excursion day of the conference. This beautiful country, harsh and hostile, though it seems, is perfect for nomads, as noted by local author Edward Abbey in his celebrated rhapsody of the Southwest, Desert Solitaire. And nomads we are, or become, insofar as we partake of the spirit of the people we study: the Turkish, Mongolian, and Tunguz nomads of Inner, Central, and East Asia.
The title of both the conference and the conference proceedings, Altaic Affinities, hints at the burning concerns that provided this session of PIAC its customary energy and produced the lively exchanges in both formal and informal settings, a chief hallmark of these gathering over the past forty years: the efforts to identify Altaic peoples and to demarcate the outermost ranges of their territories in time and space via archaeology, history, and linguistics, to introduce historical scholars who travelled among them and studied them, to understand the cultural values and epic motifs transmitted in oral and written texts, and to make sense of recent political, social, and economic concerns. Ultimately we seek to “affine” ourselves intellectually and emotionally with peoples who have made a great impact on history and whose views on the past and present and whose strategies for dealing with life’s challenges are as relevant and profitable to ponder as those of any other people.
A special feature of this volume is the “History and Reminiscences” of the first forty years of PIAC by the longtime and current secretary-general, Denis Sinor. His piece is a personal account of the ins and outs, stresses and strains, and ultimately the triumphs, of PIAC from its founding to the present.
Grateful acknowledgment is made to the sponsor of the Fortieth PIAC, Brigham Young University, which was represented separately by the following entities: Office of the Academic Vice-President, the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, General Education and Honors, the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, the College of Humanities, the Department of History, and the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages. The Office of the Academic Vice-President, the College of Humanities, and the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages generously subsidized the publication of this volume. Ms. Jennifer Myers performed the basic work of formatting the individual entries of this volume; this is the second time she has performed such a heroic labor for one of us. Ms. Doris Wah Pai shouldered the burden of getting the myriad details right. To both of them we express our deepest thanks.

David B. Honey David C. Wright
Brigham Young University University of Calgary