Category Archives: Allgemein

Volker Rybatzki (1957–2018) in memoriam

As became known only now, the outstanding Altaist Volker Rybatzki passed away on June 13, 2018.

Volker was born in Hannover (Lower Saxony) on February 17, 1957. He was not particularly interested in school and left gymnasium three years before the final examination. His father wanted him to learn the profession of a wholesaler, but Volker did not like it, and left the apprenticeship after one year. On a trip through Finland, he became enchanted with the country and met Irmeli (Inkku) Arffman, the girl that, some years later, became his first wife. They started to be together, and soon Volker decided to live in Finland, learn Finnish and improve his formal education by attending evening school. Afterwards, Volker would have liked to study sinology which, however, was not available as a major at Helsinki University at that time. An alternative would have been Berlin (the only possible place, as he had not served in the army) but, as Irmeli wanted to study textile design and the Crafts and Design College of Kuopio replied faster than Berlin University, they decided to go there. Here, Volker took a training as cabinet-maker. After two years, Volker had become convinced that he would never become an outstanding craftsman and decided on studying, as of 1988, Turkology and Mongolistics (as the best choice after sinology) at Helsinki University. Concurrently, he worked at the Orientalia Library of the Institute for Asian and African Studies. To deepen and enlarge his knowledge, in 1997 he spent 9 months in Szeged (Hungary), studying Turkology with Prof. Árpád Berta and, later, he was in Venice (Italy) to study Manchu with Prof. Giovanni Stary.

In 1998 he co-organized the PIAC, in 1999 he took his master’s degree (with Die Toñuquq-Inschrift as a thesis) and was accepted as a Ph.D. student at the University. He then worked hard on his Ph.D. which he defended in 2006, under Prof. Juha Janhunen, and with Prof. Claus Schönig (Freie Universität Berlin) as opponent. His thesis Die Personennamen und Titel der mittelmongolischen Dokumente: eine lexikalische Untersuchung was a massive volume of 900 pages.

In 2007, Volker took his habilitation and thus became a docent (lecturer) of Altaic Studies. As it was difficult, however, to find a tenured position in this field anywhere, Volker accepted teaching and research jobs wherever available, e.g. at Stockholm University and at Minzu daxue in Beijing. Notwithstanding this, he always continued to teach his courses as a docent of Altaic Studies at Helsinki University.

Besides publishing scholarly articles, he worked assiduously on his major project, an etymological dictionary of the (middle) Mongolian language, a particularly challenging and ambitious enterprise to which he dedicated most of his academic career. Unfortunately, he had not the time to finish it.

His (second) wife, Alessandra Pozzi (a specialist on Manchu and Chinese), three children of his first, two of his second marriage, and two grandchildren survive him.

Most of Volker’s publications are listed (and downloadable) on:

Therefore, only his monographs are mentioned here:

Die Toñuquq-Inschrift. Szeged: Univ. 1997. 130 pp.

Writing in the Altaic world [proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the Permanent International Altaistic Conference (PIAC)] (with Juha Janhunen). Helsinki: Finnish Oriental Society 1999. 326 pp.

Die Personennamen und Titel der mittelmongolischen Dokumente: eine lexikalische Untersuchung. Helsinki: [Helsingin yliopisto] 2006. XXXVI, 841 pp. (Publications of the Institute for Asian and African Studies 8.)

The early Mongols; language, culture and history; studies in honor of Igor de Rachewiltz on the occasion of his 80th birthday (with Alessandra Pozzi, Peter W. Geier, John R. Krueger). Bloomington, IN: D. Sinor Institute for Inner Asian Studies 2009. XXXIII, 217 pp.

Introduction to Altaic philology; Turkic, Mongolian, Manchu (with Igor de Rachewiltz).

Leiden: Brill 2010. XX,446 pp.

Biographical data may be found in:

Lotta Aunio & Juha Janhunen (eds.): Miten minusta tuli tohtori – Itämaiden tutkijat kertovat.

Helsinki: Suomen Itämainen Seura 2012, 282–291

Hartmut Walravens

63rd Annual Meeting Postponed to 2021

Dear Reader,

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, global travel restrictions and a fundamental disruption of everyday life, the organizers of the 63rd Annual Meeting of the PIAC, originally scheduled to be held in Ulaanbaatar in 2020, could not but postpone the meeting to 2021. The 63rd Meeting is still to be held in Ulaanbaatar under the auspices of the Institute of Language and Literature of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Sciences and the International Association for Mongolian Studies.

63rd Meeting 2021, Ulaanbaatar

The annual theme of the meeting remains unchanged.

With the best wishes for everybody’s health and the well-being of your beloved ones,

Oliver Corff.


Obituary: Roger Finch

In Memoriam
Roger Finch
(April 17, 1937 – October 4, 2019)

Let us all go cultivate our gardens.
(Voltaire, Candide)

Roger Finch was born on April 17, 1937, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, son of Willard and Phyllis (Creek) Finch, and died on October 4, 2019, of cardiac arrest.

Roger Finch graduated from George Washington University with a B.A. majoring in music and Harvard University with a PhD in linguistics. In 1977, after graduating from Harvard he was offered a position in Tokyo, Japan, writing textbooks for Japanese learning English. He started teaching English at Waseda University. and later moved to Sophia University in Tokyo where he taught—besides English—Modern American Poetry and phonology as well as historical and comparative linguistics. Through an introduction by Professor Paul Takei, he accepted a tenured position at Surugadai University near Tokyo in 1990 when he had already been pondering a possible return to the United States, intending to settle at his house in Maine which he had bought a long time ago.

The position at Surugadai University proved to be most fortunate; as he once wrote, he was impressed by the modern, new, attractive and well-equipped premises of the University (which had only been established three years earlier, in 1987). Given his profound love for nature, the trees and the hilly surroundings of the university campus certainly were hugely attractive to him, as he confessed once when resigning from his post. Yet, it was most important to him that he quickly made friends with colleagues, staff members and students alike, developing lasting friendships. Of his students, he spoke in terms of admiration, affectionately praising their polite manners, desire to learn and profound attention. Prior to his return to the United States in 2008, he honoured these bonds developed over two decades by encouraging his friends to visit him in Maine.

After retirement, Roger Finch dedicated his life to the things he loved most: linguistic research, writing poetry, and music composition. He once estimated that the share of his scholarly work would decrease in favour of poetry and music, but nonetheless he continued to contribute substantial, well-researched papers, combining his favourite interests when writing. His papers about subjects as diverse as folk bird taxonomies in Japan (“日本の鳥類の民間分類”, [Nihon no chôrui no minkan bunrui], Surugadai daigaku ronsô, No. 36 (2008), pp. 49–80 (this is the Japanese version of a paper presented at the 49th Annual Meeting of the PIAC in Berlin, 2006), or „Christianity among the Cumans“ Surugadai daigaku ronsô, No. 35 (2008), pp. 75–96, or „The Reconstruction of Proto-Altaic *p-“, Surugadai daigaku ronsô, No. 28 (2004), pp. 69–99, or „Musical Instruments in Uigur Literature and Art“ Surugadai daigaku ronsô, No. 24 (2002), pp. 23–53, to mention just a few papers he published during his tenure at Surugadai University, demonstrate Roger Finch’s encyclopaedic scholarship. It is difficult to say whether his attention to minutiae, combined with a broad scope of diverse interests, as demonstrated in his scholarly work was an inborn personal trait or perhaps was acquired in the scholarly environment in Japan, but one way or the other, his personal mindset and Japan‘s scholarly values complemented each other in a most auspicious and beneficial way.

Over nearly two decades Roger Finch has been a faithful PIAC member, participating at least eight times since 1998, yet the earliest connection can be traced to 1989 when Denis Sinor announced some of Roger Finch‘s recent publications in the PIAC Newsletter. His contribution to the 56th Annual Meeting, Kocaeli 2013, waits to be published.

Roger Finch was also praised for his knowledge and command of Turkish. Let him describe, in his own translation of a prophetical masterpiece of Turkish poetry by Yahya Kemal Beyatli (1884-1958), the last voyage he embarked on:

Silent ship

If there comes a time to raise anchor from time, one day more,
A ship will set out from this harbor toward an unknown shore.
It makes way silently, as though it held no living soul;
At that unrocking parting no hand waves as the lines unroll.

Roger Finch leaves his spouse, Louis Hargan, equally faithfully a PIAC member, and his sisters, to whom I offer my deepest condolences.

Oliver Corff, October 12, 2019.

(Note: Edited the same day: two forgotten words added, and poem properly attributed to Yahya Kemal Beyatli. OC, 2019-10-12, 21:47 CEST/CEDT)

Past Meetings: 56th Annual Meeting Izmit/Kocaeli, 2013: Programme and List of Participants

Dear Reader,

Most of the information of the 56th Annual Meeting, held 2013 at Kocaeli University, is now online. This includes the original programme and the list of participants, both of which can be found at the page dedicated to the 56th Meeting Izmit, 2013.

Oliver Corff, September 04th, 2019.

Introduction to Altaic Studies and the PIAC

Dear Reader,

12 years ago, in May 2007, Barbara Kellner- Heinkele wrote an introduction to Altaic Studies and the PIAC which was then now and then republished as introductory text at the occasion of at least two Annual Meetings, the 51st Annual Meeting 2008 in Bucharest and the 55th Annual Meeting 2012 in Cluj-Napoca.

The text, “New Developments in International Altaic Studies“, slightly revised, is now presented again and can be reached via the “About” button of the main navigation menu.

Oliver Corff, September 04, 2019.

Internationale Altaisten-Konferenz in Mainz (1959)

Dear Reader,

In the days June 23rd to 26th 1959, the then recently founded PIAC had convened its second Annual Meeting, steered by Secretary General Prof. Walther Heissig. Media covered the event with broadcasts and feuilleton contributions. One journalist, Erik Emig, wrote a piece on the aforementioned meeting. His article and letter to Prof. Heissig are reproduced here.

Oliver Corff, September 3rd, 2019.

Letters regarding the early years of the PIAC

Dear Reader,

One of the founding fathers of the PIAC, Prof. Walther Heissig (1913–2015), was not only a pioneer of Central Asian Studies in Germany, an outstanding scholar of Mongolian studies, and a prolific writer. He also maintained close and personal ties with many of the eminent Central Asian scholars of his time, among them György Kara, Herbert Franke and György Hazai, to name just a few.

As first Secretary General of the PIAC,  he also entertained communications, many of them with Denis Sinor. The letters also reflect the administrative burdens of organizing PIAC meetings, especially given the fact that travel (and obtaining permission to participate in conferences abroad) was by far not as convenient as today.

From Prof. Heissig’s estate, more than 70 letters and other documents relating to the early years of the PIAC, hitherto unpublished, are edited by H. Walravens as:

Briefwechsel mit György Kara, Herbert Franke, György Hazai und Alice Sárközi sowie aus den Anfängen der Altaistenkonferenz (PIAC) Katalog mongolischer Blockdrucke in London. Paperback, 220 pages. ISBN-13: 9783739218830. Publisher: Books on Demand, June 4th, 2019.

Oliver Corff, September 2nd, 2019.

New Books Presented by PIAC Members, 2

Dear Reader,

The other day, an incomplete list of books presented to the 62nd Annual Meeting of the PIAC was published here, and four titles were missing from that list which are presented here:

  • Li, Yong-Sŏng. Türk Dillerinde Akrabalık Adları. Ankara: Türk Dil Kurumu Yayınları, 2019. isbn: 978-975-17-4223-0.
  • Tekin, Talat. Altayistik. Makaleler 1. Ankara: Türk Dil Kurumu Yayınları, 2013. isbn: 978-975-16-2554-0.
  • Аникеева, Т. А. Предания Коркута. Огузкий героческий эпос как источник по истории тюркских народов Центральной Азии IX–XI вв. Москва: Наука — восточная литература, 2018. isbn: 978-56041860-3-9.
  • Зайцев, И. В., and А. В. Шумкин, eds. Muẖtaṣar tariẖ — История и родословная Черкесов. Издание рукописи тюркского исторического сочинения XVIII в. Москва: Издательство восточной литературы, 2019. isbn: 978-56041860-3-9.

Oliver Corff, September 1st, 2019.