29th Meeting Tashkent, 1986: Report by Chen Wei

(Chen Wei. “Di 29 jie guoji a’ertaixue huiyi jianjie”, Mengguxue ziliao yu qingbao, No. 2, 1987, pp. 49–52)

(Translation: Oliver Corff)

A Short Introduction to the 29th Meeting of the PIAC

by Chen Wei

Altaic studies are a part of oriental studies. Even though their precursors can be traced back to the 18th century, altaic studies were long denied recognition as an individual academic discipline. It was only at the occasion of the 24th International Orientalists’ Congress in Bonn [sic!] that it was decided to establish a «Permanent International Altaistic Conference» and to convene that Conference on an annual basis. The first Secretary General was the West German orientalist Prof. Heissig. After 1960 the Ural-Altaic scholar from Indiana University, United States, Prof. Sinor, has been serving as Secretary General until today.

The 29th Meeting of the PIAC took place in Tashkent, USSR, from September 15 to 21, 1986. In well over twenty years of its history, this is the first time that this Conference convenes a meeting in the Soviet Union. The meeting was hosted by the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. Approximately 270 scholars from 22 countries participated. Besides about 200 Soviet scholars, there were also 69 foreign scholars. From China, the three comrades Rinchendorj, Deputy Director of the Institute of National Minorities of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Chen Wei, Vice Chief Translation Editor of the Institute of National Minorities, and Jiangmiza, member of the committee for Xinjiang folk literature, participated in the Meeting.

The Permanent International Altaistic Conference enjoys considerable international influence. Since this Meeting was the first in the history of the PIAC to welcome scholars from China, our delegation was offered an exceptionally warm welcome by the Soviet hosts. In addition, comrade Rinchendorj was invited as delegate of honour to join the chairing panel.

At 10 o’clock in the morning of September 15, the President of the Meeting, Prof. V. M. Solncev, corresponding member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and Vice Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies, declared the opening of the 29th Meeting of the PIAC. The famous turkologist Prof. E. R. Tenishev, corresponding member of the Academy, and Prof. I. F. Vardul’ as well as Prof. Nazarov, Director of the Uzbekistan Pushkin Institute of Language, were appointed as Vice Presidents. D. D. Vasilyev was appointed as Secretary of the Meeting.

Prof. Solncev delivered the opening speech. Besides welcoming the scholars from all participating countries, he also pointed out the multitude of unsolved issues in the field of Altaic studies. Two views prevail: one view regards all Altaic languages as sharing a common ancestry with an old relationship, while the other view does not at all acknowledge anything like an Altaic family of languages but asserts only typological similarities between these languages. According to his words, this issue needs the joint international research effort of historians, linguists, ethnologists and other specialists.

After that, the Secretary General of the PIAC, Prof. Sinor, delivered his opening speech, followed by the Vice President of the Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences, Prof. E. Yu. Yusabov. After a break of 15 minutes, E. R. Tenishev spoke about «Major Languages in Altaistics», the Hungarian Scholar A. Róna-Tas spoke about the «Origin and Development of the Runic Writing of the Eastern Tu-jue», the Soviet scholar Klyashtornyi from Leningrad spoke about the «Roots of Turkic Culture». The final speaker was the director of the Pushkin language institute of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences, A. B. Nazarov. He reported about «Altaic Studies at the Pushkin Research Institute for Language and Literature of the Academy of Sciences of the Uzbek Soviet Republic.»

In the afternoon, the meeting was split into four working groups. Scientific discussions and exchange were conducted in the following fields: 1) history and ethnology, 2) literature and arts, 3) Altaic linguistics, and 4) Turkic, Mongolian, Tungus and Far Eastern Linguistics. The author of this report participated in the working group for Altaic linguistics and presented his report on the «Research Situation of the Altaic Languages in China.» This report allowed scholars from other countries to obtain an understanding of the research situation in China. The participants commended China for the enormous achievements in the field. The other two Chinese colleagues participated in the working group for literature and art. All reports received a warm welcome.

On the day before the closing session, a field trip to the historic site of Samarkand was organized for all participants.

During the closing session on September 20, the corresponding academy member Solncev delivered a report about the «Qestion of Typology in Language Communities». The president of the Academy of Sciences of Kazakhstan, A. T. Kaidarov, gave a speech on the «Vocabulary of Ritual Sacrifices among Turkic Peoples». With the summary report following the reports of the working groups, the meeting was successfully closed.

A total of 81 academic contributions were given in the field of linguistics (see Abstracts, part 2, section III, Linguistics).