64th Annual Meeting of the PIAC, Budapest/Hungary, 21–26 August 2022
Remarks of the Secretary General
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues from Hungary, Türkiye, the Russian Federation, Kyrgyzstan, Austria, Italy, France, Norway, Finnland, and Germany. Among us we have members from 10 countries, four former PIAC presidents and two recipients of the IU Prize for Altaic Studies.
Please allow me to offer words of thanks to
- the authorities of the Káróli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary, represented here by Vice-Rector Prof. Dr. Peter Furkó,
- our host, the Institute of Oriental Languages and Cultures in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences,
- President of this Meeting, Dr. habil. Ákos Bertalan Apatóczky,
- the principal organizer in Budapest, Ms Cecilia Hazai, supported all along by her sister Dr. Kinga Hazai and both their families,
- Ambassador Dr. János Hóvári, Executive Director of the Representation Office in Hungary of the Organization of Turkic States, who will be our host on Wednesday‘s reception of the Organization of Turkic States at the Ybl Villa,
- our helpers: Márti (Márton) Batisz, Petra Varga and Csilla (Covid test nurse),
- and also my friends in Berlin, Hartmut Walravens, together with his wife Christine Bell, and Oliver Corff. They are experienced PIAC participants and were my faithful companions in all PIAC adventures since 2007, when I became Secretary General in succession to Denis Sinor.
Oliver Corff, in particular, created the PIAC Website www.altaist.org in the early 2010s and ever since has been curating and enriching it with precious information on meetings and personalities. You will have appreciated this website as a clever tool in advance to our Meeting!
Their good advice and common sense were essential especially since 2020 when we had to postpone the 63rd PIAC Meeting to 2021. It was eventually held in Ulaan Baator as originally planned for 2020. It was an online affair with 36 participants from three continents which was fruitful and good to have, but it was not the real thing, of course.
The PIAC Meetings were always meant to be informal, friendly gatherings of like-minded scholars in Altaic Studies and related fields. They were interdisciplinary and their character changed according to the academic focum of a given hosting institution. This tradition has been upheld for 65 years and it deserves to live on. But a tradition that is alive and always ready to develop further needs dialogue, encounter, personal contacts.
This is why it was so important – after the onslaught of COVID 19 – to make the 64th Annual PIAC Meeting come true. For years we had planned it to be held in Moscow, at the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Academy of Sciences, but then the events of late February 2022 destroyed this plan when it was already well on its way. A new venue had to be found at a time when most colleagues had already made their plans for the upcoming summer.
It is at this point, that Ákos Bertalan Apatóczky (who had previously organized the 60th Meeting in Székesfehérvár) stepped in and agreed to be the president of the 64th Annual Meeting. Time was short now. And I am convinced that without Cecilia Hazai‘s talents as an allround organizer, manager and correspondent – not to forget her continuous good humour and resourcefulness — this Meeting would not have come true.
Cecilia Hazai has the practical network and good sense for all the demands of a symposium such as ours. It is also interesting to mention that Cecilia and Kinga Hazai‘s father, the eminent Turkologist György Hazai, was the president of the 12th Meeting of the PIAC that convened in 1969 in then Berlin-East/German Democratic Republic.
Budapest has a very long and successful tradition of Oriental Studies, and so has Hungary as such. In case you have never been in Budapest before, you will discover that it is a delightful city in every respect. Along with the serious scholarly sessions, PIAC Meetings always allow for enjoyable hours of cultural experience and fun, too. I am convinced that you will enjoy all this also at this Meeting.
It also belongs to the PIAC tradition that we remember the scholars whom we lost during the past year. I ask you to stand up and remember in a minute of silence the following PIAC members:
- Edward Tryjarski (March 31, 1923 – August 23, 2021),
- Géza Bethlenfalvy (February 10, 1936 – November 18, 2021)
- Manfred Taube (March 11, 1928 – October 19, 2021),
- Aloïs van Tongerloo (July 13, 1952 – February 25, 2022),
- Alexander Vovin (January 27, 1961 – April 8, 2022) and
- Kara György (June 23.6.1935 – April 16, 2022), recipient of the IU Prize for Altaic Studies (2011), colloquially known as PIAC Medal.
Finally, I would like to touch the topic Secretary General. A Secretary General is not a president — he or she is a secretary. The PIAC has the tradition that a scholar who hosts a given Annual Meeting is called the President of that Meeting. Some of our colleagues have served as PIAC Meeting president more than once because they hosted more than one meeting. They are volonteers insofar as they propose to the Secretary General to organize a Meeting for the PIAC Community.
Secretary Generals are appointed for five years and their appointment can be renewed. The job of the Secretary General is to hold the PIAC Community together by searching for the venues of future Meetings, conducting the correspondence with future presidents, and by keeping contact with the PIAC members, i. e. colleagues who are researching in the field of Altaic Studies. Secretary Generals send out the Circulars announcing an upcoming Meeting and they stand by the side of the Presidents in the organization of the Meeting. Over the years, Secretary Generals accumulate a great deal of experiences with colleagues, with local academic folklore and with weathering smaller or larger problems (or catastrophies, as in the case of the global pandemic Covid 19). The job of Secretary General is not a scientific job, but it helps if you dispose of some judgement.
I was appointed in 2007 at the 50th Annual PIAC Meeting in Kazan/Tatarstan (which was a large affair) and I was re-elected in 2012 (Cluj-Napoca) and 2017 (Székesfehérvár). Permit me to mention here that the first PIAC Meeting I attended was in Strasbourg/France in 1970. A comprehensive experience with PIAC Meetings of all kinds!
I am happy and proud that I was able to set on the track and realize the PIAC Meetings in Bucharest, Huhhot/Inner Mongolia, St. Petersburg, Bloomington/Indiana, Cluj-Napoca/Rumania, Wladiwostok, Dunajská Streda/Slovakia, Ardahan/Türkiye, Székesfehérvár/Hungary, Bishkek/Kyrgyzstan, Friedensau/Germany and Ulaan Baatar/Mongolia, although this last one was a virtual meeting.
I think that 15 years add up to a nice treasure of organizational experience. It is time to pass the baton. Denis Sinor was the Secretary General of the PIAC for 47 years, but he was a monument to himself: He formed the character of the PIAC, he also created the individual spirit of this community, and he navigated the PIAC ship through adversities and the rapids of the years.
The task of the next Secretary General will be to keep the PIAC alive and kicking, to rejuvenate it, and to continue to circumnavigate political impact.
At the end of my opening speech I am happy to bring to you greetings from a number of PIAC members who are not able to come to Budapest. We have greetings and best wishes for our Meeting from
- Elena Boykova (Moscow),
- Junko Miyawaki-Okada (Tokyo),
- Tatiana Pang (St. Petersburg) and
- Rodica Pop (Bucharest).
And now I wish us all a successful and enjoyable Meeting!