The Permanent International Altaistic Conference (PIAC) is an informal gathering of scholars, old and young, interested in Altaic and Central Eurasian studies. Specialists in many fields and disciplines are welcome as long as their work is relevant to the PIAC’s interests. Deliberate efforts have been made to channel the PIAC away from the “great congress” syndrome and to maintain it on the level of symposia where, in a relatively small circle of experts, problems of communal interest, both scientific and organizational, can be discussed. A highly praised feature of these meetings are the so-called “confessions” at which each participant in his or her turn informs the plenum of ongoing work, projects, and future publications. The obvious usefulness of such exchanges of information is further increased by the participation of scholars who would not normally meet. Each meeting unites experts from between 15 and 20 countries. In recent years participants from the following countries attended: Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Korea (South), Mongolia, Netherlands, Norway, People’s Republic of China, Poland, Republic of China, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Turkmenistan, USA, Uzbekistan.
Over the sixty odd years of its existence the PIAC has acquired an international respectability of no small import. It has been received with pomp and circumstance in many countries and its influence on the development of Altaic studies, informal though it may be, has been considerable. Since 1962 the proceedings of a majority of the meetings of the PIAC have been published.
The administrative organization of the PIAC is skeletal. The burden of running it rests on the shoulders of the Secretary-General. The first to have this title was Professor Walther Heissig (Bonn, Germany, 1957-1960). In 1960 his place was taken by Professor Denis Sinor (Indiana University, Bloomington, USA) several times reelected. In 2007 Professor Barbara Kellner-Heinkele (Freie Universität Berlin, Germany) was elected Secretary-General and reelected in 2012 and 2017. Since 1963 the PIAC has had a president in the person of the scholar hosting the forthcoming meeting.
The PIAC has no permanent membership and does not collect membership fees. Voting rights are limited to participants who have attended more than two meetings in at least two different countries.
An international commission elected on a yearly basis by the annual PIAC meeting had the responsibility of awarding the Indiana University Prize for Altaic Studies, established in 1962 to honor an outstanding scholar for his or her life’s work in the field. The recipients of the award, consisting of a gold medal, have come from a variety of countries. When the stock of medals endowed by Indiana University was exhausted, a new prize was created under the title PIAC Prize for Altaic Studies. The task of the international commission remains unchanged.
(This text was originally written by Denis Sinor and updated in 2019.)