A few days ago, I wrote here that the Permanent International Altaistic Conference Newsletter produced by the PIAC Secretariat started in 1966 and ended in 1999. By today, I stand corrected: the last Newsletter was produced in 2002. It looks quite different from the earlier issues as modern computer-aided text-editing systems became ubiquitous. Computers and the internet brought an end to the necessity of using newsletters to communicate important information for a selected audience; this was felt already in the late 1990s but became manifest around the year 2000.
The PIAC Newsletters, beginning with No. 1 in 1966 and ending with No. 27 in 2002 (only No. 24 is missing, the number never existed and was skipped unintentionally) span an era of fulminant political changes of the Altaic world; what used to be a world divided into two blocs, all things Altaic firmly located in the less accessible bloc, suddenly became a world of open frontiers and new fledgling states in Central Asia. Inner Asian and Central Asian studies, once supported by governments out of political logic, became, at least for a few years, a new fashion; the number of new conferences and study courses announced in the Newsletter after 1990 gives vivid testimony. After economic and political reality left their impression, interest in Central Asia somewhat diminished, only to re-emerge temporarily after 2001.
The Newsletters end in 2002, and it is the chronicler’s task to record what has happened since. Denis Sinor’s (mostly) yearly reflections on the immediate past as well as the ramifications of arranging the next meeting (most rewarding to read is his report on how the 29th Meeting in Tashkent 1987 was organized). Equally insightful is his review of the 13th Meeting in Strasbourg, where he reflects on success and failure due to the political circumstances of the time.
Even if Altaic Studies are not intended as political studies, their research objects are frequently embedded in highly political environments. This fact has not changed since the conception of the PIAC in 1958; only the modalities have changed.
An overview of all Newsletters is found on a dedicated page. All contents of all Newsletters is listed, Newsletters can be downloaded, and individual articles of the Newsletters have found their way into the corpus of www.altaist.org.
Oliver Corff, June 24th, 2018.