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Last modified: Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Central Eurasian Studies Professor Kara honored for lifetime achievements

July 13, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- György Kara, professor of Central Eurasian Studies in the Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences and a specialist in the languages and cultures of Mongolia and Inner Asia, was honored Monday (July 11) for his lifetime achievements at the 54th annual Permanent International Altaistic Conference (PIAC).

György Kara

IU Professor György Kara accepts the PIAC medal from Barbara Kellner-Heinkele, president of the Permanent International Altaistic Conference.

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Kara was presented with the PIAC gold medal in honor of his lifetime achievements in Altaic Studies.

Altaic is a family of languages indigenous to a huge swath of the globe, from the Pacific Coast to Eastern Europe, including Turkic, Mongolic and Tungusic languages. PIAC was co-founded by longtime IU Central Eurasian Studies faculty member Denis Sinor, who died in January at the age of 94.

The PIAC annual meeting is being held in conjunction with the Mongolia Society, which is marking its 50th anniversary with the week-long conference on the IU Bloomington campus.

Kara received his medal from Barbara Kellner-Heinkele, professor at the Freie Universität Berlin in Berlin and current president of PIAC. In her presentation, Kellner-Heinkele praised IU for its longstanding commitment to Mongolian studies.

The Department of Uralic and Altaic Studies was established in the IU College of Arts and Sciences in the late 1940s and is now called the Department of Central Eurasian Studies (CEUS).

Kara earned a Ph.D. from Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary in 1961, and a doctorate of philology degree from Leningrad State University in 1975. His research interests include Mongol and Inner Asian studies; languages and cultures, including Old Turkic, Tibetan, Manchu, Evenki, Khitan and Altaic philology; history of writing systems; Altaic linguistics; Mongol literature and folklore. He regularly teaches classical Mongol, Mongol literature and folklore, and the history of Mongol writing systems.

"Mongolian language and literature is his great passion," said Christopher Atwood, professor and chair of the Department of Central Eurasian Studies. "His books and articles have set the standard and laid the groundwork for Mongolian studies. Perhaps the greatest tribute to György Kara is the Altaistic methodological rule we've learned from him at Indiana University, for dealing with particularly thorny problems. It's this: Ask Professor Kara."

Larry D. Singell Jr., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, welcomed conference participants to campus, speaking a few words of greeting in Mongolian. IU Vice President for International Affairs David Zaret, the former interim dean of the College, addressed the conference, citing longstanding academic ties between IU and Mongolia.

Atwood offered some additional historical perspective to the occasion.

"This is not only the 50th anniversary of The Mongolia Society, but as well it is the 100th anniversary of Mongolian independence, the 90th anniversary of the Mongolian revolution and the 50th anniversary of Mongolia's entrance into the United Nations," he said. "We have organized a gala series of academic and cultural events. The Mongolia Society is the oldest organization dedicated to promoting Mongolian Studies in North America."

He added that both Dr. Alicia Campi, president of the The Mongolia Society, and Kellner-Heinkele are alumni of the IU Department of Central Eurasian Studies.

Conference attendees included His Excellency Bekhbat Khasbazar, the Mongolian ambassador to the United States, and John A. Wecker, acting deputy director and economic unit chief in the U.S. Department of State's Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs.