(The Institute for Oriental Studies, Saint-Petersburg)
Monday, July 23
As you know, this is the second international Assyriological conference in Russia. The first one was held in 1984 in St.-Petersburg that at that time was called Leningrad. Since those days many distinguished scholars have passed away, among them Igor Diakonoff, Samuel Kramer, Hayim Tadmor, Paul Garelli, Dietz Edzard, and many, many other Assyriologists. But their spirit is here, with us, in our hearts. Since those times also great historical changes have occurred all over the world. But nevertheless one thing remains constant: I mean good relations and friendship among Assyriologists of various countries. All over the world we are one fraternal family of colleagues from Japan to Canada. Even in old times of political differences and hostilities in two political camps of the world, we remained friends to each other. An essential part of this family is presented here as a new generation of young Assyriologists.
In contrast to Germany, France or England, Assyriology in this country is a comparatively young branch of science which previously was taught mainly in St. Petersburg. Later new centers of Assyriology were established in the former Soviet republics of the Caucasus. Then during difficult and at the same time creative period of the Perestroika a new centre of Assyriological studies was established in Moscow, the Russian State University for the Humanities where we are now. We are grateful to our colleagues from all the countries presented here for accepting our invitation to participate in this Rencontre, and we will try to do everything possible to make it successful, as well as to make your stay here pleasant.
Jack M. Sasson (President)
Monday, July 23
Rector Pivovar, Director Smirnov, Professor Dandamayev, colleagues, guests, and friends.
1984 was the previous time in which we gathered in Russia. We met at what some Assyriologists call a mental space, because Leningrad has since morphed into the great city we will all visit soon. Still, I am very pleased that those who brought us to that particular Eldorado are with us here today: Professors Muhammad Dandamayev and Nadia Czechowicz.
This is my first time in Russia, as I am sure also for some of you, and so far, with the weather cooperating as it has and the splendid reception we had at the RSUH last night, it has been just peachy. We are about to begin; but let me at the outset thank our host institutions for giving us the opportunity to be here: In Moscow, the Russian State University for the Humanities and its Institute for Oriental and Classical Studies; in St Petersburg, the State Hermitage and the Institute for Oriental Studies branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
This is not the first time the RAI has split its work between cities. In ’98 we shuttled between Cambridge and New Haven and in 2001 we were in Helsinki and Tartu. But I think this is the first time we move lock, stock, and barrel between two places. Naturally this complicated arrangement has required managerial talent of the first order and, with your leave, I should take time to thank those involved. There will be opportunity to rectify any amiss in the coming days, but let me include among them the following.
For St Petersburg. I want to recognize Dr Irina Popova, Director of the Institute for Oriental Studies, and Dr. Inna Medvedskaya, the Head of its Ancient Near East Department. We have just received the greetings of Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director of the State Hermitage Museum, and hope to see him when in St Petersburg. But especially for their hard work, at this occasion let me mention our colleagues Mariam Dandamaeva, Natalia Koslova and Andrei Nikolaev.
In Moscow, Rektor Efim Pivovar made available a number of dorm rooms that were distributed among younger specialists. A sinologist, Professor Ilya Smirnov is nevertheless connected to us by marriage to two orientalists, Mikhail and Igor Diakonov. From what I hear, we might never have made it into these elegant surroundings without his expert interference in all manners practical, shall I say also bureaucratic. I also have two Katyas to thank: Katya Markina, who handled all matters electronic, shaping a most attractive website, and Katya Vizirova, who took care of all earthly arrangements. And then there was also Leonid Kogan. Aside from playing a large role in organizing this particular RAI, for many of us who have had to negotiate the intricacies of crafting our trip here and obtaining visas, Leonid has been as his name: leonine and epically heroic.
Preparing for this RAI was particularly challenging; so you will permit me if I recognize two members of the IAA front office in Leiden: Renée Kalvelagen and Guido Suurmeijer without whose help our valiant Secretary, Wilfred van Soldt might have defected to Disneyworld.
To all these colleagues: Gratitudes galore. Let me ask all those I have mentioned to stand up and let us all thank them with hearty applause.
It is my sad duty now to ask all of us now to recall the colleagues we have lost during the preceding academic year. I will soon ask you to stand for a minute of silence in their memory. But as I read the names, please recall also the fine contributions each of them has made and will continue to make as scholars and as fine humanists:
A. Shapur Shahbazi (1942-2006) July 15, aged 64
Ruth Mayer-Opificius (1928-2006) August 3, at age 78
Tikva Frymer-Kensky (1943-2006) August 31, at 63
Guillaume Cardascia (1914-2006) September 27, at 92
Sedat Alp (1913-20060 October 9, at 93
Maurits van Loon (1923-206) October 12, at 83
Leon De Meyer (1928-2006) November 4, at 78
Asger Aaboe (1922-2007) Jan. 19, at 84
Donald P. Hansen (1931-2007) February 15, 76
Pinhas Artzi (1924-2007) April 8, at 83
André Finet (1922-2007) May 2, at 85
A year ago, I appealed to you to join the International Association for Assyriology, not because it makes you a better scholar but because your membership strengthens the cause of Assyriology and of archaeology, giving voice and unity when we need to resist or even reverse any administrative attempts to weaken our science. You responded well, for our numbers now stand almost double last year’s; but there is still room for any of you who has not joined yet. So whether you have been in this business since before Alulim of Eridu or are just now honing your skills in it, please consider joining: 10 Euros per year, and if Leonid and Natalie allow me to say it, the best deal in Russia this week.
A year ago too, the IAA was still in its infancy and had few laurels to its credit. In the past year, however, your administration has been very active. We have organized appeals in behalf of colleagues threatened with prosecution and gave support to kindred institutions that were imperiled by funding cut-offs. With Michel Tanret’s help, we have revived the Cooperation International with the sort of information that will allow all of us to resume gossiping about each other. We have streamlined and posted applications for affiliating with the IAA, for nominating colleagues to Honorary Council, and for hosting a future RAI. The last was particularly successful endeavor, as we are now booked to meet, inshallah, through the summer of 2013. We have also shaped many new initiatives. These will need to be discussed: emended if needed, or ratified. So please come to the membership meeting this Tuesday and help us: your vote, but above all your wisdom, is very much needed.
However, let me take a minute to draw your attention to one of these initiatives, the electronic Translations of Akkadian Cuneiform Texts because, more than any of the other endeavors, this one aims to give a public face to our work. The idea is to have Assyriologists post on the web *translations* (not full editions) of documents of any genre and into any modern language. These postings can be picked up by search engines such as Yahoo and Google and will bring the fruits of our labors to the attention of a wider public.
We have created a website that makes it easy for contributors to post their translations and, when relevant, to mention where fuller studies of the work can be found. If any translation has already appeared in a book, the site allows for a link to the publisher where this book can be purchased. We ask you to help fill this site with your documents and if you come on Wednesday, you will hear more about it from Cornelia Wunsch who is the facilitator and manager of the site.
I have taken too long. Still I want to end on the best note of all, and it is to give the podium back to Professor Dandamayev who will introduce our plenary speakers: Professors Claus Wilcke and Walter Sommerfeld.
WHEREAS we have just completed our work for 2007 at two great Russian centers— in Moscow, the Russian State University for the Humanities and the Institute for Oriental and Classical Studies and in Saint-Petersburg, the State Hermitage museum and the Institute for Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Arts and Sciences;
WHEREAS these worthy institutions and their officers, Efim PIVOVAR, Ilya SMIRNOV and Mikhayil PIOTROVSKY, have generously hosted gracious receptions, among them wonderful feasts at the courtyards of the RSUH and the HERMITAGE, a boat tour on the Neva River, and visits to fine museums;
WHEREAS aside from numerous officials and a dedicated staff, our hosts, in alphabetic order, Mariam DANDAMAEVA, Leonid KOGAN, Natalia KOSLOVA and Inna MEDVEDSKAYA, as well as the chair of our opening session, professor Muhammad DANDAMAYEV, were simply just wonderful in preparing for these complicated meetings and gave us unstinting support as participants and all the attention we needed as visitors;
WHEREAS we were attended by a host of efficient, helpful, and spirited students and colleagues, among them Katya MARKINA, Andrei NIKOLAEV, and Katya VIZIROVA;
WHEREAS under their direct order the weather behaved nicely and due largely to their expert guidance no one got lost in the many shuffles in and out of planes, trains, busses, cars, and hotels;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that in behalf of all those attending the 53rd RENCONTRE ASSYRIOLOGIQUE INTERNATIONALE, the INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR ASSYRIOLOGY, assembled in Moscow on Wednesday, July 25, 2007, and yet again in Saint-Petersburg on Saturday, July 28, 2007, herewith offers its most heartfelt expressions of gratitude.
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