István Mándoky Kongur Remembered

On the 80th anniversary of his birth, the linguist and Turkologist István Mándoky Kongur – who is greatly respected not only in his home town in the Great Cuman Land in Hungary but in the Central Asian countries as well – was remembered in Karcag, in the town of his birth. At the beginning of the ceremony, the leaders of the town and the invited guests laid a wreath at the memorial of István Mándoky Kongur. After the greetings at the Town Hall, the film on his life with the title “Cuman Apostle” was screened. The event was attended by the representatives of the Embassies of the Turkic states in Budapest. On behalf of the Representation Office of the OTS, project directors Géza Gonda and Kanat Ydyrys were present.

The events to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the birth of István Mándoky Kongur, the linguist and Turkologist from Karcag began in the Museum Park where Sándor F. Kovács MP, the Chairman of the Cuman Alliance offered remarks on the work of the scientist, born on February 10, 1944. “Today, in the capital of Great Cuman Land people have gathered who can remember their ancestors, the people who have not left the past, their traditions behind. Now Karcag has become a small power center in the world which has always been a unique place, since it was here that the Cumans settled down after their migrations in Central Asia. The Cumans whose descendant was much later István Mándoky Kongur” – said the Member of Parliament.

In his remarks Sándor F. Kovács underlined that Mándoky was characterized by a deep love for and strong bond with his homeland. Before his long trips abroad, or on his returning from Central Asia, he would always pay a visit to Karcag. After his death the town of his birth unveiled a memorial to him. Sándor F. Kovács added that it is clear for them that there are peoples speaking Turkic languages that keep track of their ancestors, going back to seven generations or even further. This demonstrates that there is some kind of a link between people living today and their forefathers. This is a bond that is not palpable. You can feel it only inside, in your heart, and there are people who can, perhaps, have a stronger feeling of it. István Mándoky Kongur was such a man. There was something that attracted him to Central Asia already in his childhood.

“We are going to have young people like István Mándoky Kongur, young people who connect siblings, relatives, the peoples speaking Turkic languages both in body and soul. Let us bow our heads in front of the pillar of a bridge that keeps the faith, kinship and brotherhood on both banks. Let us bow our heads in front of the memory of the scientist from Karcag, István Mándoky Kongur” – asked F. Kovács Sándor those present.

The next part of the event was a conference in the auditorium of the City Hall. After the opening remarks by Mayor Tibor Szepesi, ethnographer Júlia Balázs recited the “Our Father,“ and then read aloud the letter by István Vásáry in which the Professor remembered István Mándoky Kongur whom he called Cuman Apostle.

The Honorary Consul of Kazakistan in Hungary, László Horváth also spoke about the scientist who died at the young age of 48, and whose work and research was listed by Júlia Bartha. Mándoky sat for the school leaving examination in Karcag, and received his first Turkish textbook from ethnographer Sándor Szűcs, the director of the Great Cuman Museum at that time. Mándoky learned the living Turkic languages after making friends with the soldiers in the Soviet garrison in Kunmadaras, Hungary. The son of the Cuman puszta, whom József Torma called a man of bittersweet words, was guided at the University of Budapest by the fatherly love of Professor Gyula Németh.

After graduating, Mándoky was working at the National Széchenyi Library, then for the Kőrösi Csoma Society, and then – from 1970 – in the Inner Asia Research Group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Within the traditional fields of Turkology, Mándoky was dealing with the Hungarian–Turkish relations before the conquest of the Carpathian basis, the ancient history of Hungary. From 1965 on, he was going on collecting trips to Dobruja in Romania and Bulgaria, to the Tatars living by the Danube. He also published the results of his research. He paid visits to the Turkic minorities living in Mongolia, and collected the languages, the customs and the folk poetry of the Kazakhs and the Tuvans. In the opinion of Júlia Bartha, the collection of the dialects and ethnography among the Kazakhs and the Tatars by Mándoky has greatly contributed to deciphering several Cuman texts in Hungary. Mándoky had numerous plans from the realizing of which he was prevented by his early death. Karcag erected a monument to him. However, the real monument today is what he had planned while he was still alive – the lively ties between Cumanland in Hungary and Kazakistan that materialized after his passing away and is still alive today.

“Today, when we are turning to the East again, we must remember that once there lived a scientist from Cumanland who has trodden the path that we can take today towards science, the economy and politics. Let his memory be blessed,” said Júlia Bartha.

Before the film “Cuman Apostle” was screened, it was recommended by Dávid Somfai Kara to the attention of the participants. In it, the heritage of Mándoky was presented by the Hungarian and Kazakh friends and fellow scientists of Mándoky. After showing the film, Khinayat Babakhumar, the PhD student of the University of Debrecen spoke about the books by Mándoky published by them. After this he played a Cuman folk song on the dombra, the national instrument of Kazakistan that he has learned from Mándoky.

The event was brought to a conclusion by a standing reception.

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