Remembering Tibor Halasi-Kun (1914–1991)

It has become a tradition that the Representation Office of the Organization of Turkic States in Hungary regularly pays tribute to the memory of Hungarian Turkologists who achieved international excellence during their careers. This time – to mark the 110th anniversary of his birth – it was the lifework of Tibor Halasi-Kun that the Representation Office recalled in the Ybl Villa. During the event Dr. Uli Schamiloglu, the American visiting professor of Tatar origin of the Chair of the Kazakh Language and Turkic Studies at the Nazarbayev University in Astana delivered a lecture on the life and work of Tibor Halasi-Kun.

The guests were welcomed by Ambassador Dr. István Vásáry. The Executive Director of the Representation Office reminded the participants that the outstanding professor of Turkology – born 110 years ago – was the student of Gyula Németh (1890–1976). During his unprecedented career, Halasi-Kun produced a great legacy in the life of three nations. He is respected in Türkiye and the United States in the same way, just as he is in Hungary. Ambassador Vásáry expressed his gratitude that Professor Schamiloglu, who was a student of Halasi-Kun in the US in the 1970s, had accepted his invitation to this event during which we paid our respects to the memory of a Turkologist and a teacher whose personality is highly acclaimed in the whole of the Turkic world.

In his remarks, Professor Uli Schamiloglu offered a detailed description of the extremely rich life of Tibor Halasi-Kun, beginning with his birth in Zagreb till his passing away in Connecticut in the US. In his colorful and exciting lecture, delivered in a personal tone, he pointed out that in the life of Halasi-Kun there had been two decisive moments: in 1931 he met Gyula Németh who discovered his talent and introduced him to the world of Turkology. The other was his decision not to return home upon the retirement of his professor but stay at Columbia University. The career of Halasi-Kun started in the Institute of Turkish Philology and Hungarian Ancient History of Péter Pázmány University, it continued in Ankara, and then, in 1952 it was accomplished at Columbia University in New York under the commission of the Government of Türkiye.

At Columbia University he founded the Near and Middle Eastern Studies Center and the research Center for Turkish Studies, and then in 1963 he established the American Research Institute in Turkey (ARIT) in Istanbul. Professor Schamiloglu also drew the attention to the fact that during his hard-working life Halasi-Kun was not only a great scientist but an excellent organizer of research as well who has left a legacy of lasting values. In 1973 he established the journal Archivum Ottomanicum the editorship of which was taken over by Professor György Hazai. In this work Halasi-Kun was unselfishly supported by his wife, Éva. (They married in 1942.)

The American professor – moved by his own recollections – sometimes recalled his own personal memories. He stressed that even his grave and prolonged disease did not prevent Halasi-Kun from actively continuing his research work. As he said, Tibor Halasi-Kun was loved by everyone. His humanity was exemplary, he was born to become a warmhearted, helpful person who was – at the same time – a “super organizer and administrator.”

At the end of his remarks, Uli Schamiloglu presented to the audience original family photos of the family of Halasi-Kun, of his children and their house in New Milford, Connecticut. These had been offered by Ádám Halasi-Kun to the Professor, together with his personal letter.


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