On November 24 and 25, 1999, a new international association for the preservation of the world heritage of epics was founded in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The founding conference was organized by the head of the Kyrgyz State Institute for the Preservation and Propagation of the epic “Manas”, Mr Beksultan Jakiev, and supported by Unesco. The conference was attended by members of the Kyrgyz government, by the Unesco representative for Central Asia and by scholars from Kyrgyzstan, Russia and various parts of the Russian Federation (Yakutia, Tatarstan, Khakassia), Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Mongolia, China (including Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang), Iran, Turkey and Germany.

The basic aim of the association is the collection, preservation and study of epic poetry, in particular oral and traditional epic poetry. The majority of the participants came from areas where epic poetry is still orally performed and where epics play an important role as cultural symbols in their respective societies. With the dramatic political and social changes in Central Asia and with the intensifying of globalization, traditional culture is more than ever in danger of extinction. It was felt by all participants of the founding conference that there is a pressing need to collect and preserve the world’s heritage of traditional epics while this is still possible. For this effort international cooperation is absolutely necessary, in particular as the areas where oral epic poetry still flourishes belong to the economically less privileged parts of the world.

The association is called Mezhdunarodnaya Assotsiatsia “Eposy Narodov Mira” (MAEN)/ International Association “Epics of the World’s Peoples” (IAEWP). Mr Beksultan Jakiev (Bishkek) has been elected president of the association; Prof. Karl Reichl (Bonn, Germany) and Mr Alexander Zhirkov (Yakutsk) have been elected vice presidents.

The first goal is to establish a network of scholars working on epic poetry; to initiate an exchange of information on activities and projects; and to organize conferences and symposia, as well as festivals with epic singers and field trips. A Festival of Epic Singers is to take place in Kyrgyzstan (in the Manas complex in Talas) from May 20 to 25, 2001.

For more information contact: Mr Beksultan Jakiev, Gos. Direktsia po propagande eposa Manas, bul. Erkindik, 54, 720040 g. Bishkek, (Kyrgyzstan), e-mail: manasprj@elcat.kg, or Prof. Karl Reichl, Englisches Seminar, Universität Bonn, Regina-Pacis-Weg 5, 53604 Bonn (Germany), e-mail: k.reichl@uni-bonn.de.

(FFN 21, March 2001: 12)

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