The Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies is saddened by the loss of Indiana University Professor György Kara, a linguist and Professor in the School’s Central Eurasian Studies (CEUS) department. Professor Kara was an internationally respected scholar in his field and an unrivaled leader in the study of the languages, cultures, and religious beliefs of Mongolia and Inner Asia. Kara has published more than 400 works in 10 languages, and his many books and articles are considered to have laid the groundwork for Mongolian studies.
Professor Kara was deeply committed to his students, and his work has provided the academic foundation for future scholars in his field. His research interests included 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.
A highly decorated scholar, Kara was a contributor to the Encyclopedia Britannica, member of The Order of the Polar Star of the Republic of Mongolia (1998), member of the Order of Labor Merit of the Republic of Mongolia (2005), awardee of the Indiana University Prize for Altaistic Studies (2011), holder of a Diploma of Honor from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia (2015), and the Alexander von Humboldt Research Prize (1999). He was also awarded a membership to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (2001) for his outstanding contributions to the field. 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.
In 2011, Professor Kara was honored at the 54th annual Permanent International Altaistic Conference (PIAC); he received the PIAC gold medal in honor of his lifetime achievements in Altaic Studies.
Öner Özçelik, Central Eurasian Studies Chair, shared that Professor Kara’s scholarship inspired many faculty to audit his courses.
“I feel very fortunate that, last Spring, I was able to audit his course 'Old Turkic',” said Özçelik. “He was truly devoted to his field; he could have hours of discussion about the origins of a single word, and in doing so, he could take you on a trip from one end of the world to another. He cared a lot about his students, who meant the world to him. He even tried to continue his three classes this semester even through hospital stays, in heroic Professor Kara fashion. Beyond his scholarship and teaching, despite his deep knowledge about the field, he was a very humble person, and always added some humor to his conversations. He will be truly missed."
Dr. Jamsheed K. Choksy, CEUS Distinguished Professor, remarked that Professor Kara’s devotion to Indiana University, the CEUS department, and his students, was unrivaled.
“While I was chair of the department, every summer he would visit Hungary for research. He would always ask me if there was anything he could do to further IU or the department while in Hungary,” Choksy shared. “He always placed the students first, right to the end. Professor Kara’s knowledge will be impossible to replace.”
Professor Kara’s good friend and former colleague, Professor Christopher Atwood, described Kara as a mentor, and someone whose perspectives always guided his own thinking.
“A life can’t be summed up in the printed word, but my teacher … could be captured in his voice,” said Atwood. “That slight frown, that quiet laugh, that distinctive accent, that eccentric vocabulary full of amusing witticisms and insights — that was him. No one who learned from Professor Kara would ever denigrate precise and exact knowledge … but remembering his living voice, I know its limits. Amurlingui noirsooroi, bagsh aa.”
As our School and the University grieves for our friend and colleague, Professor György Kara, our hearts go out to his family during this difficult time.
Indiana University Counseling and Psychological Services offers support resources in processing this loss. Individuals may contact 812.855.5711 Option 1, 24/7, submit a Care Referral or contact the Care Team in the Dean of Students Office at 812.855.8187.