The Committee of Oriental Studies (KNO)
of The Polish Academy of Sciences


The Committee of Oriental Studies (KNO) of the Polish Academy of Sciences coordinates all scholarly activities related to Oriental studies in Poland. It was established in 1952 under the name “The Oriental Committee”, then the “Oriental Section of the Committee of Philological Sciences” in the years 1960-1961. Finally, in 1962, the Committee changed the name for the “Committee of Oriental Studies”. In a period from 1965 to 1970, the activities of the KNO were suspended.

In its early stages, the Committee had nine members. In 2002 their number increased to 39. The chairmen of the KNO were: Ananiasz Zajączkowski (1952-1962), Tadeusz Lewicki (1963-1965, 1970-1983), Witold Tyloch (1984-1989), Maciej Popko (1990-1992), Mieczysław J. Künstler (1993-2006), and Marek Mejor (2007-2019). In 2020 the position of chairman has been filled by Piotr Taracha. In 1984-1992, Tadeusz Lewicki fulfilled the role of Honorary Chairman. Edward Tryjarski (died in 2021) has been made an honorary member of the KNO in 2009.

The scholarly activities of the KNO encompass different fields of research on Asia and Africa with a special focus on humanities and social sciences. It initiates and integrates scientific research, coordinates the didactic tasks of Oriental and African studies institutions, carries out publishing, opinion-building, expert and supervisory activities, organises sessions and conferences, as well as maintains cooperation with many foreign institutions.

Its activities contribute to the development of Polish Oriental studies and the research on languages and cultures of Asia and Africa, as well as the integration of academic communities. In cooperation with the Polish Society for Oriental Studies, it disseminates information on the achievements of Oriental studies and popularises general knowledge of Asia and Africa.

The KNO itself carried out research activities until the late 1980s while financing many scholarly works on languages, literature, history, culture, sociology, and the economy of Asian and African countries. Since the very beginning, it has evaluated the most important Polish Oriental journals, such as the “Rocznik Orientalistyczny” (“Yearbook of Oriental Studies”), “Przegląd Orientalistyczny” (“Review of Oriental Studies”), “Folia Orientalia” and “Africana Bulletin”, as well as different scholarly projects run at the Polskie Towarzystwo Orientalistyczne /Polish Society for Oriental Studies (PTO) and Polish Society for the Study of Religions. It recommends the most outstanding Oriental works for scientific awards of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

A monograph series entitled “Prace Orientalistyczne” (“Oriental Studies”) was founded in 1954. Until 2021 it has published 44 volumes. In the same year 1954 the KNO took over the publication of the leading Polish Oriental journal the “Rocznik Orientalistyczny” which was previously published by the Polish Society for Oriental Studies. Ever since (until 2021) 56 journal volumes have appeared. In the years 1961-1970 the monograph series “Prace Orientalistyczne” and the “Rocznik Orientalistyczny” were published by the Department of Oriental Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences. In the 1970s, the KNO promoted the academic book series “Historical and Sociological Monographs of African Countries”.

Throughout its history the KNO organized, often in cooperation with the Polish Society for Oriental Studies and other institutions, many international and local academic meetings, such as the Conference in Nieborów (1955), the Second International Symposium on Theoretical Problems of Oriental Literatures (1972), the International Symposium on Theoretical Problems of Asian and African languages (1980), a session devoted to the achievements of Oriental studies on the occasion of the sixty-year anniversary of Polish independence (1978; the proceedings of this session are published in the series “Prace Orientalistyczne” vol. 29 under the title Oriental studies in the sixty years of independent Poland, 1983), as well as numerous sessions devoted to important anniversaries and the memory of outstanding personalities in the history of Polish Oriental studies, such as Marian Lewicki (1956), Władysław Kotwicz (1972, 2012), Jan Reychman (1975), Tadeusz Kowalski (1978), Eugeniusz Słuszkiewicz (1982), and Włodzimierz Zajączkowski (1983).

Particularly noteworthy is KNO’s contribution to the celebration of the Adam Mickiewicz Year in 1955, which focused on the Oriental elements in Mickiewicz’s works. In 1958 the Committee took part in the work of the Polish East-West Working Group for the implementation of the East-West project at the Polish UNESCO Committee and in the Week of Cultural Meeting with the Eastern Countries.

The KNO conducted opinion building and expert activities. Its members shared advice concerning school textbooks in the field of literature, history, and geography. They also expressed their opinion on perspectives of Oriental studies development, as well as the development of the higher education sector in the field of Oriental studies. In the 1990s, the KNO had among its tasks evaluation of the achievements of the Department of Non-European Countries of the Polish Academy of Sciences (1986-1990), Polish Oriental studies in 1992-1993, Oriental studies in the field of literature, as well as the accomplishments of the Polish Oriental studies from 1945 to 1995.

Thanks to the efforts of the KNO, the Department of Oriental Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences (1953-1969) and the Oriental Commission of the Polish Academy of Science Branch in Cracow (since 1957) were established.

Polish Oriental studies were internationally represented as the member of the Union Internationale des Études Orientales et Asiatiques in the years 1974-1994.

The Committee repeatedly requested the reactivation of the Oriental studies department at the Polish Academy of Sciences. It was also preoccupied with the protection of the library of the Department of Oriental Studies which was closed down in 1969. The KNO sought funds to purchase books, maintain the foreign exchange of publications, and finance the subscription of scientific journals.

Since 2008 the Committee members and invited guests have read papers at sessions organized regularly up to four times a year. The Committee organizes a cyclic international conference of Oriental Studies. In the beginning, it was held biannually, and since 2017 it has been organized on yearly basis, in cooperation with the Faculty of Oriental Studies of the University of Warsaw. Papers read at the conference by Polish and foreign scholars are published in “Rocznik Orientalistyczny” and in a monograph in the series “Prace Orientalistyczne”.


Source: Komitet Nauk Orientalistycznych / Maria Kozłowska // In: Polska Akademia Nauk 1952-2002 : placówki i komitety / [ed. Leszek Kuźnicki]. - Warszawa : Upowszechnianie Nauki - Oświata “UN-O”, 2002. - pp. 332-334, yearly reports of KNO PAN.