July 18th, 2020

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Dear colleagues,
As some of you may have suspected, the situation with respect to the convening of the next
International Congress of Byzantine Studies in Istanbul (2021) has become increasingly
problematic in recent weeks. Both Covid-19 and its impact, as well as various political events
that I hardly need to list, have contributed to this situation. I would like also to let you know
that we have received a substantial number of letters from colleagues in many countries in both
these respects.
As a result of the Covid-19 situation in particular, however, the Turkish Organizing Committee
has informed us that holding the Congress, with a participation level of over 1,000 people, in
Istanbul, or indeed anywhere else in 2021, becomes highly problematic. They have therefore
asked us to consider converting the Congress to an online platform. This will require permission
from either the President of the Republic of Turkey or from the Ministry of Culture and
Tourism, a permission which is unfortunately neither automatic nor in any way guaranteed. As
yet no response from the relevant authorities to their request has been received.
An alternative would be to postpone the Congress to 2022 and to hold it as planned in Istanbul.
Unfortunately, again, circumstances are not favorable: first, because of the likelihood of an
emotive Turkish election campaign that may take place in that year; second, because of the
probability of official events or celebrations in Turkey to mark the events of 1922-1923 —
which a number of National Committees and a number of individuals will find as problematic
as we have all found the most recent developments in respect of cultural heritage and related
The International Bureau/AIEB has discussed in detail the issue of an online Congress. We
judge that, in the final analysis, and in spite of the excellent proposal submitted by the Turkish
Organizing Committee, this is not a viable option for our Congress, the whole purpose of which
is to facilitate physical meetings, discussions, networking, developing personal contacts and
conducting the Association’s business meetings, as well as presenting recent and new research.
It is especially important for junior colleagues in these respects, in ways that an online meeting
cannot match. Our Congress is, in other words, far more than a conference, and we did not feel
that an online platform, however sophisticated, would provide the sorts of opportunities which
we expect from the quinquennial Congress.
Since the possibility of moving to an online platform remains in any case uncertain, and rather
than wait for an indefinite period for the relevant permission to be granted, the International
Bureau, in consultation with the Turkish Organizing Committee, has taken the decision to
implement the Turkish Organizing Committee’s programme in another country, and in 2022.


We are writing to you now, therefore, to ask whether any of our other member countries are
able and willing to host the Congress in 2022. Your reply will need to make it clear that you
have the resources (personnel and facilities) to do so. On the basis of unplanned informal
conversations, representatives from two national committees – Greece and Italy – have
suggested that their countries may be willing to do this; but of course we need to consult the
whole Association before we can arrive at a balanced decision. The International Bureau
therefore awaits any other candidatures. Please take into account that due to the present situation
in general, any alternative candidate should be able to cooperate fully with the Turkish
Given the limited time available to organize the Congress in 2022, we will maintain, as far as
possible, the programme already organized by the Turkish Organizing Committee: I am sure
that you will understand that we cannot uninvite scholars who were planning on coming, and it
is too late now to develop a new programme from the beginning. Of course, some changes may
be necessary to conform with local circumstances. Additionally, some members of the Turkish
Organizing Committee should be involved with the new organizers, as noted above, to help
ensure continuity. This also gives appropriate recognition to the excellent work done by the
Turkish Committee thus far as well as the very generous support of the Vehbi Koç Foundation.
You will have many questions, so please feel absolutely free to email any or all of the members
of the International Bureau when necessary. I know you will appreciate the urgency with which
we need to address these major changes to our plans. In order to provide adequate time for
planning, establishing a collaborative organizational structure, establishing a new Organizing
Committee, and so forth, we would like to move forward as quickly as we can. It would
therefore be extremely helpful if you could let us know within the next 10 days whether or not,
in principle, you believe your National Committee has the resources, the personnel and the time
to prepare and host the Congress in 2022. If we have not heard from you by the end of this
period (July 27th), we will assume your National Committee does not feel it can take on this
task at such short notice, which is entirely understandable. We do not expect more than a very
small number of National Committees to volunteer.
Once we have received your replies, we will be able to circulate a list of candidate National
Committees, and we will ask you to vote (each National Committee will have ONE vote) by
the end of August 2020. On the basis of the votes cast we will proceed to determine the choice
of venue (details of the voting arrangements will be circulated by the Secretary in due course).
Thank you in advance for your support and co-operation.

John Haldon, President