Inner Asian and Altaic Studies focuses on the history and cultures of the peoples in the steppe, mountain, forest, and oasis areas between China, Russia, western Iran, and Pakistan. This geographic area comprises Central Asia (namely former Soviet Central Asia, Xinjiang, eastern Iran, and Afghanistan), Kazakhstan, the northern regions of Pakistan, Tibet (including Qinghai, eastern Sichuan, Gansu, and northwestern Yunnan), Mongolia, and Manchuria. The Altaic languages include the Turkic group, the Mongolian group, and the Tunguzic group.

The Committee on Inner Asian and Altaic Studies supervises the work of graduate students whose interest in Inner Asia is not confined to languages or history alone, but encompasses linguistics, history, religion, art history, and general cultural study. Courses relating to Inner Asian studies are given by members of the committee and other faculty in the departments of anthropology, East Asian languages and civilizations, history, history of art and architecture, linguistics, music, Near Eastern languages and civilizations, South Asian studies (formerly the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies), and by the Committee on the Study of Religion.  

Harvard is preeminent among the very few universities where Inner Asian and Altaic studies may be pursued. Harvard’s library holdings in East European, East Asian, Islamic, and South Asian areas led to a development of strength in the Inner Asian and Altaic fields prior to the actual establishment of this program. The research centers and degree programs that exist at Harvard on the four sides of the Inner Asian area have contributed much material directly relevant to the study of this region. Among its vast holdings, Harvard possesses outstanding collections in many languages including those of Arabic, Chinese, Indian, Iranian, Russian, Tibetan, and Turkish, which comprise the most important primary sources for the study of this area. These collections can be found in the Widener, Harvard-Yenching, Houghton, Dumbarton Oaks, Gibb, Tozzer, Fung, and Fine Arts libraries. 

Admissions Requirements

All students in the program are expected to meet the requirements of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, including a bachelor’s degree from a recognized institution, a superior undergraduate record, and reading knowledge of at least one appropriate foreign source language such as, for example, Arabic, Chinese, Manchu, Persian, Russian, or Turkish. A master’s degree in hand is advantageous.  

Candidates must submit a recent writing sample, preferably on a topic relevant to their application. 

More information is available from the Committee on Inner Asian and Altaic Studies and program requirements for the degree are detailed in the GSAS Student Handbook.

Inner Asian and Altaic Studies Faculty