About Us

As a center for the study of the Near and Middle East, including North Africa, the institute is not merely the only institution of its kind in Austria, but is also one of the largest such institutes in central Europe. Research includes funded projects, and teaching concentrates on Ancient Near Eastern Studies (Assyriology), Near Eastern Archaeology, Arabic Studies, Islamic Studies, and Turkish Studies with special emphasis on Ottoman Studies and studies on modern-day Turkey

Short History of the Department of Near Eastern Studies

The department was founded in 1886 with the name the “Orientalisches Institut”. Five professors were substantially involved in this process: The historian and Arabist Joseph von Karabacek (1845-1918), the Semitist David Heinrich Müller (1846-1912), the Egyptologist Simon Leo Reinisch (1832-1919), the Indologist Georg Bühler (1837-1898), and Friedrich Müller (1834-1898) who worked in comparative linguistics. The official founding date by decree of the imperial-royal Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs was the 5th of March, 1886. This was, however, not the starting point of the teaching of Ottoman Turkish, Arabic, Hebrew, and other Semitic languages at the University of Vienna, which in fact reaches back as far as the 16th century.

Only one year after the department was founded, the first volume of the Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes was published. Today, it is among the periodicals in the field that have the world’s longest publication histories (in 2020 volume 110 will appear).

As was common in the 19th century and later, Oriental Studies at that time included the research on the history and language of a huge region, stretching from North Africa to the Middle East to India and Eastern Asia. Over the course of the 20th century, and as a result of increasing specialization, the range of fields dwindled, since several disciplines separated from Oriental Studies and became departments on their own (Egyptology and African Studies in 1923, Indology in 1955, Japanese Studies in 1965, Jewish Studies in 1966). Thus, since the late 1960s the focus of the department has been on Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Arabic Studies, and Turkish Studies. In 1977, it was renamed the “Department of Near Eastern Studies”. In 2003, Islamic Studies was added as a new field, while Iranian Studies remains an independent discipline only at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, which is still a close cooperation partner.

The last two decades have seen an ever-increasing growth of the department, which today has more than forty staff members. This is also the result of the numerous third-party-funded projects started by researchers of the department, which is among the three most successful departments of the whole faculty.

In the current semester, the number of students enrolled in the four programmes offered by the Department of Near Eastern Studies is approximately 700.