Uspensky graduated from Moscow University in 1960. He delivered lectures in Moscow until 1982, but later moved on to work in Harvard University, Cornell University, Vienna University, and the University of Graz. Full professor of Russian literature at the Naples Eastern University, he was elected to many scholarly societies and academies of Europe.
Uspensky worked with Yuri Lotman and was influenced by his ideas as a member of Tartu-Moscow semiotics school. His major works include Linguistic Situation in Kievan Rus and Its Importance for the Study of the Russian Literary Language, Philological Studies in the Sphere of Slavonic Antiquities, and The Principles of Structural Typology.
Uspensky is well known in the study of icons for his work The Semiotics of the Russian Icon (John Benjamins, 1976), among others.
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