Vyacheslav Ivanov (philologist)

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Vyacheslav Ivanov
Ivanov, Viacheslav.JPG
Ivanov at the 6 Moscow International Book Festival, 2011
Native name Вячеслав Всеволодович Иванов
Born Vyacheslav Vsevolodovich Ivanov
(1929-08-21)21 August 1929
Moscow, Soviet Union
Died 7 October 2017(2017-10-07) (aged 88)
Los Angeles, United States
Nationality Russian
Citizenship  Soviet Union (1929–1991)→ Russia (1991–2017)
Alma mater Moscow State University
Awards Lenin Prize, the USSR State Prize
Scientific career
Fields philology, semiotics, linguistics

Vyacheslav Vsevolodovich Ivanov (Russian: Вячесла́в Все́володович Ива́нов, 21 August 1929 – 7 October 2017) was a prominent Soviet/Russian philologist, semiotician and Indo-Europeanist probably best known for his glottalic theory of Indo-European consonantism and for placing the Indo-European urheimat in the area of the Armenian Highlands and Lake Urmia.

Early life[edit]

Vyacheslav Ivanov's father was Vsevolod Ivanov, one of the most prominent Soviet writers. His mother was an actress who worked in the theatre of Vsevolod Meyerhold. His childhood was clouded by disease and war, which he spent in Tashkent evacuation.

Ivanov was educated at Moscow University and worked there until 1958, when he was fired on account of his sympathy with Boris Pasternak and Roman Jakobson. By that time, he had made some important contributions to Indo-European studies and became one of the leading authorities on Hittite language.


During the early 1960s, Ivanov was one of the first Soviet scholars to take a keen interest in the development of semiotics. He worked with Vladimir Toporov on several linguistic monographs, including an outline of Sanskrit. In 1962 he joined Toporov and Juri Lotman in establishing the Tartu-Moscow Semiotic School.

In the 1980s Ivanov worked with Tamaz Gamkrelidze on a new theory of Indo-European migrations, which was most recently advocated by them in Indo-European and Indo-Europeans (1995). He led the All-Union Library of Foreign Literature between 1989 and 1993 and held a seat in the Supreme Soviet of Russia. Simultaneously, he established the Institute of World Culture and held a chair in Theory and History of World Culture at the Moscow University.

Since the late 1990s Ivanov shared his time between Moscow (where he taught in the Russian State University for the Humanities) and Los Angeles, where he delivered courses at the University of California, Los Angeles. He also worked as a professor in Stanford University and Yale University.

He was elected a full member of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 2000, and he has been a Foreign Fellow of the British Academy since 1977.[1]

Other interests[edit]

In 1965 Vyacheslav Ivanov edited, wrote extensive scholarly comments, and published the first Russian edition of previously unpublished "Psychology of Art" by Lev Vygotsky (the work written in the first half of the 1920s). The second, extended and corrected edition of the book came out in 1968 and included another Vygotsky's unpublished work, his treatise on Shakespeare's Hamlet (written in 1915-1916). The first edition of the book was subsequently translated into English by Scripta Technica Inc. and released by MIT Press in 1971.

Apart from his scholarly pursuits, Vyacheslav Ivanov wrote poetry. He also published several books of memoirs, including two on his acquaintances with Boris Pasternak and Anna Akhmatova.

Selected publications[edit]

  • Sanskrit. Moscow: Nauka Pub. House, Central Dept. of Oriental Literature, 1968.
  • Borozdy i mezhi. Letchworth: Bradda Books, 1971. 351 p.
  • with Tamaz V. Gamkrelidze, Indoevropjskij jazyk i indoevropejcy: Rekonstrukcija i istoriko-tipologieskij analiz prajazyka i protokultury. Tiflis: Tiflis University Press 1984. xcvi + 1328 p.
    • English translation: Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans: A reconstruction and historical analysis of a proto-language and a proto-culture. 2 vols. Trans. J. Nichols. Berlin–New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1: 1994, 2: 1995
  • with T. V. Gamkrelidze, “The ancient Near East and the Indo-European question: Temporal and territorial characteristics of Proto-Indo-European based on linguistic and historico-cultural data”, Journal of Indo-European Studies vol. 13, no. 1–2 (1985): 3–48.
  • with T. V. Gamkrelidze, “The migrations of tribes speaking Indo-European dialects from their original homeland in the Near East to their historical habitations in Eurasia”, Journal of Indo-European Studies vol. 13, no. 1–2 (1985): 9–91.
  • Vyacheslav V. Ivanov and Thomas Gamkrelidze, “The Early History of Indo-European Languages”, Scientific American vol. 262, no. 3 (March, 1990): 110-116.
  • The archives of the Russian Orthodox Church of Alaska, Aleutian and Kuril Islands (1794—1912): An attempt at a multisemiotic society. Washington, 1996.
  • The Russian orthodox church of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands and its relation to native American traditions — an attempt at a multicultural society, 1794—1912. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress; U.S. G.P.O., 1997.
  • (as editor) with Ilia Verkholantseva, eds., Speculum Slaviae Orientalis : Muscovy, Ruthenia and Lithuania in the late Middle Ages. Moscow: Novoe izdatel'stvo, 2005.
  • (as editor), Issledovaniia po tipologii slavianskikh, baltiĭskikh i balkanskikh iazykov: preimushchestvenno v svete iazykovykh kontaktov [= Studies in the typology of Slavic, Baltic and Balkan languages: with primary reference to language contact]. St. Petersburg: Aleteĭia, 2013.
  • with V. N. Toporov, Mifologiia: statʹi dlia mifologicheskikh ėntsiklopediĭ. Moscow: IASK, Iazyki slavianskikh kulʹtur, 2014.


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