Meshchaninov Ivan Ivanovich

    фото И. И. Мещанинова
    06.12.1883 – 16.01.1967
    Academician, AS USSR
    Director, ILS RAS

    The Institute of Language and Thought, Director (1935 – 1950).

    Born into a family of a rich merchant in St. Petersburg, in 1902, M. graduated from a classical gymnasium school with a gold medal.

    M. began his academic career as an archaeologist and expert in the ancient civilizations of the Caucasus and the Black Sea Region where his digs actually unveiled the long-forgotten Urartu civilization for the modern world with a glimpse into its culture and language. The Historical Archive Supervisor at the Institute of Archaeology (1910 – 1923); Doctor Honoris Causa of the Institute of Archaeology (1911). In 1917, his interest in the Elamitic language brought M. together with the linguist N.Y. Marr, whose long-standing associate and (for a shorter period) personal secretary he later became. On Marr’s advice, M. turned to studying Georgian, Hettic, Chaldean and a number of Semitic languages in 1919. M.’s first publications were devoted to dissemination of Marr’s ideas.

    During the 1920s, M. worked at the Academy of the History of Material Culture, at the Leningrad Institute of Living Oriental Languages, and at the Hermitage Museum. In 1925–1933, M. participated in (and led) a number of archaeological expeditions to the Northern Black Sea Area and Transcaucasia. In 1932, he was elected as Academician (i. e., a full member) of the USSR Academy of Sciences, thus ‘jumping over’ the interim position of a Corresponding Member. In 1934, M. was appointed the Secretary of the Department of Literature and Language of the USSR Academy of Sciences, and in 1933 — 1937 he served as Director of the Institute of Anthropology, Archaeology, and Ethnography of the USSR Academy of Sciences. As of the late 1920s, his main interests focused on linguistics. Following N. Marr’s death, M. worked in 1935 – 1950 as the Director of the N. Ya. Marr Institute of Language and Thought of the USSR Academy of Sciences.

    M. led excavations of antique cities in the Northern Black Sea Area, earning special fame for those at Olbia (in 1925 – 1930). Other successful archaeological digs headed by him included those in Azerbaijan (1929, 1931), Armenia (1925, 1931), Georgia (1925), Abkhazia (1934), and Dagestan (1944). After the anti-Marr campaign launched by Stalin in 1950, M., though dismissed from all his managerial positions, escaped repression and continued his academic career.