Tronsky Iosif Moiseevich

    Tronsky Joseph Moiseevich
    28.05.1897 – 03.11.1970
    Dr. of Linguistics

    T. was born on 16/28 May, 1897 in Odessa into a family of a primary school teacher (in 1938, T. changed his family name from Trotsky into Tronsky). In 1915, T. entered the Classical Department of the History and Philology Faculty of the Novorossiysk University where he studied under the professors B. Varneke, S. Papadimitriu and M. Mandes, and attended the course by A. Tomson on a comparative grammar of Indo-European languages and Sanskrit.  In 1918, T. was awarded a faculty gold medal for his essay Tsitseron ob iskusstve [Cicero on Art]. On his graduation in 1919, the university retained T. at the Chair of Roman Literature. As of 1921, he began teaching classical languages at the Odessa Institute for Public Education and at the Institute of Archaeology. In 1923, T. moved to Petrograd, the then center of the best scientific capabilities. There he becomes a part-time researcher at the Research Institute for Comparative History of Western and Oriental Literatures and Languages at the FON LGU (ILYaZV), and later, a staff worker of the Leningrad Department of the Central Archive and the Russian Public Library.

    In 1926-1929, T. gave a course on the Classical Literature as an assistant professor of the Faculty of Linguistics and History of Material Culture at the LIFLI and LGU. He resumed these activities in only 1932. The forced interruption in his teaching career followed certain experiments in the field of higher education when they had moved classical language teaching to the Chair of Romanic and Germanic Languages and thus practically terminated this discipline. A new turn in the history of classical education occurred in 1932 after a decree on restructuring the higher education when the first Soviet Chair for Classical Languages and Literatures was established. Its main body of teachers included I. Tolstoy, A. Boldyrev, Ya. Borovsky, S. Melikova-Tolstaya, N. Baranov, and O. Freidenberg. In 1932-1934, A. Malein gave lectures on Roman authors; in 1934-37, Academician S. Zhebelev lectured on the Ancient Greek literature, and Prof. B. Kazansky, on the Roman literature. For some time, until the teaching of certain subjects was moved to the Faculty of History, A. Zograf and V. Duvernoy, also taught at this chair. T. worked at the chair from the first days of its existence – first, as a part-time teacher, and as of 1935, as a regular staffer. He gave courses on the history of Roman literature, on the history of Latin, commented on Roman authors, taught postgraduate students and gave lessons on the Latin syntax. The reinstatement of the chair did not mean mechanical revival of the old methods and traditions. The Soviet philology was set new tasks – in particular, to revise the literature and language courses in the light of the theory of Marxism. The Classical Philology Chair undertook a set of relevant steps towards this goal that resulted in the publication of Problema grecheskogo literaturnogo yazyka [The problem of Standard Greek] (1932-34); Antichnyye teorii yazyka i stilya [The Classical theories of language and style] (a collection of papers, 1935-37); Antichnaya literaturnaya teoriya [The classical theory of literature] (1937-39). T. took active participation in all these projects. In 1938, following the Council of People’s Commissars’ resolution Ob uchenykh stepenyakh i zvaniyakh [On Scientific Degrees and Titles], the LIFLI Academic Council conferred T. the Cand. of Science degree without a viva voce. In January 1939, he was appointed an assistant professor of the Classical Philology Chair.

    On 11 November 1941, during the Leningrad Blockade, T. defended his doctoral dissertation Istoriya antichnoy literatury [The History of Classical Literature] at a session of the LGU Academic Council. Soon he was evacuated to the City of Saratov together with the university where he continued reading his old courses and began preparations for new ones: a history of the Greek language, methods of research in philology, and a comparative grammar of Indo-European languages.  On March 7, 1943, he was appointed an acting head of the LGU Chair of Classical Languages by an order of the All-Union Committee on Higher Education Institutions, and in July he received his diplomas of a Dr. of Philology and a professor of the LGU.

    On his return to Leningrad in January 1945, T. resumed his work at the university and the State Public Library. As of July 1950 (with a five-year break of 1952-1957) and until his demise, T. worked as a part-time researcher of the Institute of Language and Thought (The Institute of Linguistics of the USSR Academy of Sciences).

    The name of the outstanding scientist I. M. Tronsky is widely known not only to professional philologists, but also to everyone who has ever taken an interest in classical studies. His Istoriya antichnoy literatury [History of the Classical Literature] has had several editions and was translated into ten languages; it is a classical work, unprecedented by the magnitude and completeness of the material presented. His many probes into various problems of the classical literature and languages make a special chapter in classical studies and have served as a nurturing ground for many generations of researchers.