Polivanov Evgeny Dmitrievich (1891–1938), Russian linguist, orientalist and literary critic. One of the founders of Soviet sociolinguistics and historical phonology, the creator of the original theory of linguistic evolution, the author of many works on the languages of the East and Central Asia, the developer of methods for teaching the Russian language of non-Russians, a participant in language construction.
Polivanov was born on February 28 (March 12) 1891 in Smolensk in an impoverished noble family. In 1908, he graduated from the Riga Alexander School and went to study in St. Petersburg, where he managed to get two philological educations: in 1911, Evgeny Dmitrievich graduated from the Practical Oriental Academy in Japanese rank, and in 1912 - from the historical-philological faculty of St. Petersburg University. Among his university teachers were two of the largest Russian linguists of the time - I. A. Baudouin de Courtenay and L. V. Shcherba. Polivanov’s linguistic views evolved under their influence.
In 1913–1921 he taught at the Eastern Faculty, then at the faculty of social sciences at St. Petersburg University, and from 1919 he worked as a professor. Over the next two years after his graduation, Polivanov had to work in several places at once to provide for himself. He taught French, Russian and Latin, as well as general phonetics. With work, he combined the study of languages and the publication of his first scientific works. So, in 1914, the study “Systematic Comparison of Ryukyuan and Japanese Languages” was published, in which Polivanov attempted to identify the common roots of the Japanese language and the dialects of the Ryukyuan Islands that are distantly related to it.
In 1914, a friendly circle of formalist philologists began to form in Petrograd, which later became known as OPOJAZ (Society for the Study of Poetic Language). One of the founders of the OPOJAZ was Polivanov, who joined V. B. Shklovsky and L. P. Yakubinsky in the second half of 1914. Evgeny Dmitrievich's articles were included in the first of "Compendiums on the Theory of Poetic Language" (released in the fall of 1916) - one of the main publications of the OPOJAZ.
Trips in Japan
In 1914-1916 he was on scientific trips in Japan. During his trips, Polivanov became acquainted with almost all the main Japanese dialect groups: northeastern (Aomori, Akita), eastern (Tokyo), western (Kyoto, Morogi), southern (Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita) and a separate group of dialects of Ryukyu (Naha).
Since 1917, he actively participated in revolutionary activities, in late 1917 - early 1918 he headed the Eastern department of the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs. Evgeny Polivanov was not only engaged in scientific activities, but also led an active political life. In 1917, he joined the left Mensheviks and headed the press department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Provisional Government. During the October Revolution, he passed to the Bolsheviks and from November 1917 began to act as one of the two deputy commissars of foreign affairs L. D. Trotsky, in particular, he prepared the initial text of the Brest Peace. Fulfilling a government mission, Polivanov translated and published secret treaties of the tsarist government with other states.
However, in early 1918, a conflict occurred between Evgeny Dmitrievich and Trotsky, during which the People's Commissar accused the scientist of official abuse. Polivanov on this occasion was under investigation, according to the results of which he was acquitted. Due to the conflict, he left the People's Commissariat of Foreign Affairs.
Being an outstanding polyglot, he successfully completed the government task of translating and publishing secret agreements between the tsarist government and other states. He was a participant of the Civil War, since 1919 member of the Communist Party (membership suspended in 1926 due to drug addiction Polivanov), in 1921 he worked in the Comintern. In 1921–1926 he was a professor at the Central Asian University in Tashkent, and from 1926–1929 he headed the linguistic department of the Russian Association of Scientific Institutes of Social Sciences in Moscow. In 1929 he made a public speech at the Communist Academy with a report directed against the “New doctrine of language” N.Y. Marr, after which he was persecuted and was forced to again go to Central Asia. He conducted scientific and pedagogical work in Samarkand (1929-1931), Tashkent (1931-1934), Frunze (now Bishkek) (1934-1937).
Arrest and death
At the end of July 1937, a cipher telegram was signed from Moscow, signed by the Deputy People’s Commissar Affairs of M.P. Frinovsky, with the order to arrest Professor Polivanov and deliver him to Moscow. The arrest occurred on the night of August 1 and the scientist was soon transferred to the capital, to Lubyanka. Evgeny Dmitrievich was accused of working for foreign intelligence and espionage under Article 58-1a of the Criminal Code and sent to Butyrka Prison. Torture was applied to the scientist, forcing to give false testimonies; the protocol of October 15 tells about the espionage activities of Polivanov, who allegedly has been working for Japanese intelligence since 1916. Evgeny Dmitrievich signed the protocol, but his handwriting was noticeably different from the previous one, which is explained, according to researchers, as a consequence of torture. In the list of person’s subject to trial by the Military College of the Supreme Court of the USSR of November 1, 1937, Yevgeny Dmitrievich was signed for repression in the 1st category (execution) signed by I.V. Stalin and V.M. Molotov.
On January 25, 1938, a closed meeting of the Military College of the Supreme Court of the USSR took place, in which Polivanov refused the testimony given at the preliminary investigation and pleaded not guilty. He said that he always worked honestly and was never a spy. The court found him guilty of crimes and sentenced to capital punishment. On the same day, Yevgeny Dmitrievich Polivanov was shot at the Kommunarka firing range and buried there.
Polivanov is a broad-based linguist, he studied a lot of languages, primarily Russian, Japanese, Uzbek, Dungan, etc., and the most diverse problems of linguistics. Pupil I.A. Baudouin de Courtenay, Polivanov retained his understanding of phonology as "psychophonetics." He dealt a lot with stress problems, in particular, as early as the 1910s for the first time in world science he determined the nature of Japanese stress. A general outline of phonology and stress in world languages is contained in Polivanov’s book, “An Introduction to Linguistics for Eastern Studies”. He first described a number of Japanese dialects.
Actively studying modern languages, Polivanov sought to identify patterns of historical changes in the language, developing the ideas of I.A. Baudouin de Courtenay and N.V. Krushevsky and putting forward, in particular, the principle of saving sound effort, further developed by R. Jacobson and A. Martin. He strove to create a general theory of linguistic development, which he called linguistic historiology, and developed a fragment of it - the theory of phonological convergence and divergence. At the same time, he posed the problem of linguistic forecasting, prediction of the future development of languages.
Ларцев В.Г. Евгений Дмитриевич Поливанов. Страницы жизни и деятельности. М., 1988
Поливанов Е.Д. Труды по восточному и общему языкознанию. М., 1991