Iosif Abgarovich Orbeli

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Orbeli, Iosif Abgarovich


Born Mar. 8 (20), 1887, in Kutaisi; died Feb. 2, 1961, in Leningrad. Soviet Orientalist and public figure; academician of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1935). Academician and first president (1943–47) of the Academy of Sciences of the Armenian SSR.

Orbeli graduated from the University of St. Petersburg in 1911. From 1914 to 1931 he was a docent and a professor at the University of St. Petersburg (later Leningrad State University). In 1920 he began working at the State Hermitage Museum, where he established the department of the Orient, the largest center of Soviet Oriental studies at that time; from 1934 to 1951 he was director of the museum. During the Great Patriotic War (1941–45), he remained in Leningrad during the blockade and carried out the important work of preserving valuable museum specimens; after the war he headed the restoration of the Hermitage. From 1955 to 1960 he was dean of the Oriental department of Leningrad State University, and from 1956 to 1961 he was head of the Leningrad division of the Institute of the Peoples of Asia of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.

Orbeli’s main research was devoted to Caucasian studies and the history of the medieval culture of the Near East; his studies on the Sassanid and Seljuk cultures are of special value. From his student years he participated in the archaeological study of the medieval city of Ani; he was a very close associate of N. Ia. Marr. He conducted excavations in the region of Lake Van (Turkey, 1916) and in Armenia (1929, 1936, and later). A number of Orbeli’s works were devoted to medieval culture, Armenian epigraphy, the folk epic, the Kurdish language, and Armenian and Georgian architecture. He was deeply involved in educational work and established a school of Soviet Caucasian scholars that was characterized by a combination of work in the fields of material culture and philology. He was awarded two Orders of Lenin, two other orders, and medals.


Izbr. trudy. Yerevan, 1963.
Nadpisi Marmashena. Petrograd, 1914.
Sasanidskii metall. Moscow-Leningrad, 1935. (With K. V. Trever.)
“Problema sel’dzhukskogo iskusstva.” In the collection [Trudy] III Mezhdunarodnogo kongressa po iranskomu iskusstvu i arkheologii Moscow-Leningrad, 1939.
Basni srednevekovoi Armenii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1956.


Iuzbashian, K. N. Akademik I. A. Orbeli. Moscow, 1964.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.