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Born Aug. 17, 1753, in Gyarmat, near Győr, Hungary; died Jan. 6, 1829, in Brno. Czech Enlightenment figure, one of the founders of Slavic studies, and a leader of the Czech Renaissance.
From 1768 to 1776, Dobrovsky studied in the philosophy department and later in the theology department of Charles University in Prague. In 1784 he became a member of the Royal Society of Sciences in Prague and in 1820 an honorary member of the Russian Academy.
Dobrovsky opposed the Austrian Empire’s policy of germanizing the Slavs. He founded the comparative study of the Slavic languages, as well as of Slavic culture and history. Dobrovsky was the first to establish the periodization of Czech literature and the Czech language. He provided a scientific description of the grammatical structure of the Czech language, using the literary language of the 16th century as the basis for a contemporary literary language. This helped to preserve many archaisms in the Czech language and at the same time showed its richness. Dobrovsky considered the period of Hussism to be the most important in the history of the Czech national culture, although he was critical of the activities of the Taborites. Dobrovsky unmasked the cult of St. John of Nepomuk, which symbolized the victory of the Catholic reaction over the Hussite Czech kingdom.
In a series of articles entitled “Critical Attempts to Purge Czech History of Recent Fabrications” (1803-19), Dobrovsky criticized Czech legends. In 1783-84, together with F. M. Pelcl, he published a collection of historical documents, Scriptores rerum bohemicarum. He also published the scientific Slavicist collections Slavin (1806-08) and Slovanka (1814-15). Of great significance for the development of Czech poetry were the prosodic rules formulated by Dobrovsky in 1795, which he based on the inherent features of the Czech language. Dobrovsky made a major contribution to the study of Old Slavonic language and writings (Glagolitic, 1807, and Principles of Old Slavonic, 1822). He also contributed to the strengthening of Czech-Russian cultural ties.
WORKSSpisy a projevy, vols. 5-23. Prague, 1936-63. (Publication incomplete.)
Výbor z dila. Prague, 1953.
Insituciones linguae slavicae dialecti veteris. [Vienna] 1852.
In Russian translation:
Grammatika iazyka slavianskogo po drevnemy narechiiu, parts 1-3. St. Petersburg, 1833-34.
REFERENCESPalacký, F. Biografiia losefa Dobrovskogo. Moscow, 1838. (Translated from German.)
Josef Dobrovský, 1753-1953: Sbornik studii k dvoustemu vyroci narozeni. Prague, 1953.
L. N. SMIRNOV