Shakhmatov, Aleksei Aleksandrovich

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Shakhmatov, Aleksei Aleksandrovich


Born June 5 (17), 1864, in Narva; died Aug. 16, 1920, in Petrograd. Russian linguist; specialist in Russian chronicles. Academician of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (1894).

Shakhmatov graduated from Moscow University in 1887 and became a privatdocent there in 1890. He became a professor at the University of St. Petersburg in 1910 and was chairman of the Division of Russian Language and Literature of the Academy of Sciences from 1906 to 1920. Shakhmatov was the founder of the historical study of the Russian literary language. He brought to light ancient koines—languages used for communication within a group speaking related languages or dialects—that differed from the individual dialects normally spoken. He studied the formation of the Russian nationality, Slavic ethnogeny, and questions of the original Slavic homeland and of Proto-Slavic.

Shakhmatov traced the history of Russian chronicle writing from the 11th to 16th centuries. He was the first to apply the comparative historical method to the study of chronicles, and he laid the foundations of the textual criticism of chronicles and of textual criticism as a science. Making extensive use of dialectal data in the interpretation of written sources, Shakhmatov gave consideration to ancient orthographic systems that hindered the reflection in writing of the special characteristics of the spoken language.

Shakhmatov studied the modern Olonets, Kaluga, and Riazan’ dialects, set up projects for the investigation of dialects, and analyzed and published the large amount of information acquired in these projects. In addition to research in Slavic accentology and the comparative phonetics and grammar of the Slavic languages, he carried out studies on ancient and modern Indo-European languages and the Finnish and Mordovian languages. He made an important contribution to the historical morphology of Russian. In theoretical linguistics, he did valuable work on grammatical forms, parts of speech, word groups, types of sentences, and the relationship of morphology and syntax.

Shakhmatov edited several parts of the academy’s Dictionary of the Russian Language (1891–1916). Under his leadership the academy’s Division of Russian Language and Literature became the center of philological studies in Russia. It organized the study of many ancient literary works and modern dialects. The division undertook the compilation of dictionaries and the preparation of the multivolume Encyclopedia of Slavic Philology; it resumed publication of the Complete Collection of Russian Chronicles. Shakhmatov organized the publication of a series of texts in the Old Church Slavonic and Russian languages and works of world literature, and he played a large role in reforming Russian orthography.


“Obshcherusskie letopisnye svody XIV i XV vv.” Zhurnal Ministerstva narodnogo prosveshcheniia, 1900, vol. 25, nos. 9 and 11; 1901, no. 11.
Razyskaniia o drevneishikh russkikh lelopisnykh svodakh. St. Petersburg, 1908.
Ocherk drevneishego perioda istorii russkogo iazyka. Petrograd, 1915.
Vvedenie v kurs russkogo iazyka, part 1. Petrograd, 1916.
Sintaksis russkogo iazyka, fascs. 1–2. Leningrad, 1925–27.
Obozrenie russkikh lelopisnykh svodov XIV-XVI vv. Moscow-Leningrad, 1938.
Ocherk sovremennogo russkogo literaturnogo iazyka, 4th ed. Moscow, 1941.
lstoricheskaia morfologiia russkogo iazyka. Moscow, 1957.


Izvestiia Otdeleniia russkogo iazyka i slovesnosti rossiiskoi AN, vol. 25. Petrograd, 1922. (Volume devoted to A. A. Shakhmatov.)
A. A. Shakhmatov, 1864–1920. Leningrad, 1930.
Obnorskii, S. P. “Akademik A. A. Shakhmatov.” Vestnik AN SSSR, 1945, nos. 10–11.
A. A. Shakhmatov: Sbornik statei i malerialov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1947.
Likhachev, D. S. “Shakhmatov-tekstolog.” Izvestiia AN SSSR: Seriia literatury i iazyka, 1964, vol. 23, issue 6.
Lur’e, Ia. S. Obshcherusskie letopisi XIV-XV vv. Leningrad, 1976.
Slavianskoe iazykoznanie: Bibliograficheskii ukazatel’ literatury, izdannoi v SSSR s 1918 po 1960 [parts 1–2], Moscow, 1963. (Part 1, nos. 546–609; part 2, nos. 332–41.)
Slavianskoe iazykoznanie: Bibliograficheskii ukazatel’ literatury, izdannoi v SSSR s 1961 po 1965. Moscow, 1969. (Nos. 427–45.)
Slavianskoe iazykoznanie: Bibliograficheskii ukazatel’ literatury, izdannoi v SSSR s 1966po 1970. Moscow, 1973. (Nos. 406–11.)


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