Born Feb. 28, 1886, in St. Petersburg; died Nov. 30, 1962, in West Berlin. German philologist, Slavicist, and specialist in Balkan studies.
Vasmer graduated from the University of St. Petersburg, where he taught beginning in 1909. He later taught at the universities of Saratov (1917), Tartu (1918–21), Leipzig (1921–24), Berlin (1925–47), and Stockholm (1947–49). Vasmer’s chief works dealt with the linguistic contacts between the Slavs and the Greeks, Iranians, and Turkic and Finno-Ugric peoples, the migrations and settling of the Slavic, Baltic, Iranian, and FinnoUgric peoples in Eastern Europe, East European anthroponymy and toponymy, and the influence of the Slavic languages on Albanian and other languages.
Vasmer’s most important work was his etymological dictionary of the Russian language (vols. 1–3, 1950–58), the most comprehensive and linguistically reliable dictionary of its kind. Vasmer also founded and edited the Zeitschrift für slavische Philologie (since 1925), supervised the publication of one of the first reverse dictionaries of Russian, and edited the Dictionary of Russian Hydronomy as well as a compilation of all known Russian geographical names.
Vasmer was elected a foreign corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in 1928. He published a series of monographs on the philology and culture of the Slavic peoples (vols. 1–10, 1925–33).
WORKSBeiträge zur historischen Völkerkunde Osteuropas, vols. 1–4. Berlin, 1932–36.
Studien zur albanesischen Wortforschung. Dorpat, 1921—.
Russisches geographisches Namenbuch, vols. 1–7. Wiesbaden, 1962–75.
In Russian translation:
Greko-slavianskie etiudy, vols. 1–3. St. Petersburg, 1906–09.
Etimologicheskii slovar’ russkogo iazyka, vols. 1–4. With a supplement by O. N. Trubachev. Moscow, 1964–73.
A. A. KOROLEV