Vladimir Dal

Vladimir Dal bigraphy, stories - Linguists

Vladimir Dal : biography

November 10, 1801 – September 22, 1872

Vladimir Ivanovich Dal (alternatively transliterated as Dahl; ; , Volodymyr Ivanovych Dal; November 10, 1801 – September 22, 1872) was one of the greatest Russian language lexicographers. He was a founding member of the Russian Geographical Society. He knew at least six languages including Turkic and is considered to be one of the early Turkologists. During his lifetime he compiled and documented the oral history of the region that was later published in Russian and became part of modern folklore.


Vladimir Dal worked in Ministry of Domestic Affairs, the chief administrative center of minister (1841). His responsibilities included overseeing investigations of murders of children in the western part of Russia.

In 1840 the Damascus Affair had revived the medieval blood libel canard in Europe (the anti-Semitic accusation that Jews use the blood of Christian children for ritual purposes), and Czar Nicholas I instructed his officials, especially Vladimir Dal, to thoroughly investigate the legend. In 1844, just 10 copies of a 100-page report, intended only for the czar and senior officials, were submitted by Dal. The paper was entitled "Investigation on the Murder of Christian Children by the Jews and the Use of Their Blood." Dal claimed in his report that, although the vast majority of Jews had not even heard of ritual murder, ritual murders and the use of blood for magical purposes were committed by sects of fanatical Hasidic Jews.Poliakov, Léon. The History of Anti-Semitism: Suicidal Europe, 1870-1933. University of Pennsylvania Press. 2003. p.84.

In 1914, 42 years after Vladimir Dal’s death, during the blood libel trial of Menahem Mendel Beilis in Kiev, Dal’s then 70-year-old report was published in St. Petersburg under the title Notes on Ritual Murders. The name of the author was not stated on this new edition intended for the public.Poliakov, Léon. The History of Anti-Semitism: Suicidal Europe, 1870-1933. University of Pennsylvania Press. 2003. p.357.


  • In 1986 a museum in Moscow, Russia, was opened in honor of Vladimir Dal.
  • In Luhansk, Ukraine, the home of Vladimir Dal has been converted into a Literary Museum where the employees managed to collect the lifetime editions of Dal’s complete literary works.
  • In 2001, a Luhansk (Ukraine) university was named after Vladimir Dal, the East Ukraine Volodymyr Dahl National University (from his name in Ukrainian).


  • Dal, Vladimir, Explanatory Dictionary of the Live Great Russian language, Vol.I, Diamant, Sankt Peterburg, 1998 (reprinting of 1882 edition by M.O.Volf Publisher Booksellers-Typesetters)
  • Terras, Victor, Handbook of Russian Literature (Yale University Press, 1990), ISBN 0-300-04868-8

Early life

His father was a Danish physician named Johan Christian von Dahl (1764 – October 21, 1821). He was a linguist versed in German, English, French, Russian, Yiddish, Latin, Greek and Hebrew languages. His mother, Maria Freitag, was of German and French descent (Huguenots). She spoke at least five languages and came from a family of scholars.

The future lexicographer was born in the town of Lugansky Zavod, in Novorossiya under the jurisdiction of Yekaterinoslav Governorate, part of Russian Empire, which is now Luhansk, Ukraine. Dal’s house and museum in [[Luhansk, Ukraine.]] Novorossiya was part of Russian colonization, where Russian was imposed as a common language in cities, but the Ukrainian remained prevalent in smaller towns, villages, and rural areas outside the immediate control of colonization. On the outskirts, the ethnic composition varied and included such nationalities as Ukrainians, Greeks, Bulgarians, Armenians, Tatars, and many others. Dal grew up under the influence of this various ethnic mixture of people and cultures.

Dal served in the Russian Navy from 1814 to 1826, graduating from the St Petersburg Naval Cadet School in 1819. In 1826, he began studying medicine at Dorpat University and took part as a military doctor in the Russo-Turkish War (1828–1829) and the campaign against Poland in 1831–1832. Following disagreement with his superiors, he resigned from the Military Hospital in St. Petersburg and took an administrative position with the Ministry of the Interior in Orenburg Governorate, serving in similar positions in St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod before his retirement in 1859.