Yevgeny Polivanov

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Yevgeny Polivanov : biography

28 February 1891 – 25 January 1938

Yevgeny Dmitrievich Polivanov ({{ruЕвге́ний Дми́триевич Полива́нов; 28 February (12 March) 1891 – 25 January 1938)}} was a Soviet linguist, orientalist and polyglot.

He wrote major works on the Japanese, Chinese, Uzbek, and Dungan languages and on theoretical linguistics and poetics. He participated in the development of writing systems for the peoples of the Soviet Union and also designed a cyrillization system for Japanese language, which was officially accepted in the Soviet Union and is still the standard in modern Russia. He also translated the Kyrgyz national Epic of Manas into Russian. Polivanov is credited as the scholar who initiated the comparative study of Japanese pitch accent across dialects. Uwano, Zendo. 2009. On the Reconstruction of Japanese Accents. Talk given at the Research Centre for Japanese Language and Linguistics, University of Oxford

During the Russian revolution of 1917, Polivanov was active first in the Menshevik Party, then he joined the Bolshevik Party . He worked in the Oriental section of the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs in 1917–1918 and in the Komintern in 1921.

In 1928–1929 he expressed disagreement with Nikolas Marr’s Japhetic theory, which was promoted by the regime at the time. After this he was blackballed from all scholarly institutions in Moscow and Leningrad and until his arrest "was essentially in exile in Central Asia, where he accomplished fruitful work on the local languages."Katerina Clark, Petersburg: Crucible of Cultural Revolution (Harvard University Press, 1995: ISBN 0-674-66336-5), p. 219.

During the Great Purge, Polivanov was arrested on 16 August 1937 and was charged with spying for Japan. On 25 January 1938, he was tried in a closed session of the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR and pleaded non-guilty. He was sentenced to death and executed by NKVD near Moscow. He was rehabilitated in 1963.