The Head of the Department: Iakerson Shimon M.
Semitology and Hebrew studies are foundational Orientalist disciplines and they have been pursued at the FAAS from shortly after its foundation in 1855. In the same year, the Department of Jewish, Syriac and Chaldean Philology was headed by Prof. Daniil A. Khvolson (1819-1911), a distinguished Semitic scholar and translator of the Bible into the Russian language. Subsequently, Semitic studies at the University were taught by Prof. Khvolson’s former students and scholars of the Petersburg school of Semitic and Hebrew studies that he founded, who considerably expanded the range of Semitic disciplines represented at the Department. In particular, Academician Pavel K. Kokovtsov (1961-1942) introduced advanced study of the Assyrian (Akkadian) and Judeo‑Arabic languages as well as the unique collections of Judeo-Arabic manuscripts stored in St. Petersburg.
After 1917, Semitic studies were deprived of the single organizing centre as the Faculty of Oriental Languages was broken up in 1919. However, the centre for the study and teaching of Semitic disciplines was recreated at the University in 1933 owing to the work of highly professional specialists in Semitic studies (Assyriologists V. K. Shileiko and A. P. Riftin, linguist-semitologist and Africanist N. V. Yushmanov, semitologist and Iranologist and expert on Judeo‑Arabic literature A. Ya. Borisov, ethnographer-semitologist I. N. Vinnikov, historiographer and specialist in Arabic literature V. I. Belyaev). At the time, the Department of Semitic and Hamitic Languages offered three principal areas of specialization – Assyriology, Hebrew Studies and Arabic Studies, while traditionally the emphasis was not only on the teaching of languages, but also on history, culture and literature.
In the terrifying years of Stalin’s purges, during the period of the campaign against ‘rootless cosmopolitism’ (1949), the Department of Assyriology and Hebrew Studies (the name of the Department changed several times) was closed, but Hebrew studies and Semitology were still taught, to a limited extent, at the Department of Arabic Philology. Later such remarkable teachers and researchers as G. M. Gluskina, PhD, and G. M. Demidova, PhD, played a pivotal role in maintaining the tradition of Semitic studies.
Historical justice has since been restored, and the Department of Semitology and Hebrew Studies has been fully functioning since 2011.
Apart from the classical languages (Biblical and Mishnaic Hebrew, Biblical and Talmudic Aramaic, Classical Arabic) the Department focuses on the teaching of Jewish paleography, codicology, modern Hebrew, contemporary Hebrew literature, and the study of Ge’ez and Sabaean.
The wide array of languages in conjunction with the teaching of comparative Semitic linguistics, theoretical and applied courses in the history of development of languages and regions, ethnography and culture, ancient and modern literatures, the reciprocal influence of cultural and ethnolinguistic features of native target-language speakers – all of this constitutes a unique scholarly and teaching experience in the modern educational practice.
The Head of the Department: Redkin Oleg I.
Languages taught: Arabic, Aramaic, Egyptian Arabic, Iraqi Arabic, Modern Hebrew, Old Hebrew, Saudi Arabic, Syrian Arabic.
- Arabic Grammar
- Arabic Linguistic Texts
- Arabic Phonology
- Arabic Prosody
- Aramaic Language
- Arabic and Classical Arabic Prose
- Business Correspondence in Arabic
- Classical Arabic Poetry
- Diplomatic Correspondence and Protocol in Arabic
- Documents in Classical Arabic
- Egyptian Colloquial Arabic
- Ethnolinguistics of Southern Arabia
- Iraqi Colloquial Arabic
- Field Recordings of Arab Folklore.
The teaching of Arabic at St. Petersburg University dates back to the 1820s. Among the founders of Arabic studies in St. Petersburg was O. Senkovsky, a celebrated scholar, author, and journalist.
From 1840 until 1861 Arabic at the University was taught by the Egyptian shaykh Muhammad Tantawi, who had come from Al-Azrah University in Cairo. Tantawi wrote accounts of Petersburg and Russia along with plenty of other materials that have attracted little scholarly attention. He also – for the first time in Europe – embarked on the study of the Egyptian dialect of Arabic.
In the 1850s, Arabic was also taught by A. K. Kazembek, the first dean of the Faculty of Oriental Languages.
The Department of the Arabic Language and Literature was organized by M. Navrotsky.
V. F. Girgas, another prominent scholar, joined the Department in 1865. He published a whole range of Arabic anthologies, which are still used to teach students today. His student V. Rozen is rightfully credited as the father of the Russian school of Arabic studies, whereas his colleagues and followers N. Ya. Marr, V. V. Bartold, and I. Yu. Krachkovsky brought international recognition to the Russian school of Oriental studies.
Prof. V. Belyaev, I.Yu. Krachkovsky’s former student, honorary member of the Academy of Arabic in Cairo, and outstanding expert on Arabic manuscripts, headed the Department of Arabic from 1951 until 1974. His leadership produced a plethora of wonderful scholars, among them A. A. Iskoz-Dolinina, a specialist in pre-Muslim, medieval, and new Arabic literature, and Professor O. B. Frolova, who is widely known for her work in the field of the Arabic language, literature, and culture.
Since 1998, the Department of Arabic Philology and Semitology has been led by Prof. O. I. Redkin, DSc (Philology). Under Prof. O. I. Redkin’s leadership, the Department began developing new methods of teaching Arabic, while preserving the distinct and holistic approach of the classical Oriental studies instruction.
1955 saw the inauguration at the Department of Arabic Philology of the Semitology Division. Ancient Hebrew grammar and the reading of Biblical texts were then taught by L. Z. Pisarevsky, an Arabist. In 1956, however, all the major Semitic disciplines were taught by Prof. I. N. Vinnikov, an eminent scholar of the languages and cultures of Semitic peoples.
The most senior teachers of the Semitology Division are G. M. Demidova and L. V. Malygina.
- G. M. Demidova, I. N. Vinnikov’s student, joined the Department in 1961. She specializes in teaching ancient and medieval Hebrew and Aramaic. Over the years of working at the Department, Ms. Demidova has published 50 papers on Aramaic studies, comparative Semitic linguistics, and the language of the Bible.
- L. V. Malygina has been with the Department since 1974. She teaches modern Hebrew and Mass Media.