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The 230th anniversary of Ivan Nosovich

The 230th anniversary of Ivan Nosovich
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Today, October 7th, is the 230th anniversary of Ivan Nosovich, (1788, Chausy district – 1877), the Belarusian linguist, lexicographer, folklorist, ethnographer and archeologist.


Ivan Nosovich is a known researcher who, along with some other cultural figures, most fully and comprehensively reflected the life and spiritual world of the Belarusian people.

Ivan Nosovich was born in Grazivets village, Bykhov county, Mogilev province (now Chausy district) in a psalm-reader’s family. He received primary education at Mogilev gymnasium, and then he graduated from Mogilev theological seminary.

In 1812, Ivan Nosovich started his teaching career as a teacher of Russian language and literature at Orsha higher religious school, then he transferred to Mstislavl seminary, and in 1818 he became the rector of Mogilev seminary. Working Odyssey threw him from one place to another. He was a head, superintendent, teacher at Dinaburg gymnasium, and also Molodechno and Sventsiany noble schools. While working at Sventyanski school, he was awarded the Order of St. Stanislaus third degree. In 1843, after an unexpected retirement, he returned to Mstislavl, where he engaged in research work.

Since childhood Ivan Nosovich knew the Belarusian language and many Belarusian songs, customs and rituals. Moving in the service, as well as a trip to Mogilev, Grodno and Minsk provinces gave him an opportunity to become much more familiarized with folk art and gather a rich lexical, phraseological and folklore material from different regions of Belarus. On its basis, the researcher wrote "Short Philological Observations of the Belarusian Speech", "Small Belarusian Dictionary", and "Collection of Belarusian Proverbs" and sent the manuscripts to the Department of Russian Language and Literature of Petersburg Academy of Sciences in 1850.

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In 1852, Ivan Nosovich published a collection of "Belarusian Proverbs" with explanations. The "Collection of Belarusian Proverbs", which appeared in 1867, included about 3,500 proverbs, tongue-twisters, wishes, greetings, etc. The book reveals the meaning of proverbs and their origins, gives equivalents from the Russian language, and in many cases from other languages as well. The Russian Geographical Society awarded a gold medal to this edition. With such a high appreciation, Ivan Nosovich felt inspired for further work. In 1868, his book "Belarusian Proverbs and Riddles" was published, and "Belarusian Songs" in 1873; the latter included more than 350 songs dedicated to various family and calendar rites, customs and holidays. On behalf of the Archaeological Commission and the Department of Ethnography of the Russian Geographical Society, Ivan Nosovich compiled the first historical dictionary of the Belarusian language "Index of Ancient Belarusian Words Selected from the Acts Relating to the History of Western Russia", with the explanation of about 13 thousand words and concepts. For some unknown reason, the dictionary was not published, but the author was awarded the Uvarov Prize.

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He achieved fame with the explanatory and translation "Dictionary of the Belarusian Language", on which he had worked selflessly during 16 years (finished in 1863, published in 1870). The result was a directory of the original, which covered more than 30 thousand words that existed in the Belarusian language in the 18th – middle of the 19th centuries. The linguist awarded the Demidov Prize for this book. After the release of the dictionary, Ivan Nosovich continued to collect lexical materials, which resulted in "Supplement to the Belarusian Dictionary", published after the author's death in 1881. The supplement was included into the second facsimile edition of the "Dictionary of the Belarusian Language" (1983).

Ivan Nosovich also paid attention to history, particularly the ancient history of Belarus. In his historical and linguistic study "About the Tribes Who Inhabited the Territory of Belarus before the Time of Rurik" the author explains the origins of ancient tribal names from native Belarusian words. In "Memories of My Life", which belongs to the historical and memoir genre, the author widely and deeply characterizes the life, customs and relationships of various circles of contemporary society.

Ivan Nosovich’s works on folklore and ethnography, his publications on oral-popular tradition and the Belarusian dictionary played a huge role in the development of the Belarusian science. His studies are still relevant today.

You can find more information in the factual database "Belarus in Persons and Events".