Kokovtsov, Paul Konstantinovich°

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KOKOVTSOV, PAUL KONSTANTINOVICH ° (1861–1942), Russian Orientalist. Kokovtsov, who was born in Pavlovsk, near Leningrad, came from a noble family of distinguished engineers. In his school days he developed a deep interest in Hebrew which widened in his university studies at St. Petersburg (completed in 1884) into mastery of the various branches of Semitics and included Turkic and Sanskrit philology and Near Eastern history and literature. His thesis, a capital work of great and meticulous learning, was devoted to Ibn Barun's 11th–12th century Arabic work comparing Hebrew with Arabic; published as Kniga sravneniya yevreyskogo yazyka s arabskim ("Book of Comparison of Hebrew with Arabic," 1893), it formed the first volume of a series on the history of medieval Hebrew philology and Judeo-Arabic literature. Kokovtsov's Novye materialy dlya kharakteristiki Iekhūdy Khayūdzha, Samuila Nagida i nekotorykh drugikh predstaviteley yevreyskoy filologicheskoy nauki v x, xi i xii veke ("New Materials for the Characterization of Judah Ḥayyuj, Samuel Nagid and Other Representatives of Jewish Philological Scholarship in the 10th–12th Centuries," 1916) was published as the second volume in the same series.

Kokovtsov succeeded his own teacher, Daniel *Chwolson, as professor of Hebrew at St. Petersburg University in 1894. His influence as a teacher was enormous; most Russian Semitists during his tenure of about 50 years were his disciples. He began publishing in 1885, and most of his publications, scattered in journals and collections, deal with Aramaic, Syriac, Turkic, and Ethiopic manuscripts and epigraphic material. Kokovtsov worked on Moses Ibn Ezra's Arabic book on Hebrew poetry (in Vostochnye Zametki, 1895); the commentary of Tanḥūm on Jonah (in Sbornik statey uchenikov… V.R. Rosena, 1897); Hebrew volumes in the Imperial Academy of Sciences' Asiatic Museum (Notitia codicum hebraicarum…, 1905), and on Baḥya's lifetime (in Eng., in Livre d'hommage à… S. Poznański, 1927). His edition of the 10th-century Jewish Khazar correspondence (Yevreysko-khazarskaya perepiska v X veke, 1932) is outstanding. Kokovtsov was elected a full member of the Academy of Sciences in 1909. In 1913, as expert in the blood-libel trial of Mendel *Beilis, Kokovtsov helped to expose the ignorance of the prosecution. This gave him deep satisfaction; he annually reread the proceedings of the trial.


N.V. Pigulevskaya, in: Vestnik Leningradskogo Universiteta, 2 (1947), 106–18; I. Yu. Krachkovski, Izbrannye sochineniya, 5 (1958), 416–27; idem (I.J. Kratschkowski), Die russische Arabistik (1957), passim; Palestinskiy sbornik, 74 (1964), 170–81 (incl. bibl.).

[Moshe Perlmann]