Encyclopaedia Iranica Online

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KOSSOWICZ, Cajetanus Andreevich (b. Polotsk, Belarus, 14 May 1814 [for this date see below]; d. St. Petersburg, Russia, 7 February 1883; Plate I), distinguished Polish Orientalist and Hellenist, translator of Avestan and Old Persian texts.

Cajetanus (Kaètan) Kossowicz was born in a modest family in Polotsk (Belarus) on 2 May 1814 (according to the Julian Calendar, as stated by Kossowicz himself in a letter, apud Vigasin, p. 94, n. 37). His father was a priest. He received his primary education in Polotsk and Vitebsk and then went to the University of Moscow with a scholarship obtained for his competence in classical languages. At the University of Moscow, he studied Greek language and philosophy, in particular Plato (Frere, p. xxiii), as well as Hebrew, Arabic, and Persian. In 1836, he became a candidate for a doctorate in philology. He was so interested in Sanskrit and Old Iranian languages that he started to study them on his own, reaching a very good level of competence given the state of available knowledge at the time. After a period of teaching Greek at the Tambov Gymnasium of Tver (1839-43), he taught at the Gymnasium of Moscow (1843-50). In the years 1845-47, he was a lecturer at the Lazarev Institute of Oriental Languages in Moscow.

In 1850, Kossowicz moved to St. Petersburg and worked as editor of scientific works at the Imperial Public Library (Frere, p. xxiv). He was also in charge of the library’s Oriental books and manuscripts and catalogued them. In order to identify Indian manuscripts, in 1851 he was sent to London, where he had meetings with leading Indologists (Bongard-Levin and A. Vigasin, p. 72). In 1857, he became a correspondent member of the University of Kharkov (Ukraine).  The following year, he started teaching Sanskrit at the University of St. Petersburg, where in 1860 he was promoted to professor extra-ordinarius. In the same year, he also lectured on ancient Greek. In 1864, he received the degree of doctor in comparative linguistics at the University of Kharkov, while his chair of Sanskrit in St. Petersburg was confirmed. In 1866, after a period of research abroad, he was promoted to professor ordinarius.

His linguistic competence was very broad (see his bibliography): Apart from the study of Greek (see his Grammatika, 1843, translated from R. Kühner’s Ausführliche Grammatik der griechischen Sprache [Hannover, 1834-35]), and other publications, partly with his brother Ignatij Andreevich Kossovich [1808-78], professor of Greek at the University of Warsaw), he was also interested in Hebrew, evident from his translation of the Song of Songs (1879), Gesenius’ Grammar (1874), and the redaction of a chrestomathy (1875).

Kossowicz translated several Sanskrit texts (e.g., from the Mahābhārata, 1861) into Latin and Russian, although his project for a Sanskrit-Russian dictionary (1854-56) remained unfinished (Bongard-Levin and A. Vigasin, p.72; Prochorov, 2011). In the 1860s and 1870s, his focus was mainly on Iranian studies and in particular Avestan literature. He translated several Young Avestan texts in a chrestomathy of 1861 (in particular, a selection from Yasna 9, Widēwdād 19, with Cyrillic transliteration and a glossary), a larger choice of texts in 1865, and all the five Gathas (q.v.; 1867, 1869, 1871). His edition of the Old Persian inscriptions (1872), which included a glossary, confirmed the depth of his interests. The publication of this book with original texts printed in cuneiform script (q.v.) became so expensive that it eventually ruined his life (Frere, p. xxiv).

Although an autodidact in many fields, his teaching and editorial activities promoted the study of Old Iranian languages and of many Oriental subjects in the Russian academic framework. But no significant pupil, apart from Ivan Pavlovich Minayev (1840-90), followed his researches (Bongard-Levin and A. Vigasin, p. 73). While of Polish origin, Kossowicz did not play a particular influence on his country of origin, and apparently there are no direct relations between his researches on Avestan literature and those developed by Ignacy Pietraszewski (1796-1869), on which see Kinga Paraskiewicz (2014).


Selected chronological studies by Kossowicz (for a full bibliography of his publications see S. F. Ol’denburg, 1903 and A. A. Prochorov, 2011).

Elementarnaia grammatika grecheskogo yazyka, s prisovokupleniem zadach dlia perevodov s grecheskogo yazyka na russkii i s russkogo na grecheskii, sostavlennaya doktorom R. Kiunerom (Elementary Grammar of the Greek Language [...] prepared by Dr. R. Kühner…), Moscow, 1843; repr. 1868-69.

Sanskrito-russkii slovar’ (Sanskrit-Russian dictionary), St. Petersburg, 1854-56 (only 3 fascicles appeared).

Chetirye stat’i iz Zendavesty (Four articles from the Zend-Avesta), St. Petersburg, 1861.

Sâvitrî: Mahâb̔ârati Episodium, textum collatis Boppii et Calcuttensi editionibus recensuit lectionis varietatem adjecit, St. Petersburg, 1861.

Decem Ṣendavestæ Excerpta: Latine vertit sententiarum explicationem et criticos commentarios adjecit, textum archetypi ad Westergaardii, Spiegelii aliorumque lucubrationes Dr. Cajetanus Kossowicz, St. Petersburg, 1865.

Avesta Saratustricae Gatae, St. Petersburg, 1867-71.

Gat̔a Ahunavaiti: Ṣarat̔ustrica carmina septem latine vertit et explicavit, commentarios criticos adjectit, textum archetypi adhibitis Brockhausii, Westergaardii Spiegelii et Justii editionibus nec non lectionibus variantibus recensuit C. Kossowicz, St. Petersburg, 1867.

Gât̔a Ustavaiti: Latine vertit et explicavit textum archetypi adhibitis Brockhausii, Westergaardii et Spiegelii editionibus recensuit Dr. C. Kossowicz, St. Petersburg, 1869.

Sara‘tustricae Gâ‘tae: posteriores tres, latine vertit et explicavit; textum archetypi adhibitis Brockhausii, Westergaardii et Spiegelii editionibus recensuit Dr. C. Kossowicz, St. Petersburg, 1871.

Inscriptiones palaeo-persicae Achaemenidarum quot hucusque repertae sunt ad apographa viatorum criticasque Chr. Lassenii, Th. Benfeyi, J. Oppertii nec non Fr. Spiegelii editiones archetyporum typis primus edidit et explicavit commentarios criticos adjecit glossariumque comparativum palaeo-persicum subjunxit, St. Petersburg, 1872.

Evreyskaya grammatika Gezeniusa (tr. of Gesenius’ Hebrew grammar), St. Petersburg, 1874.

Evreyskaya khristomatiya sssylkami na grammatiku Gezeniusa i glossariem evreysko-russkim (Hebrew chrestomathy…), St. Petersburg, 1875.

Canticum canticorum ex Hebraeo convertit et explicavit Dr. Cajetan Kossowicz, St. Petersburg, 1879.

Bio-biographical literature and other works cited (in chronological order).

 “K. A. Kossovich,” Zhurnal Ministerstva narodnogo prosveshcheniya 226, 1883, pp. 35-42 (no listed author).

Sir Henry Bartle E. Frere, “Proceedings of the Sixtieth Anniversary Meeting of the Society,” JRAS 15/1, 1883, pp. i-cxl (on Kossowicz, pp. xxiii-xxiv).

A. Ja. Garkavi, “Pamjati K. A. Kossovicha,” Izvestiya Imperatorskogo Archeologicheskogo Obshchestva 10/3-6, 1884, pp. 483-87.

I. Rogozinnikov, “K biografii K. A. Kossovicha,” Istoricheskii Vestnik 31, 1885, pp. 516-18.

M. O. Marks, “Kaetan Andreevich Kossovich,” Russkaya Starina 52, 1886, pp. 605-20.

S.F. Ol’denburg, “Kaetan Kossovich,” Slovar’ professorov S.-Peterburgskogo Universiteta [...] I: A-L, St. Petersburg, 1896, pp. 346-54.

“Kossowicz Kajetan,” in Samuela Orgelbranda Encyklopedja Powszechna z illustracjami i mapami VIII (from the letter K. to Kruszyński), Warsaw, 1900, p. 518 (no listed author).

S.F. Ol’denburg, “Kossovich, Kaetan Andreevich,” Russkii Biograficheskii slovar’, St. Petersburg, 1903, pp. 301-3.

J.A.W. Reychman, “Kajetan Kossowicz, zapomniany hellenista i językoznawca polski XIX wieku,” Meander 18/11-12, 1963, pp. 504-10.

A. S. Shofman, “K.A. Kossovich kak vostokoved (1815-1883),” in Ocherki po istorii russkogo vostokovedeniya: Sbornik 6, Moscow, 1963, p. 255.

G. Bongard-Levin and A. Vigasin, The Image of India: The Study of Ancient Indian Civilisation in the USSR, tr. from the Russian by Peter Greenwood, Moscow, 1984, (on Kossowicz, pp. 71-73).

A. A. Vigasin, Izuchenie Indii v Rossii (ocherki i materialy), Moscow, 2008, pp. 94-97 and 116-39.

A. A. Prochorov, “Kaėtan Andreevich Kossovich (1814-1883) – Pervyj sanskritolog belorusskich zemel’,” in A. A. Prochorov, ed., Velikoe Kul’turnoe Nasledie Indii i Belarusi: k 75-letju Pakta Rericha, Minsk, 2011, pp. 13-28.

K. Paraskiewicz, “Thus Does Not Speak Zarathustra: On Polish Translations of the Avesta,” Rocznik Orientalistyczny 67/2, 2014, pp. 125-36.

Cite this page
Panaino, Antonio C., “KOSSOWICZ, CAJETANUS ANDREEVICH”, in: Encyclopaedia Iranica Online, © Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. Consulted online on 10 December 2023 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2330-4804_EIRO_COM_337706>
First published online: 2021

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