Academician Ja. F. Karski (1861-1931)

There can be no-one involved in Belarusian affairs and, indeed, few scholars in the Slavonic field as a whole unfamiliar with at least the name of Jaūfim Fiodaravič Karski who, championing the study of Belarus in the field of language, dialectology, literature, ethnog­raphy and palaeography, achieved more than all his predecessors and perhaps also all his successors put together. Although Karski's life was devoted principally to the study of his native Belarus, his scholarly interests were wide, enabling him to produce, among other things, a Grammar of Old Church Slavonic that was well ahead of its time and ran into nineteen editions, an important study of Rus­sian dialectology and another of Cyrillic palaeography that is still of practical value and use today, as well as numerous articles on various other Slavonic languages. Karski's works number more than six hundred, thus permitting mention of only a few of the most important, but, from the humblest review article to the great monograph Belorusy, they show a precise approach within narrow terms of reference combined with a broad perspective of the field as a whole. Despite the unusually great extent of his scientific background Karski — unlike many of his contemporaries — was at pains to avoid generalisations and broad theories, confining himself to the discovery and accurate exposition of primary material. For example, in the introduction to his Западнорусские переводы Псал­тыри в 15-17 веках he enumerates many almost untouched fields of research, such as the influence of Polish and Old Church Slavonic on Belarusian, its relation to Ukrainian or its syntactical peculia­ rities, but stresses the importance of approaching the general from the particular, and thus justifies his own preference for the detailed study of individual monuments of literary history like the Perevody. And indeed, it is this reluctance to cut corners and seek quick gains that makes Karski's work such a valuable cornerstone for modern Belarusian linguistic scholarship.

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