In Mexico, next to the world's largest museum of the Maya Indians, there is a monument to a Russian scientist. Yuri Knorozov, carved from a yellowish stone, is exactly the same as in his famous black and white photograph, and in his hands you can see his favorite Asya. It was her that Yuri Valentinovich repeatedly tried to add to the list of co-authors of his works, but the editors constantly crossed out the cat's name. The monument in Merida is already the second erected to the Russian scientist by grateful descendants of the Indians, but in his homeland the project of such a memorial is still being considered. Perhaps it will be opened in 2022, to the centenary of the birth of the great linguist and ethnographer.
Yuri Valentinovich Knorozov was born in 1922 in Kharkov, in a large family of an engineer. Interestingly, at the age of five, little Yura, playing rounders, accidentally received a strong blow to the head. For some time the boy saw nothing, but then his vision was restored. All his life, the famous scientist was sure that this case revealed unusual abilities in him, because, as life later showed, he was very different in character from all other family members.
Knorozov's youth fell on the terrible war years, but in 1948 he brilliantly graduated from the history faculty of Moscow University and took up research, which at that time could even sit down: the young scientist was passionately interested in shamanic practices and ancient languages, and most of all he was fascinated by the mystery of writing Maya, considered insoluble in those years. It was this statement of the problem that Yuri perceived as a challenge; later he said:
Acquaintances recall that in 1949 Yuri Knorozov, whom his acquaintances employed at the Museum of Ethnography of the Peoples of the USSR in Leningrad, lived in a tiny room at the museum. He wore a military overcoat and tunic, in which he was demobilized, the room, a little more than three meters wide, was completely filled with books, and the scientist decorated the walls with hieroglyphs of the pre-Columbian era. But he was lucky with his colleagues - at work he became friends with Lev Gumilyov, visited the Fountain House, where Gumilyov lived with his mother, Anna Akhmatova. Anna Andreevna felt sorry for the young scientist and even gave him a winter hat.
A little later, the life of the brilliant scientist improved a little, he got married and settled with his wife in a communal apartment on Nevsky. In 1952, his first article on deciphering the Maya writing was published. In 1955, he defended his doctoral dissertation, although by that time he did not have a Ph. D. degree. A few years later, the whole world learned about the incredible breakthrough of the Russian scientist, and a well-deserved recognition came to Yuri Knorozov.
It is possible that the Russian genius managed to do what was considered impracticable, since he looked at the task more broadly: Knorozov considered the deciphering of ancient symbols only as a practical approach to a more general theory of signaling and the collective. It was these studies that became the main ones in his life, they fit everything that interested the scientist, including shamanic practices. Later, these studies resulted in the theory of the collective and fascination.
The scientist assured that his beloved cat pushed him to the main idea of how to approach the ancient "unsolvable" letters. Observing how she teaches kittens to catch mice, the scientist made conclusions, which later formed the basis of the article "On the classification of signaling." Cats were generally Knorozov's passion. Around 1970, his friends gave him a Siamese cat, which was then rare in the USSR. Aspid, or Asya for short, became the chief assistant to the researcher; he called her "his co-author." Later, the descendants of Asya lived with Knorozov, and until the end of his life he had a tender affection for them.
The personality of the famous Soviet scientist has acquired many legends. So, for example, it was said that in 1945 he personally obtained extremely rare books from a burning library in Berlin: the Franciscan monk's manuscript "A report on affairs in Yucatan" and "Mayan codes" in the Guatemalan edition, which helped him in his work. In fact, at the end of the war, Knorozov served as a telephone operator in Moscow, since he did not get to the front for health reasons, but he really did have old rarities, and no one knows where.
Another myth says that Knorozov defended his doctoral dissertation for exactly three minutes, after which the entire council applauded him standing up. This fact is difficult to verify, but it is true that Yuri Valentinovich became a doctor of sciences, bypassing the degree of candidate. Well, the last legend, which claims that Knorozov became a shaman from his youth, made it possible for his opponents and envious people to explain the successes of the Russian genius. The American Eric Thompson, not resigned to the fact that he could not figure out the written code of the pre-Columbian civilization, called the followers of Knorozov “
But the statement that Knorozov has never been to the American continent is wrong. In the 1990s, he visited Guatemala and Mexico, was awarded orders and medals there, although he really made his discovery while sitting in his office at a writing table. As the scientist himself said, "To work with texts, it is not necessary to jump on the pyramids."
Deciphering ancient documents sometimes leads to the discovery unexpected facts about the ancient world.