Among the tens of thousands of Stalin soldiers advancing on Berlin in April 1945, a 21-year-old boy who played the violin and was a regular reader of the Sherlock Holmes adventures marched. Described as eccentric and brilliant, with an innate curiosity for knowledge, he was not a common soldier. In addition to his taste for music, he had a facility for drawing and for languages, he could read Arabic, Chinese and Greek.
Like many other young people, Yuri Valentinovich Knórosov had left his daily life buried in the Soviet Union to join the “” great patriotic war “” against the Nazis. His hopes of returning alive from the German front were very slim. In the last days of April, before the fall of Berlin, the young intellectual found a respite inside the National Library that burned in flames.
Between the chaos and the destruction, Yuri managed to rescue a couple of works that would change his life: Relation of the things of Yucatan by Fray Diego de Landa and a facsimile edition of Los códices mayas . On May 2, 1945, the flag of the hammer and sickle waved over the top of the German Reichstag.
Yuri Knórosov returned to Russia in the second half of 1945 with his peculiar spoils of war. At that time he did not have in mind to enter in the knowledge of the Mayan writing; the rescue of the two works was not due to a project planned in advance, it responded more to an intellectual challenge. In 1947 his teacher, the archaeologist Serguei Tokarev gave him an article by the German Mayist Paul Schellhas, entitled “” The deciphering of the Mayan scriptures – an insoluble problem? and he said: “If you think that any writing system produced by human beings can be read by other human beings, why do not you try to read the Mayan hieroglyphics?”
Yuri started by learning Spanish. What he learned about Mexico and particularly Yucatan was exclusively through books and documents. In times of cold war, under the decline of Stalinism, immersed in a distrustful society, accustomed to betrayal, Knórosov never had the opportunity to leave the Soviet Union to travel to Mexico; He did not know personally the inscriptions, the sculptures, the stelae or the great Mayan cities. His research was done within the four walls of his office in Leningrad and there he discovered the phonetic code of Mayan hieroglyphic writing.
“Thanks to the emergence of Knórosov in Maya epigraphy, “wrote Michael D. Coe,” we can now hear the ancient Mayan glyphs as the scribes wrote them, and not interpret them as dull visual patterns. The major triumph of Knórosov lies in the demonstration that Mayan scribes were able, and often succeeded, to write syllabically, conceiving each glyph as a consonant followed by a vowel. Most Mayan words are of a single syllable made of a consonant-vowel-consonant combination. They used to be written generally with two glyphs, but the vowel of the second glyph was not pronounced. The foundation of the Knosrosov proposal is its ‘principle of synharmony’, according to which the second mute vowel of these combinations often repeats the vowel of the first glyph. A) Yes,
Yuri came to the conclusion that the “hieroglyphic alphabet” contained in the work of Fray Diego de Landa was just a syllabary and he launched his thesis in the Soviet Ethnographymagazine in 1952 – only 7 years after returning from the war-. His discovery was accepted worldwide until the 1970s; his interpretation of the alphabet of Fray Diego de Landa has been equated with the discovery of the Rosetta stone that provided the key to deciphering the Egyptian hieroglyphics.
The Mazatlan Post