Volume 32, Issue 1-2
  • ISSN 0302-5160
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9781
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The article portrays Wolfgang Steinitz (1905–1967) as an broad-minded linguist, whose life was determined by the political events in Europe between 1924 and 1967 and by his personal fate as a Jewish scientist, as a German communist of middle-class intellectual origin, and as a refugee to the USSR, Estonia and Sweden, who became an influential figure in the humanities in post-war East Germany. The paper focuses on detecting features of an inner biographical coherence in Steinitz’ oeuvre — despite the outer changes he had to experience with respect to political systems (Nazi-Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union, Sweden, Soviet-occupied East-Germany/GDR) and scientific fields he had to deal with (Finno-Ugristics, Ostyakology, folklore, ethnology, German studies, and other subjects). The paper illustrates features of biographical coherence emerging from a productive connection of personal motivation and philological method. The way in which Steinitz (1934) analyzed the grammatical parallelisms in Finno-Karelian folk poetry as ‘variations under conditions of contrast’ provides the over-all pattern for the range of scientific endeavours he addressed in his subsequent scientific undertakings. With reference to the personal friendship of the two émigré scholars Wolfgang Steinitz and Roman Jakobson, the paper suggests the life-saving role a commitment to scientific work can play as a balancing pole in difficult political times.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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