Alexander Zaicev on Classical Scholars and Approaches to Scholarship. REFLECTION UPON HIS GUIDE-LINES AND APOPHTEGMS FRO M 1960ies–70ies

As a pupil and subsequently colleague of prof. Alexander I. Zaicev (1926–2000) the author endeavours to cite certain apophthegms on classical scholarship and/or approaches to antiquity formulated or hinted at by that outstanding scholar and teacher at the University of St. Petersburg on one occasion or another between 1960 and 2000. While still academically young, A. I. Zaicev had already had a gruelling experience of a person incarcerated in the Kazan psychiatric special institution (read jail) for political confinement in the course of the Stalinist repressions from 1947/48. After his liberation in 1954 Zaicev was able to return to Leningrad, finish his studies and continue them as a post-graduate. As an assistant at the Classical department of the Philological Faculty he made his way both in scholarship (PhD at Philological faculty in 1969 and Doctorship in historical studies at the Historical Faculty in 1987) and teaching. His strong opinions were remarkable indeed as part of both lived-through experience and cognitive adventure of his much-enduring generation. As Zaicev’s teaching resulted meanwhile in a sort of school following a few of his interests and / or principles it seems not void of sense to recollect and to think about his agrapha dogmata — not by chance one of his aphorisms said that “among other things, pupils inherit their teacher’s mistakes”. Of course some distortions are liable to happen in the situation when the spoken words were not written down, but the present author aspires to retain the ipsissima verba, as well as their smart, apodictic turn, sometimes ornamented with grotesque or touched with a stroke of humour. This circumstance was not the only but the major cause for preserving the original language here. On the other hand, these sayings turned out to need a commentary — otherwise the original meaning of some of them might well be misunderstood now. On the whole they seem to preserve the atmosphere Zaicev’s personality created — extremely active both as teacher and scholar, nourished by the reading of Plato and Aristotle, formed by the ideas of the (ir)responsibility of modern intellectuals (strong impact of Julien Benda’s thought) and deeply influenced by his Catholicism. Both his character and thought were steeled by early imprisonment and further political pressure and — last not least — by everyday hard work at this University until his last days. His maxims on scholarship and scholars form a unique whole and are well understandable when regarded in the context of his tasks, reading and ideas.

Gavrilov A.K._Alexander Zaicev on Classical Scholars and Approaches to Scholarship