I︠U︡riĭ Knorozov, born in 1922 in Kharʹkov, Ukraine, was a Russian anthropologist and linguist, famous for his breakthrough in the decipherment of Maya writing, who also made important contributions to the study of other ancient scripts, signaling theory, and semiotics. His parents had Russian and Armenian roots and were members of the Soviet intelligentsia. By the time Knorozov graduated from high school, he spoke Russian, Ukrainian, and some German. In 1939, he was admitted to the Khar'kov State University where he majored in history. During WW II Knorozov served in the Russian military. After the end of the war in 1945, he went on to complete his undergraduate studies at the Lomonosov Moscow State University. His thesis on the Shamun Nabi mausoleum and the associated oral and written tradition was based on his fieldwork in Xorazm (Khwārezm / Khorezm), Uzbekistan, as a member of the archaeological-ethnographic expedition of 1945-1948. In 1949, Knorozov moved to St. Petersburg where he was appointed junior research fellow at the Museum of the Ethnography of the Peoples of the USSR. About that time, Knorozov became increasingly fascinated with the problem of the decipherment of Maya hieroglyphs. Two monographs published in 1963 and 1975 summarized Knorozov's work on the Maya writing system. Also in 1975, he received the prestigious Gosudarstvennai︠a︡ premii︠a︡ of the USSR for his contributions to Maya studies. As early as the mid-1950s, Knorozov also became interested in the decipherment of the Easter Island (Rongorongo) script. During the 1960s-1970s, Knorozov's research interests extended into signaling theory and semiotics as he participated in the Linguistics section of the Research Council on Cybernetics of the National Academy of Sciences of the USSR. He also took part in archaeological and ethnographic expeditions to the Kuril Islands.
This research resulted in several publications on Ainu ethnography and archaeology. Knorozov died of pneumonia in St. Petersburg in 1999. He was survived by his daughter Ekaterina and granddaughter Anna.
From the description of I︠U︡riĭ Valentinovich Knorozov papers, 1945-1998. (Dumbarton Oaks Research Library). WorldCat record id: 437824303