Peter Grossmann, 1933–2021

We mourn the passing of Peter Grossmann, who left an indelible mark on the field of Christian archaeology and architecture, especially as a result of a lifetime devoted to Egypt. His fieldwork activity and his publications inspired—and will continue to inspire—countless scholars and students. His numerous and wide-ranging publications, from his entries in The Coptic Encyclopedia (1991) and articles in scholarly journals (prominent among them his beloved Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte) to his seminal Christliche Architektur in Ägypten (2002), attest to a life spent in a quest for knowledge about the earliest and most important developments in Christian architecture in Egypt and their relationship to developments in the rest of the late antique Mediterranean world. His monumental and decades-long work at the vast pilgrimage center of St. Menas to the west of Alexandria, in its time one of the most popular anywhere, is especially noteworthy, but his work encompassed the entire country from the remote Kharga Oasis to the Sinai peninsula. It is thanks to his ground-breaking efforts that Egypt is now known as a region gifted with an exceptionally large and rich body of archaeological evidence on early Christianity.
Born in Potsdam, near Berlin, in 1933, Dr. Grossmann studied architecture and the history of architecture in Karlsruhe. He began his career working for the German Institute of Archaeology in 1962, first in Rome and Athens, then in Cairo (1965–1998). Even after his retirement, he remained active in fieldwork in Egypt, where he worked tirelessly to document endangered and in many cases now vanished architecture. Without his passion and stamina, our knowledge of this great heritage would be sadly impoverished. Undoubtedly, he was a remarkably prolific scholar of vast erudition; however, and just as exceptional to those of us who had the privilege of knowing and working with him, he was a man gifted with extraordinary sensitivity, kindness, and generosity, as well as with infectious good humour. Whether one was an untried doctoral student, a senior scholar, a Coptic monk, or an antiquities official, he offered to share information and documentation, facilitated access to the great library at the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut Kairo, and collaborated with unbounded enthusiasm.
Peter participated in the “First International Congress of Coptology,” which was held in Cairo in 1976, and in 1977 he became a founding member of the International Association for Coptic Studies (IACS). He was elected to the IACS Board as a Member at Large in 1980 and served in that capacity for four years. In 1984 the IACS established its “Cairo Center” in cooperation with the Société d’archéologie copte / Society for Coptic Archaeology and its then president, Mirrit Boutros Ghali, based in the grounds of the Boutrossiya adjacent to the Coptic Patriarchate in Abbassiya, Cairo. Peter Grossmann became the first (and only) Director of the IACS’s Cairo Center, holding that post for 37 years. His services to the IACS were immense, and he will be missed.
Elizabeth Bolman, Nicola Aravecchia, and Stephen Emmel

George P. Majeska (1936–2021)

George P. Majeska
April 28, 1936 – October 29, 2021
BSANA mourns the death of George Majeska, Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at the University of Maryland. He was an active member of our organization, having served on Program Committees (1976, 1985, 1987, 1991, 1997), Dumbarton Oaks Liaison Committees (1998-99, 2004), and two terms on the Governing Board (1976-1980, 1986-1990).
The following obituary, published by Dignity Memorial, may be found at this link: https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/fort-lauderdale-fl/george-majeska-10425328
———-
George Patrick Majeska, beloved father and grandfather, died at age 85 of complications from vocal cord cancer in Pompano Beach, Florida on Friday, October 29th, 2021. His quick wit, warm heart and intellectual curiosity will be missed tremendously.
George was born in Brooklyn, NY, on April 28th, 1936, to John “Jack” Majeska and Marguerite Fagan Majeska, a first generation American from Lithuania and fourth generation Brooklynite. He grew up in the Flatbush neighborhood but was selected to attend Regis High School in Manhattan, where he studied Latin, Greek and French, developing an early respect for the classics. George then studied Russian Orthodox Theology at St. Tikhon’s and at St. Sergius in Paris before returning to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Russian literature from Brooklyn College.
Having earned Woodrow Wilson and Ford Foundation fellowships, George received his PhD in History from Indiana University. While in Bloomington, George met and married the love of his life, fellow graduate student Marilyn Lundell Majeska, with whom he celebrated 53 happy years of marriage. After an academic year in Leningrad, George enjoyed his first of several fellowships at the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Research Center in Washington, where he developed lifelong friendships, colleagues and research interests. George then took his first teaching job at the State University of New York, Buffalo. In 1972, George and Marilyn moved to University Park, Maryland and George joined the University of Maryland – College Park faculty, where he was a professor of Russian and Byzantine History for 28 years, mentored many undergraduate and graduate students and published a highly acclaimed book and many articles in his field. He was president of the US National Committee for Byzantine Studies and an officer of the Early Slavic Studies Association. George also became a Fulbright Scholar and was delighted to take his young family to Munich, Germany for a year to live and explore Europe.
Throughout his entire life, George was curious and eager for knowledge, loved to travel and could be counted on to know a little something about almost any topic, particularly in the humanities or world history. He was passionate about classical music, closely followed national politics and loved hiking. George spoke fluent French and Russian, some German, Greek and Italian, and was teaching himself Spanish until just a few weeks before his death.
George was extremely proud of his two children and four grandchildren. He is survived by his daughters, Tanya Springer of Pompano Beach and Kristin Majeska of Portland, Maine, by his grandchildren, Alex Millones, Thomas Springer, Nicolas Millones and Amanda Springer and by his son-in-law, Luis Millones. He is predeceased by his wife Marilyn, his brother, Bruce Majeska, and his son-in-law, John Springer.
A Celebration of Life at Sea Watch on Ocean, 6002 N Ocean Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL, on Sunday, Nov 14, 2021 at 11:30 am.
———-
Alice-Mary Talbot has written the following note regarding his contributions as a Byzantinist.
George was a junior fellow at Dumbarton Oaks from 1965-67, working on his dissertation on Russian pilgrims to Constantinople. He received his Ph.D. from Indiana University, under the mentorship of George Soulis. During his long tenure at the University of Maryland, where he taught Byzantine and Russian history,  he was a regular user of the Dumbarton Oaks library. His dissertation was published by Dumbarton Oaks in 1984 as a book entitled Russian Travelers to Constantinople in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries. It includes five accounts of visits by Russian pilgrims to Constantinople with Old Russian texts, English translation and extensive commentary. The book remains to this day one of the most important studies on the principal churches and pilgrimage shrines in medieval Constantinople, an invaluable resource for those interested in the spiritual life and topography of the Byzantine capital city.
George was also a Visiting Fellow at Dumbarton Oaks in 1976-77 and a Fellow in 1988-89, and participated in several symposia, serving as co-symposiarch  (with Sharon Gerstel) for the 2003 symposium on The Sacred Screen: Origins, Development and Diffusion. In 1999 he was local arrangements co-chair for the Byzantine Studies Conference held at the University of Maryland in College Park.
———-
BSANA members may also be interested in revisiting the Oral History Interview with George Majeska, undertaken by Anna Bonnell-Freidin and Clem Wood in the Dumbarton Oaks Guest House (Fellows Building) on August 18, 2008.

IN MEMORIAM: Boris L’vovich Fonkich (1938–2021)

Boris L’vovich Fonkich was born February 25, 1938 in Cheliabinsk and died September 2, 2021 in Moscow. He was one of the world’s leading experts in Greek paleography and codicology and dedicated his life to the study of Greek manuscripts. He was a Senior Researcher of the Institute of World History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the founder and professor of the Department of Byzantine and Modern Greek Philology at the Moscow State University, a member of the Academy of Athens, and a member of the International Committee of Greek Paleography. Recently he was awarded an Order of Phoenix by the Greek government.

Fonkich published several books and more than three hundred articles in many languages. Fonkich’s unique talent of identification of handwritings of Byzantine and post-Byzantine scribes enabled him to re-date many manuscripts and illuminate activities of many Byzantine centers of book production. Fonkich had a wide range of interests, and the manuscripts he studied span from the eighth to the nineteenth centuries. He was particularly interested in several subjects:

  • Early Studite minuscule manuscripts, which he discovered in Russian and French libraries and introduced the new method of dating these manuscripts by the usage of diacritics.
  • The collection and preservation of early ninth- and tenth-century manuscripts with classical texts during the Palaiologan Renaissance, especially the activities of Theodoros Metochites and Nikephoros Gregoras.
  • Research and publication of post-Byzantine manuscripts and documents illuminating the ties between Greece and Russia.

Fonkich’s obituary will be incomplete without mentioning his intellectual integrity during the Soviet period. Fonkich was non-conformist, and he could not be corrupted or coopted by the sycophants who dominated the Byzantine studies in Soviet Union. Because of this, Fonkich was not allowed to defend his second PhD and was not allowed to travel abroad for research and conferences.

When Fonkich talked about manuscripts his passion and enthusiasm were contagious. He was very generous with his time and expertise and was always happy to answer questions from his colleagues and students. I, for one, will be always grateful for the spark that lit my own interest in Greek manuscripts.

Nadezhda Kavrus-Hoffmann

Obituary for UCLA Professor Emeritus Bariša Krekić (14 October 1928 – 12 January 2021)Bariša Krekić

Bariša Krekić was a professor in the History Department from 1970 until his retirement in 1994, and taught the history of Byzantium as well as the history of the medieval and early modern Balkans. He served UCLA also as Director of the Center for Russian and East European Studies.
His family had long roots in Ragusa, where he was born in 1928. The stories he heard in his childhood were those of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, while he himself experienced the deprivations of the Second World War and the limitations of the Communist Era. He studied at Belgrade where he obtained his doctorate in 1954. The famous Russian Byzantinist George Ostrogorsky soon depended on him as his assistant at the Serbian Academy of Sciences. He became a professor at the University of Novi Sad in 1956, a position he held until 1970. During this time, he had Visiting Professorships at Indiana University, Bloomington, and at Stanford University. UCLA recruited him as professor in 1970. Visiting Professorships took him to Dumbarton Oaks (Harvard’s international research center in Byzantine Studies) as well as the Central European University in Budapest.
Formative for his future academic development was the year he spent as a postdoctoral researcher in Paris, 1957-8, where he was a contemporary of Helene Ahrweiler. Among his teachers were the historian of Byzantine culture and social life Paul Lemerle and the historian Fernand Braudel. It was the latter who impressed upon his students the importance to study the Mediterranean as a historical and cultural unit, rather than as a divided space, and Ragusa as a key location in this context.
Indeed, Krekić engaged with these issues several decades before ‘Mediterranean Studies’ became a distinct area of research, and his seminal works have become the point of departure for a current generation of scholars who turn their attention to Ragusa as the place where the multiple interactions between the Western, Catholic and the Eastern, Orthodox worlds come into focus. He often spent his summers in Venice, collecting Ragusan documents in the Archivio di Stato. He entrusted his ample research notes to the UCLA library. He also remained connected with Dubrovnik, holding several leadership functions in its Inter-University Center.
Bariša Krekić’s books include: Dubrovnik (Raguse) et le Levant au Moyen Âge  (1961), Dubrovnik in the 14th and 15th Centuries: A City between East and West (1972), Dubrovnik, Italy and the Balkans in the Late Middle Ages (1980), Dubrovnik: A Mediterranean Urban Society, 1300–1600 (1997), Unequal Rivals: Essays on Relations between Dubrovnik and Venice in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries (2007), in addition to edited volumes, articles and book reviews.
His active years in the History Department coincided with those of several great scholars, many of them trained in Europe: the Medievalist Gerhardt Ladner, the Byzantinist Speros Vryonis Jr., the Ottomanist Stanford Shaw and the Armenian historian Richard Hovanissian, as well as the historian of Ancient Greece Mortimer Chambers, the historian of Russia Hans Rogge and the historian of early modern France Eugen Weber. He was also closely associated with Henrik Birnbaum in the Department of Slavonic Literatures and Cultures.
Together with his wife Ruzica Popovic-Krekić, herself a scholar of Russia and active in Serbian cultural life in Los Angeles and beyond (she passed away in 2011, making his last years of declining health very lonely), Bariša Krekić maintained a circle of learned friends— all of them Californians by deep conviction—with personal or intellectual roots in Europe. Some of the colleagues mentioned above together with their equally learned wives belonged to this circle, along with many others. Dinner table conversations were always spirited and wide-ranging. He also cared deeply about students and younger scholars.
His gracious manner, deep erudition and warm humanity will be fondly remembered by all who were fortunate to know him.
— Obituary from Claudia Rapp, UCLA Department of History (1993-2011), University of Vienna (2011-)

© 2022 Byzantine Studies Association of North America, Inc. (BSANA) . All Rights Reserved.