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Tartu–Moscow Semiotic School


The Tartu–Moscow Semiotic School is a scientific school of thought in the field of semiotics that was formed in 1964 and led by Juri Lotman. Among the other members of this school were Boris Uspensky, Vyacheslav Ivanov, Vladimir Toporov, Mikhail Gasparov, Alexander Piatigorsky, Isaak I. Revzin, and others. As a result of their collective work, they established a theoretical framework around the semiotics of culture.

The Tartu-Moscow School of Semiotics developed an original method of multidimensional cultural analysis. The languages of culture are interpreted as secondary modelling systems in relation to verbal language. This method permits a productive understanding of the use of different languages of culture.

This school is widely known for its journal, Sign Systems Studies (formerly published in Russian as Труды по знаковым системам), published by Tartu University Press. It is the oldest semiotics journal in the world, established in 1964.

In its first period, the 1960s and 1970s, TMSS followed a structuralist approach and was strongly influenced by Russian formalism. Since the 1980s, its approach can be characterized as post-structuralist, and is connected with the introduction of Juri Lotman's concept of semiosphere and its relation to organicism.

From 1990s, TMSS has been succeeded by the Tartu Semiotics School, which is based in the Department of Semiotics of the University of Tartu and led by Kalevi Kull, Peeter Torop, Mihhail Lotman, and others.



  • Andrews, Edna 2003. Conversations with Lotman: Cultural Semiotics in Language, Literature, and Cognition. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  • Grishakova, Marina. "Around Culture and Explosion: Juri Lotman and the Tartu-Moscow School in the 1980-90s." In: J. Lotman. Culture and Explosion. Ed. by M. Grishakova. Berlin-New York: De Gruyter, 2009.
  • Grishakova, Marina, and Silvi Salupere. Theoretical Schools and Circles in the Twentieth-Century Humanities: Literary Theory, History, Philosophy. Routledge, 2015.
  • Levchenko, Jan; Salupere, Silvi (eds.) 1999. Conceptual Dictionary of the Tartu-Moscow Semiotic School. (Tartu Semiotics Library, vol 2.) Tartu: Tartu University Press.
  • Paterson, Janet M. 2000 (1993). Tartu School. In: Makaryk, Irena Rima (ed.), Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literary Theory: Approaches, Scholars, Terms. Toronto: Toronto University Press, 208–211.
  • Salupere, Silvi; Torop, Peeter; Kull, Kalevi (eds.) 2013. Beginnings of the Semiotics of Culture. (Tartu Semiotics Library, vol 13.) Tartu: University of Tartu Press.
  • Sebeok, Thomas 1998. The Estonian connection. Sign Systems Studies 26: 20–41.
  • Waldstein, Maxim 2008. The Soviet Empire of Signs: A History of the Tartu School of Semiotics. VDM Verlag Dr. Muller.
  • L’École sémiotique de Moscou-Tartu / Tartu-Moscou : Histoire. Épistémologie. Actualité. 40 (Slavica Occitania ed.). Toulouse: Université de Toulouse-Le Mirail. Ekaterina Velmezova. 2015. ISBN . 
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