Russian explorer and ethnologist; born in Wilna Jan. 1, 1856. He graduated from the gymnasium of Wilna, and became identified with the revolutionary movement. Compelled to leave Russia (1880), he went to Switzerland, where he remained four years, studying at Zurich and Bern, and keeping in touch with the revolutionary movement as editor of the "Vyestnik Narodnoi Voli," which had a clandestine circulation in Russia. On his return to Russia in 1884 he was arrested and confined for three years in the Petro-Pavlovsk fortress in St. Petersburg, and in 1887 was sentenced by order of the czar to exile for ten years in northern Siberia, in the province of Yakutsk.
In Siberia Jochelson made a special study of the language, manners, and folk-lore of the aboriginalinhabitants, especially that of the Tungus, Yakuts, and the fast-disappearing Yukaghirs. His articles on those subjects began to attract attention, and in 1894 he and a fellow exile, Bogoras (Tan, also of Jewish descent), were by special permission attached to the first expedition of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society (1894-97), which had been sent to that part of Siberia at the expense of a wealthy Russian promoter of art and science named Sibiryakov. On that expedition Jochelson discovered among the natives in the outlying regions two Yukaghir dialects then considered as extinct. The Imperial Geographical Society published his discoveries in the field of ethnology, while the linguistic reports of his investigation were acquired for publication by the Imperial Academy of Science.
When the Jessup expedition to north Asia was being fitted out by the American Museum of Natural History (New York), the Russian Imperial Academy of Science, in answer to a request, recommended Jochelson and the above named Bogoras as the men best fitted to contribute to its success by knowledge of the country and of the native dialects. After another two years and a half in the distant north, Jochelson returned with the expedition to the United States, and is now (1904) studying there the material which he and his wife, who accompanied him in the last journey, have collected. Jochelson's chief work on his special subject is "Materyaly po Izucheniyu Yukagirskavo Yazyka i Folklora" (Material for the Study of the Language and Folk-Lore of the Yukaghirs), published by the Imperial Academy of Science (vol. i., St. Petersburg, 1900). He wrote also "Ueber die Sprache und Schrift der Jukagiren" (Bern, 1900). He has contributed largely to scientific journals in various languages.