Institute of Eastern and South Eastern European History

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PhD Project

Lev Gumilev, the origins of his ideas and their reception in contemporary Russia and the post-Soviet world

Lev Nikolayevich Gumilev (1912-1992) was the son of the famous Silver Age poets Anna Akhmatova and Nicolay Gumilev. He developed a very influential theory about the origins and developments of ethnic communities, which could be seen as deriving from a circular view on history. He considered the causes of the emergence of an ethnos to be analysable with theories derived from the natural sciences and that the development of an ethnic community and its members is largely although probably not exclusively a natural phenomenon. He does however leave a space for freedom where moral judgments are possible. He defined ethnos as an entirely autonomous category, independent of language and even of his, though somehow special definition of culture, which is essentially the world of dead artefacts, but also of legal and other institutions, which can be inherited from one ethnos to another. Ethnicity is above all the stereotype of behaviour (стереотип поведения), which permits to distinguish those who belong to us (свои) from strangers. The project aims at analysing the origins of Gumilev´s thought in late Imperial and early Soviet Russia, as well as his influence on contemporary debates in Russia in the Eurasianist and other discourses.