The Info List - Lev Gumilev

Lev Nikolayevich Gumilyov (Russian: Лев Никола́евич Гумилёв; 1 October 1912, St. Petersburg – 15 June 1992, St. Petersburg) was a Soviet historian, ethnologist, anthropologist and translator from Persian. He had a reputation for his highly non-orthodox theories of ethnogenesis and eurasianism.


1 Life 2 Ideas 3 Criticism 4 Works 5 References 6 External links

Life[edit] His parents were two prominent poets, Nikolay Gumilyov
Nikolay Gumilyov
and Anna Akhmatova. They were divorced when Lev was 7 years old, and his father was executed when Lev was just 9. Lev spent most of his youth, from 1938 until 1956, in Soviet labor camps. He was arrested by NKVD
in 1935 and released, but rearrested again and sentenced to five years in 1938. After serving the time, he joined the Red Army
Red Army
and took part in the Battle of Berlin. However, he was arrested again in 1949 and sentenced to ten years in prison camps. In order to secure his release, Akhmatova published a dithyramb to Joseph Stalin, which did not help to release Lev, although it possibly prevented her own imprisonment. The order for her arrest had already been prepared by Soviet secret police, but Stalin decided not to sign it. Relations between Lev and his mother were strained, as he blamed her for not helping him enough. She described her feelings about the arrest of Lev and the period of political repressions in Requiem.

Young Lev with his parents in 1913

After Stalin's death, Gumilyov joined the Hermitage Museum, whose director, Mikhail Artamonov, he would come to appreciate as his mentor. Under Artamonov's guidance, he became interested in Khazar studies and steppe peoples in general. In the 1950s and 1960s he participated in several expeditions to the Volga Delta
Volga Delta
and North Caucasus. He proposed an archeological site for Samandar as well as the theory of the Caspian transgression in collaboration with geologist Alexander Alyoksin as one of the reasons for Khazar decline.[1] In 1960 he started delivering lectures at Leningrad University. Two years later, he defended his doctoral thesis on ancient Turks. From the 1960s, he worked in the Geography Institute, where he would defend another doctoral thesis, this time in geography. Although his ideas were rejected by the official Soviet doctrine and most of his monographs banned from publication, Gumilyov came to attract much publicity, especially in the Perestroika
years. As an indication of his popularity, the Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev ordered the L.N.Gumilyov Eurasian National University (Евразийский Национальный университет имени Л. Н. Гумилёва) to be erected just opposite his own palace on the central square of the new Kazakh capital, Astana. Ideas[edit] Gumilyov attempted to explain the waves of nomadic migration that rocked the great steppe of Eurasia for centuries by geographical factors such as annual vacillations in solar radiation, which determine the area of grasslands that could be used for grazing livestock. According to this idea, when the steppe areas shrank drastically, the nomads of Central Asia began moving to the fertile pastures of Europe or China. To describe the genesis and evolution of ethnic groups, Gumilyov introduced the concept of "passionarity", meaning the level of activity to expand typical for an ethnic group, and especially for their leaders, at the given moment of time. He argued that every ethnic group passes through the same stages of birth, development, climax, inertia, convolution, and memorial. It is during the "acmatic" phases, when the national passionarity reaches its maximum heat, that the great conquests are made. Gumilyov described the current state of Europe as deep inertia, or "introduction to obscuration", to use his own words. The passionarity of the Arabic world, on the other hand, is still high, according to him. Drawing inspiration from the works of Konstantin Leontyev
Konstantin Leontyev
and Nikolay Danilevsky, Gumilyov regarded Russians as a "super-ethnos" which is kindred to Turkic- Mongol
peoples of the Eurasian steppe. Those periods when Russia has been said to conflict with the steppe peoples, Gumilyov reinterpreted as the periods of consolidation of Russian power with that of steppe in order to oppose destructive influences from Catholic Europe, that posed a potential threat to integrity of the Russian ethnic group. In accordance with his pan-Asiatic theories, he supported the national movements of Tatars, Kazakhs, and other Turkic peoples, in addition to those of the Mongolians and other East Asians. Unsurprisingly, Gumilyov's teachings have enjoyed immense popularity in Central Asian countries. In Kazan, for example, a monument to him was opened in August 2005. Criticism[edit] Several researchers, such as Vadim Rossman,[2] John Klier,[3] Victor Yasmann,[4][5] Victor Schnirelmann,[6] and Mikhail Tripolsky describe Gumilyov's views as antisemitic.[7] According to these authors, Gumilyov did not extend this ethnological ecumenism to the medieval Jews, whom he regarded as a parasitic, international urban class that had dominated the Khazars
and subjected the early East Slavs
East Slavs
to the " Khazar
Yoke". This last phrase he adapted from the traditional term "Tatar Yoke" for the Mongol
domination of medieval Russia, a term Gumilyov rejected for he did not regard the Mongol
conquest as a necessarily negative event. In particular, he asserted that the Radhanites
had been instrumental in the exploitation of East Slavic people and had exerted undue influence on the sociopolitical and economic landscape of the early Middle Ages. Gumilyov maintained that the Jewish culture
Jewish culture
was by nature mercantile and existed outside and in opposition to its environment. According to this view, Jews share a specific way of thinking, and this is associated with the moral norms of Judaism. According to Gumilev, the medieval Jews also did not bear arms themselves, but waged wars by proxies or mercenaries.[8][9][10] Works[edit]

The Hsiung-nu (1960) Ancient Turks (1964) Гумилёв, Лев Николаевич (1970). Поиски вымышленного царства: Легенда о государстве пресвитера Иоанна [Searching for an Imaginary Kingdom: The Legend of the Kingdom of Prester John] (in Russian). Москва: Наука.  The Hsiung-nu in China (1974) Ethnogenesis and the Biosphere
of Earth (1978) Ancient Rus
Ancient Rus
and the Great Steppe
Great Steppe
(1989) An End and a New Beginning (1989) From Rus to Russia (1992)


^ (in Russian) Лев Гумилёв. Открытие хазарии. Москва. Айр Пресс, 2006. ^ Rossman, Vadim, et al. Russian Intellectual Antisemitism in the Post Communist Era (Studies in Antisemitism Series). Univ. of Nebraska Press, 2005 ^ Klier, John. "The Myth of the Khazars
and Intellectual Antisemitism in Russia, 1970s–1990s". The Slavonic and East European Review, Volume 83, Number 4, 1 October 2005, pp. 779–781(3). ^ Yasmann, Victor. "The Rise of the Eurasians". The Eurasian Politician Issue 4 (August 2001) Radio Free Europe, 1992 ^ Yasmann, Victor. "Red Religion:An Ideology
of Neo-Messianic Russian Fundamentalism" Demoktratizat: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization. Volume 1, No. 2. p. 26. ^ Shnirelman, Victor A. "The Story of a Euphemism: The Khazars
in Russian Nationalist Literature." The World of the Khazars: New Perspectives. Brill, 2007. p. 353-372 ^ Malakhov, Vladimir. "Racism and Migrants". (Trans. Mischa Gabowitsch.) Neprikosnovennij Zapas, 2003 ^ Выбор веры (in Russian) ^ Tripolsky, Mihail. ОБ ИЗВРАЩЕНИИ ИСТОРИИ: Хазарский каганат, евреи и судьба России ^ Rossman, Vadim. The Ethnic Community and Its Enemies: Russian Intellectual Antisemitism in the Post-Communist Era Archived 2005-09-21 at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lev Gumilev.

Gumilevica: All about Gumilev (Biography, Bibliography, Works & Maps) Electronically available publications by Lev Gumilyov
Lev Gumilyov
(Russian) Lev Gumilev, Ethnogenesis and Eurasianism
by Alexander Sergeevich Titov

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WorldCat Identities VIAF: 59131742 LCCN: n85264852 ISNI: 0000 0000 8137 9235 GND: 11953889X SELIBR: 213331 SUDOC: 030711096 BNF: cb12207230z (data) BIBS