Lev Nikolayevich Gumilyov was a Soviet historian, ethnologist, anthropologist and translator from Persian. He had a reputation for his highly non-orthodox theories of ethnogenesis . Москва: Наука. The Hsiung-nu in China (); Ethnogenesis and the Biosphere of Earth (); Ancient Rus and the Great Steppe (). This chapter discusses Gumilev’s theory of ethnogenesis. Generally speaking, ethnogenesis proceeded in the following manner. At certain historical moments. Ethnogenesis and the Biosphere of Earth has 98 ratings and 9 reviews.

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When a reader of our day buys and opens a new book on history or ethnography, he is not sure he will even read it to the middle. It may seem boring to him, mindless, or just not to his taste. Still it’s all right for the reader- he’s simply lost a few dollars or roubles. But what of the author? The collecting of information. The posing of the problem. Decades of searching for the answer. Years at his desk.

Discussions with publishers’ readers. Battle with the editor. And suddenly it’s all to no purpose-the book isn’t interesting! It lies in libraries Which means his life has been in vain.

That is so terrible that one must take steps to avoid such a result. During his training at university and in postgraduate studies it is often hammered into the future author that his job is to copy out as many passages as possible from sources, to put them into some kind of order, and to draw a conclusion: The slave owners were baddies but things were good for them; the slaves were goodies, but it was tough for them.

All that, of course, is correct but that’s the trouble. No one wants to read about that, even the author himself. First of all, because it is so well known, and secondly, because it does not explain, for example, why some armies won, and others were defeated, and why some countries grew stronger and others weaker.

And, finally, why powerful ethnoi arose, and where boosphere vanished to, although there was obviously no complete extinction of their members. All these matters are wholly related to my chosen theme, i. A clear example of that is the Mongols in the twelfth to seventeenth centuries. But that pattern has also governed other peoples. Vladimirtsov formulated the problem succinctly: I shall come back to this subject time and again, firmly convinced that the reader will not shut the book at the second page.

Adn clearly, in order to solve the problem posed we must first of all ethnogeensis the method of research. Otherwise it would have been solved long ago, because the facts are so numerous that the point is not one of adding to them but of selecting those that relate to the matter in hand.

Even contemporary chroniclers have drowned in a sea of information that has not brought them closer to understanding the problem. Archaeologists and chroniclers have assembled, published, and commented on much information over the past centuries, and orientalists have increased the stock of knowledge even more, codifying sources in various languages Chinese, Persian, Latin, Greek, Armenian, and Arabic.

The amount of information has grown, but has not developed into a new quality. It has still remained unclear how a small tribe sometimes gained hegemony over half the world, then increased in numbers, and later disappeared.

I have posed the question of the extent of our knowledge, or rather ignorance of the subject this study is devoted to. The dissimilarity of ethnoi. When a people has lived for a long time in its homeland it seems to its members that their mode of life, manners of behaviour, tastes, opinions, and social relationships, that is to say everything that is now called the ‘stereotype of behaviour’, are the only possible and correct ones.

And if any deviations are encountered anywhere, it is because of ‘ignorance’, by which is often understood simply dissimilarity from themselves. I remember when I was a child and was fond of Mayne Reid, a very cultured lady said to me: It could not have occurred ethnogenesls her that a Melanesian witch-doctor might say with equal grounds: Narrow-minded Philistine judgments sometimes seem internally logical, even though based on ignorance of reality.

But they immediately crumble when confronted with it. Ethnography was not topical for the mediaeval scholars of Western Europe. Europeans’ communion with other cultures was limited to the Mediterranean basin, on the coasts of which lived descendants of subjects of the Roman Empire, some of them converted to Islam.


That, ethngoenesis course, separated them from the ‘Franks and ‘Latins’, i. But in the age of the great geographical discoveries the position was radically changed.

Lev Gumilyov – Wikipedia

While it then seemed justified to call Negroes, Papuans, or North American Indians ‘savages’, that could not be said of the Chinese, or about the Hindus, the Aztecs, or the Incas. Other explanations had to be found. In the sixteenth century, European travelers and explorers, discovering lands remote for them, involuntarily began to look in them for analogies of the forms of life they ethnogenesus used to.

The Spanish Conquistadors began to give baptized caciques the title ‘Don’, considering them Indian noblemen. The chiefs of Negro tribes were elevated to the rank of ‘kings’. Tungus shamans were considered priests, although they were simply doctors who saw the cause of illness in the influence of evil ‘spirits’ that were just as material in their understanding as animals or members of other tribes. Mutual incomprehension was intensified by a conviction that there was nothing to understand, and then collisions occurred that led to the murder of Europeans who wounded the feelings of the aborigines, in response to which brutal punitive expeditions were organized.

The civilized Australian aborigine Waipuldanya or Phillip Roberts relates stories of tragedies that were the more terrible that they happened without visible causes. Thus aborigines killed a white man who was smoking a cigarette, considering him a spirit that had fire in its belly.

They ran another through with a spear because he had drawn a watch from his pocket and looked at the sun. The aborigines decided that he was carrying the sun in his pocket.

Misunderstandings like that were followed by punitive expeditions that led to the extermination of whole tribes. And tragic collisions occurred for Australian Aborigines and the Papuans of New Guinea not only with whites but also with Malays, collisions that were aggravated by the transmission of infections.

Fairly recently, on 30 Octoberon the bank of the Rio Negro, a tributary of the Amazon, the Indians killed a missionary and eight of his companions for nothing, from their point of view, but tactlessness.

Ethnogenesis, Passionarnost′, and the Biosphere

The padre, having come to the Atroari’s country, announced his arrival by shots, biossphere was improper according to their ethnogwnesis he went into a small hut, despite the protest of its owner; he tweaked the ear of a child; and forbade them to take his saucepan of soup. Only the guide survived, who knew the Indians’ customs and abandoned Father Cagliari, who had paid no attention to his advice and had forgotten that the people who live on the banks of the Po were not quite like those on the banks of the Amazon.

Some time passed before it was asked whether it was not better to adapt ethnofenesis to the aborigines than to exterminate them. In order to do that, however, it was necessary to admit that peoples of other cultures differed from Europeans, and from one another, not only in languages and beliefs but also in the whole ‘stereotype of behaviour’, which it was a good idea to study so as to avoid conflicts.

So ethnography arose, the science of the differences ethnogendsis peoples. Colonialism has gone, under the blows of the national liberation movement, but interethnic contacts have adn and been extended.

The problem of establishing mutual understanding has consequently become more and more urgent on both the global scale of world politics and the microscopic, personal ethnogennesis during meetings with people who are not ethnlgenesis us. And so a new question has been posed, a theoretical one despite its practical significance. But why are we, people, so unlike one another that we must adapt ourselves to one another? Must study others’ manners and customs, look for acceptable ways of intercourse instead of those that seem natural to us, are quite adequate for intraethnic intercourse and satisfactory for contacts with our neighbors?

In some cases ethnic dissimilarity can be explained by diversity of geographical conditions, yet it is also observed where climate and relief are similar. Obviously, one cannot do without history.

In fact various peoples arose in various ages and had different historical fates, which left traces on them as ineffaceable as personal biographies that mould the character of individuals.


The geographical environment influences ethnoi, of course, through man’s everyday communion with the nature that feeds him, but that is not all. Traditions inherited from ancestors and traditional enmity or friendship with neighbors the ethnic environment play their role; cultural influences and religion have their significance, but in addition to all that there is the law of evolution or development, which applies biksphere ethnoi just like other phenomena of nature.

It is manifested in the multifarious processes of the ehnogenesis and disappearance of peoples that I call ethnogenesis. Unless we allow for the peculiarities of this form of the motion of matter we cannot find the key to the riddle of ethnic psychology on either the practical or the theoretical plane. We need both, but ethnogenesi difficulties crop up on the path I have elected.

The complexities of the terminology employed. The abundance of initial information and the poor development of the principles of systematizing are felt particularly painfully in history and ethnoyenesis. For ethnogneesis bibliography alone fills volumes, to look into which is sometimes no simpler than looking into the scientific problems themselves. The reader needs to be able to see the whole aggregate of events simultaneously the principle of actualismor all the modes of formation the principle of evolutionismand not ethnpgenesis multi-volume list of the titles of articles and papers, for the most part out of date.

The works of the founders of Marxism contain the program of a systematic approach to understanding historical process, but it has not yet been applied to questions of ethnogenesis.

Some attempts to introduce a systems method are known in old, often forgotten historiography but, in contrast to the natural sciences, their authors met with neither understanding nor sympathy. Polybius’s conception is now regarded as an elegant rarity, ibn Khaidun’s fourteenth century as a curiosity.

Lev Gumilev. Ethnogenesis and the Biosphere. Introduction

Giovanni Battista Vico is remembered only in the history of science, while the grandiose, though perhaps unsuccessful constructions of N. Danilevsky, Oswald Spengler, and Arnold Toynbee have become an excuse for rejecting the construction of historical models in general. Bioslhere result of this process is unambiguous. Since it is impossible to remember the ethnogenexis concatenation of historical events and since there is not and cannot be a common terminology in the absence of a systems even communion among Historians gets more difficult year by year.

By attaching various nuances to terms and ethbogenesis them with a different content, historians convert them into polysemantic words. In the first stages of this process the speakers can be understood from the context, intonation, and situation in which the dispute is conducted, but in the last phases this unsatisfactory degree of understanding disappears.

So the Russian word rod gens, family is usually employed for the concept ‘clan or gentile system’, but the ‘clan rod of the Shuisky boyars’ clearly has no relation to that. It is even worse with translation: Yet all these, by no ethnognesis dissimilar phenomena are named identically and, worse, are equated on that basis with one another.

Willy-nilly the historian studies not the object but words that have already lost their meaning hiosphere real phenomenawhile the latter elude him. Let us now assume that three historians are discussing a problem, one of them investing the concept ‘gens’ with the sense of clan, the second of seok, the third of the boyar family. Obviously they not only will not understand one another, but even what they are talking about.

It may be objected, of course, that agreement can be reached about terms, but the number of concepts increases proportionately with the accumulation of information; ever new terms are appearing that, in the absence of a system, become polysemantic and consequently useless for analysis and synthesis.

But a way out can also be found here. So far I have been speaking of the conditions of research; let me now speak about its perspectives. Study of any subject only has practical significance when it is possible to survey it as a whole. The electrical engineer, for example, must deal with the phenomena of ionization and thermal efficiency, the electromagnetic field, etc.