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Gumilev, Lev Nikolayevich


(19121992), dissident historian, geographer, and ethnographer in the Soviet Union.

Lev Gumilev belonged to the old Russian intelligentsia. His father, Nikolai Gumilev, was a prominent poet of the Silver Age and a victim of Bolshevik terror. His mother, Anna Akhmatova, was one of the greatest Russian women poets. Lev Gumilev's ties with the old intelligentsia led to frequent imprisonments from the 1920s to the 1950s in Josef Stalin's Gulag (prison camp system). Gumilev joined a punishment battalion in 1944 and fought in the Battle of Berlin. In spite of this, he became a major intellectual figure in Leningrad and developed an international reputation for his studies of the ancient Turkic and Mongol peoples. He combined historical and archeological research with historical geography to develop a new discipline, ethnography (narodovedenie ) in the Department of Oriental Studies of Leningrad State University. Soviet scholar circles found thought anti-Marxist in his research and publications. He was accused of ignoring the role of the class struggle in history. Gumilev was particularly concerned with the relationship between culture and nation and the impact of biological energy and morals upon the development of ethnic groups. He advanced a theory of ethnogenesis to explain the rise and decline of particular ethnic groups in terms of biological and not social factors. He stressed the absence or presence of drive (passionarnost ) in a particular people as manifest in the personalities of leaders to explain the people's role in the unfolding of the nation's history. These ideas have had a profound influence on Russian nationalist thought and the development of Eurasianism in contemporary Russia.

See also: dissident movement; nationalism in the soviet union


Shnirelman, Viktor, and Panarin, Sergei. (2001). "Lev Gumilev: His Pretensions as a Founder of Ethnology and his Eurasian Theories." Inner Asia 3:118

Jacob W. Kipp

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