1000 petals by axinia

the only truth I know is my own experience

Another great Russian – LEV GUMILEV and his passionarity concept November 25, 2008

I am glad to continue my line of posts on unknown genius people and the Russian intellectual and spiritual heritage.
After my post on Pushkin and Lomonosov, the next one who came to my mind was the man of a very unusual destiny and intellectual grandeur.
I remember how I was fascinated by his ideas at the age of 15. That time I was keen on history and philosophy, and Lev Gumilev`s idea impressed me with its global approach and intre-disciplinary perspective.
Why was his life interesting?
A son of two prominent Russian poets, Lev Nikolayevich Gumilyov(1912- 1992), also known as Lev Gumilev, was a Russian dissident historian. His unorthodox ideas on the birth and death of ethnoses (ethnic groups) have given rise to the political and cultural movement known as “Neo-Eurasianism”.
He proved strong despite almost 16 years he spent in Stalin’s camps, participation in the Second World War and a Nazis concentration camp. Wherever he was he did not loose the sense of life that he saw in work, research and creativity. It is generally known that after he was convicted for the second time in the late 1940s and sentenced to 10 years of camps (GULAG) for contra-Marks and Lenin ideology activities, he continued researches in seeking definitions for ethnos and wrote in the camp a large part of his most renowned book Ethnogenesis and the Biosphere.
What was his innovation?

Lev Gumilev debuted in science brilliantly after graduating from the Leningrad University. He thought in a very innovative manner taking as basis historic and philosophic theories. Lev Gumilev formed his own perception of the world creating new doctrines rejected by everyone at his time. He was the father of ethnogenesis theory, under which nations originate from regularity of the society development, and the “passion” theory – the human ability to sacrifice for the sake of ideological purposes, as Gumilev stated. “Passion” is a hereditary biological ability of the man, and “passion-field” individuals are creators of history, for instance, Prophet Mohammed, Alexander the Macedonian, Napoleon and Vladimir Lenin.

To describe his ideas on the genesis and evolution of ethnoses, Gumilev introduced the concept of “passionarity”, which may be explained as the level of vital energy and power characteristic of any given ethnic group. Gumilev argued that they pass through stages of rise, development, climax, inertial, convolution, and memorial. It is during the “acmatic” phases, when the national passionarity reaches its maximum heat, that the great conquests are made. The current state of Europe he described as deep inertia, or “introduction to obscuration”, to use his own term. The passionarity of the Arabic world, on the other hand, is still high.

What was his vision of Russia and its place in the world?

Lev Gumilev is called now the Great Eurasian Man. Thanks to Gumilev we could sense that Russia is the world’s single “institution” linking Europe and Asia.Gumilev used to say that both Oriental culture and Western civilization came through Russia. Civilization and culture, he said, are not the same thing. Civilization is the use of the results of culture, whereas culture is a movement through hundreds of centuries and thousands of generations. On this score Gumilev’s researches have specific role for promoting the national science and spiritual environment of the Russian society.

Lev Gumilev founded the new field of philosophy – ethnography intervening it with psychology, geography and history. Even in our time many works by Lev Gumilev are not fully esteemed since being a prophet he went far away beyond the bounds of the century, in which he lived and created.

23 Responses to “Another great Russian – LEV GUMILEV and his passionarity concept”

  1. swaps Says:

    Nations rise through stages and then fall. Sometime later they rise again…the poles of the world is always shifting. Until 16th century, India and China together constituted 60% of world’s GDP. Industrialization shifted it to Europe. WWII moved it to US. Now it is returning to Asia.

    Gumilev is so right in associating passion with national character.
    Given India’s character, it will not go on any conquest.
    Germany, in spite of all its prowess, will not succeed.
    BUT, Germany always was the force that toppled empires – Roman or British. (So what are they doing today??!!)

    And Russia, our dear enigma, will her growing clout translate to better life for Russians?
    Because “human ability to sacrifice for the sake of ideological purposes” is highest in Russians (and least in Indians). It will always be so.

  2. axinia Says:

    Swaps, I also like this theory of passion very much.

    I know you are an expert on Russian and therefor it is intresting to hear from you that “human ability to sacrifice for the sake of ideological purposes” is highest in Russians”…in fact, I agree. Russians are extremely idealistic and ready to sacrifice a lot for a high goal.

    What is my general belief in that respect is that the time of Russia is to come yet. And that of China.

  3. Solveig Says:

    I had no idea about his philosophical ideas and researches but it was and it still is one of my favorate Russian poets :-).
    Not typical of me because his poetry is full of fantasy and although lyrical it is also very positive (and you know I usually love drama and melancholy in any art).

  4. axinia Says:

    Solveig, I guess you mean his father, Nicolai Gumilev – he was a famous poet? And his mother was Anna Ahmatova…

  5. swaps Says:

    “What is my general belief in that respect is that the time of Russia is to come yet. And that of China.”

    I must admit, I dread that. What should a poor elephant do sandwiched between a bear and a dragon?

    Btw, on second reading Gumilev’s theory looks debatable… esp “..both Oriental culture and Western civilization came through Russia”.
    Perhaps I am stretching my scant knowledge, but isn’t it Western culture that influenced Russia (esp during Alexander The Great) on one hand and Mongols on the other?

    “Russia’s place in the world?” – I bet this The question that is gonna give many leaders sleepless nights 🙂

  6. radha Says:

    the concept of passionarity is really cool,i know this feeling quite well and i also think it is something genetical, cheers from radha la passionaria 🙂

  7. radha Says:

    Swaps, it s true we are liing in a sort of “prologue” of the World Book, we need more years to understand the real role of China and also Russia on a global level. What is going on now is just lots of talking and discussions and very few people are tasting a tiny tiny drop of the enormous ocean of understanding on which the euroasiatic culture will be placed in future. i am personally aware of several things for example. also other people living in Eurasia are aware of other things depending on their city/job/contacts/relationships. The real time for these 2 great countries is not yet come. This is for sure ~ if find sometime i ‘ll write more at different level. cool

  8. swaps Says:

    Yes, Radha, please do expand on your comment. I am afraid in our quest for Western styled prosperity we would dilute our tradition and values.

  9. swaps Says:

    “…human ability to sacrifice for the sake of ideological purposes”
    Now I realize this passion could be dangerous too….when it drives young people to become suicide-bombers (or fidaeen) for the sake of a divisive ideology.

    I long for the soft glow of love(patriotism) to the fierce heat of chauvinism(nationalism).

  10. axinia Says:

    swaps, you are right, it can get dangerous if people become fanatic. Extreems are never healthy!

  11. Igor Says:

    Hi, Axinia! I’ve read this blog with a plesure, because, in general, there are very few interest to Gumilev’s theory in the English-speaking Internet space. Let me to suggest below small correction to your text.
    1)”…participation in the Second World War and a Nazis concentration camp.” – that’s not exact, he have never been in the Nazis camps, in the native ones only (according to his own memoirs).
    2) “…under which nations originate from regularity of the society development…” – Nations, but more exactly – ethnoses, originate (and die) just from nature regularity; Gumilev especcially stressed that the social history differs from ethnic history by several reasons, these are different aspects, different planes of our history.

    Thanks, you have opened very interesting topic for discussion.

    • axinia Says:

      thanks Igor, I was not aware of these details. this topic is really intresting but for obvious reasons mostly for Russians 🙂

      • Igor Says:

        If you mean more easy access because of language of original, you are right in some grade, but the language can’t be a serious problem today. As for the matter itself, it should be interesting to anybody who would like to understand more deeply our history process, especially in a small scale, I think. By the way, very few Russian people also are interesting in this topic, that’s clear

        • axinia Says:

          “By the way, very few Russian people also are interesting in this topic, that’s clear” – WHY is that clear? it is not that clear to me …:)

          • Igor Says:

            Unfortunately, quite few people prefer to think… I’ve read the “Ethnogenesis…” three times, and only after this could understand more or less the theory. When I met the book first time, I started to understand at least something after many attempts during several monthes. The theory is quite difficult for studying, because the reader needs to know hystory in general, to be able to choose a correct “distance of a problem obbservation” and to have a good analytic skills and systematic style of mind…Have you met often such people in your life?

            • axinia Says:

              igor, you are right, the topic is not for everyone and surely because it demands a historical overview and much knowledge. Apart from that if you consider the recent strategy of Medvedev on “historical correction against re-writing of it” you can see how easy it is to create a suitable legend out of historical event. Even the documents which Gumilev used…who created them? I think we will never know the whole truth…
              But in general I really like his theory.

              • Igor Says:

                I like it also. Of course, we can’t check the sources Gumilev refers to, we can’t also be sure if he used all known facts or not. To do this it is necessary to devote the whole life and to become in fact a second Gumilev. But I have a feeling it’s truth because of his systematic approach to the problem and also because of that fact everything I know in this or that field of our life is well confirmed to it. That’s why I suppose the rest is the truth also…The nature is wise, and when Gumilev has found some similar mechanisms in hystory and natural sciences, let some of them be even not proven strictly, it looks for me like the truth. Though it relates to the ethnogenesis theory ony; as for his post-theory investigations (about different periods of the hystory) – I would be more careful… But this is a long dicussion which is too wide and complicate for chat style of communication…I’m glad to know that we have the same opinion at least in general.
                What are you according to your profession and/or occupation?

                • axinia Says:

                  Hi Igor, thanks for the details!

                  I hold a degree in Lingusitics from the Voronezh State University. Presently I am working as a Human Resources manager in Austria.
                  However my solid Russian educational background keeps me deeply interested in all global processes. I was intrested in history since childhood and read the Gumilev`s theory at the age of 16.

              • Igor Says:

                By the way, have you intentionally placed photo of Lev Gumilev’s farther in the top?

                • axinia Says:

                  Igor, I took the picture from Intrenet, do not rememer from where exactly…now I see that it is indeed the wrong one, I will correct! thanks a lot.

                  • Igor Says:

                    If you want, I can send you the right one and also some others. Send me the test message to my E-mail

  12. Yelaman Says:

    I wanted to ask whether his books were translated to English?

  13. wazzup4zero Says:

    Reblogged this on Ya Hala! Wazzup? and commented:
    in the most part i agree with Axinia’s brief introduction to LNG, and am especially impressed by her statement that she discovered his work at such a young age and followed it, although LNG did not found ethnography, rather developed a new more syncretic methodology for ethnographic research

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