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Ethnogenesis and the Biosphere

Chapter One

Lev Gumilev



in which it is shown that superficial observations lead the investigator up the garden path, and means of self-control and self-checking are proposed


What It's About and Why It's Important


Fear of disenchantment. 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 ... and no one takes it out. Which means his life has been in vain.

That is so terrible that one must take steps to avoid such a result. But what steps? 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: in antiquity there were slave owners and slaves. 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 they vanished to, although there was obviously no complete extinction of their members.

All these matters are wholly related to my chosen theme, i.e. the sudden strengthening of one people or another and their subsequent disappearance. A clear example of that is the Mongols in the twelfth to seventeenth centuries. But that pattern has also governed other peoples. The late B.Ya. Vladimirtsov formulated the problem succinctly: 'I want to understand how and why all that happened'; but like other scholars, he did not provide an answer. I shall come back to this subject time and again, firmly convinced that the reader will not shut the book at the second page.

Quite clearly, in order to solve the problem posed we must first of all investigate 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.


On the Usefulness of Ethnography and the Difficulties to Be Surmounted


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: 'Negroes are muzhiks just like ours, only black'. It could not have occurred to her that a Melanesian witch-doctor might say with equal grounds: 'Englishmen are headhunters just like us, only white'. 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, of course, separated them from the 'Franks and 'Latins', i.e. from the French and Italians, but the existence of common cultural roots made the difference not so big as to exclude mutual understanding. But in the age of the great geographical discoveries the position was radically changed. 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 were 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 October 1968, on 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. The padre, having come to the Atroari's country, announced his arrival by shots, which was improper according to their customs; 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 oneself 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 between peoples.

Colonialism has gone, under the blows of the national liberation movement, but interethnic contacts have remained 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 scale during meetings with people who are not like 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 to ethnoi just like other phenomena of nature. It is manifested in the multifarious processes of the rise 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 unexpected 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 ethnography. For the 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 actualism), or all the modes of formation (the principle of evolutionism), and not a 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. Giovanni Battista Vico is remembered only in the history of science, while the grandiose, though perhaps unsuccessful constructions of N.Ya. Danilevsky, Oswald Spengler, and Arnold Toynbee have become an excuse for rejecting the construction of historical models in general. The result of this process is unambiguous. Since it is impossible to remember the whole 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 investing 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: if a clan (gens) is a Celtic clan, it is impossible to call any Kazakh branch of the Middle or Junior Zhus (ru) such, or the Altain kost (seok), and -vice versa, because they differ in functions and genesis. Yet all these, by no means 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 as real phenomena, while 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., but not to the same degree; the physical geographer, when speaking of Earth's envelopes, has in mind the troposphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and even the biosphere. But the historian can only draw conclusions that are more weighty and interesting for the reader when he covers a broad complex of interconnected events in a single argument, at the same time reaching agreement on terminology. It is difficult, but not impossible. It is simply important for the conclusions to correspond to all the facts taken into consideration. If anyone puts forward a more elegant and convincing conception for the facts cited in my book, I shall bow to him with respect. But if, on the contrary, anyone declared my conclusions final, not requiring review and further elaboration, I would not agree with him. Ordinary books do not live longer than people, and the development of science is an immanent law of the shaping of mankind. I therefore see it as my job to pay what honour I can to Beautiful Lady History, without whom no people can exist, and to her Wise Sister Geography, who creates people's bond with their ancestress, the Biosphere of Planet Earth. [+1]


Summaries and scruples. The species Homo sapiens, which has spread over the whole land surface of the planet, and a considerable part of its marine surface, has made such significant changes in its configuration that they can be equated with small scale upheavals. [+2] But it follows from this that we distinguish a special historico-geographical category of laws that requires a special method for examining and studying them that combines historical and geographical techniques of research. In itself that is nothing new, but the approach to the problem has so far been eclectic: the use of C14 analysis, for example, to date archaeological finds, of resistivity prospecting (a business too laborious for practical application), and of cybernetic techniques to study 'stone Venuses' (which has given the same results as visual estimates), and so on. But the most important thing has been lost sight of! In my view this 'main point' is the ability to extract information from the silence of the sources. The inductive way limits the historian's opportunities to a simple or critical rendering of foreign words, the limit of the investigation moreover being distrust of the source. But this result is negative and therefore not conclusive. Only the establishing of a certain number of indisputable facts will be positive, and these, being derived layer by layer from the source, can be reduced to a chronological table or plotted on a historical map. In order to interpret them, a philosopheme or postulate is needed, but that infringes the accepted principle of inductive research. A blind alley!

So! But the geographer, geologist, zoologist, and soil scientist never have more facts, yet their sciences develop which happens because natural scientists employ 'empirical generalization' instead of a philosophical postulate and it, according to Vernadsky, has a reliability equal to observed fact. [+3] In other words, the natural sciences overcome the silence of the sources and even extract something useful for science from it, since they avoid the false that is always contained in a source or introduced by ourselves through inadequate perception. So why reject sources because of that? When taking nature as a source we also have to resort to a method of study, but that gives us wonderful prospects that enable us to lift the veil of Isis.

One of the tasks of science is to obtain the maximum information from a minimum of facts, to make it possible to single out precise patterns that enable the most varied phenomena to be understood from a single point of view, and subsequently learn to find one's bearings in them. These patterns are invisible but not invented. They are discovered through generalization. Let me give an example from biology.

Stars and planets move across the sky. Balloons rise, but a stone dropped from a cliff falls in space. Rivers run to the sea, and sediments slowly settle in the ocean forming layers of sedimentary rocks. Mice have very thin paws and elephants huge extremities. Land animals do not attain the size of whales and giant squid. What do those facts have in common? They are all based on the law of universal gravitation, which is intertwined with other laws, just as real, invisible, but mentally comprehensible. [+4]

Terrestrial gravitation has always existed but it needed the insight of Newton observing the fall of an apple from a branch for people to recognize its existence. And how many other powerful forces of nature that surround us and govern our fate lie outside our understanding. We live in an underdiscovered world and often move feeling our way, which sometimes leads to tragic consequences. That is why the magic eyes of science, by which I mean the insight of scientists of genius, are needed in order to understand the world around us and our place in it, and to learn to foresee even the immediate consequences of our actions.

Studies to establish the functional link of phenomena of physical geography and paleontology in material of the history of Central Asia and the archaeology of the Lower Volga, enable us to draw three conclusions. (1) The historical fate of an ethnos resulting from its economic activity is directly linked with the dynamic state of the area occupied. (2) The archaeological culture of an ethnos, which is a crystallized trace of its historical fate, reflects the paleogeographical state of the terrain in an era amenable to absolute dating. (3) The combination of historical and archaeological material makes it possible to judge the character of the areas occupied in one age or another, and consequently the character of their changes.

Precision is relative here, of course, but a tolerance of plus or minus 50 years for diffuse boundaries does not affect the conclusions and is consequently innocuous. Much more dangerous is the striving for scrupulousness in the direct sense of the word.

Scrupulus (Lat.) means a bit of grit that has got into a sandal and is irritating the sole of the foot. The ancients considered it is senseless business to study the distribution of these grits; one simply had to take off one's sandal and shake it. The word 'scrupulousness' therefore meant unnecessary concern about trifles. Now the word is used in the sense of 'superexact'.

Unfortunately the demand for 'scrupulousness' is not always innocent and harmless, in particular when natural phenomena are being correlated with historical events, because the legitimate tolerance may be as much as 50 or 60 years, and cannot be reduced since the link being sought is mediated by the economic geography of ancient epochs. The system of livelihood, cultivation, stock-breeding, or even hunting, has its own inertia. If it is undermined, say, by drought, the state founded on it is only weakened when reserves are exhausted, and the constant malnutrition (and not short-term famine) undermines the strength of the reproductive population. This process can only be discovered through a broad integration of a number of historical events, and not by a scrupulous correlating of natural and historical phenomena. In that connection one must remember the words of a famous natural scientist:

you could never learn what a mouse is like by carefully examining each of its cells separately under the electron microscope any more than you could appreciate the beauty of a cathedral through the chemical analysis or each stone that went into its construction. [+5]

Of course, when we examine one or even two facts in isolation from others, we remain trapped by old authors who were able to impose their opinion with skill and talent on the reader. But when we extract direct information from sources, and take not two facts but 2 000, we then get several causal chains that not only correlate with one another but also with the model we propose. It is not a simple functional dependence like that sought in the eighteenth century by champions of geographical determinism like Montesquieu. Here we find a systemic link, underlying the science of the relationship of mankind and nature.

The universality and specificity of the interaction I have noted makes it possible to single out study of it as an independent boundary field of science, and as a combination of history and geography, called ethnology. But here there is a new sore point. Can we find a tangible definition of ethnos?


Limits. What do we know precisely about ethnoi? Very much and very little. We have no grounds for asserting that an ethnos occurred as a phenomenon in the Lower Paleolithic. Behind the high brow ridges, and within the huge brainbox of Neanderthal man, were lodged thoughts and feelings. But what they were we still have no right even to guess if we want to remain on a platform of scientific authenticity and reliability. We know more about the people of the Upper Paleolithic. They were splendid hunters, made spears and javelins, dressed in clothes of animal skins, and drew no worse than the Parisian Impressionists. The form of their collective life was seemingly similar to those that are known to us, but that is only a supposition on which we cannot even build a scientific hypothesis. It is not excluded that there were features in ancient times that have not come down to us.

But we can consider the peoples of the Late Neolithic and Bronze Ages (third and second millennia B.C.) similar to historical ones with a high degree of probability. Unfortunately, our knowledge of the ethnic differences then is fragmentary and scanty, so that if we rely on it we risk not distinguishing the patterns that interest us at the moment from local features and, by taking the particular for the general or -vice versa, falling into error.

So-called historical time gives us reliable material for analysis, when written sources throw light on the history of ethnoi and their interconnections. We have the right, when studying this period of time, to apply the observations obtained to earlier times and to fill the gaps in our knowledge arising in the first stage of study by extrapolation. We thus avoid the aberrations of distance, one of the most frequent mistakes of the historical critic.

It is convenient to take the beginning of the nineteenth century as the upper date because we need only completed processes in order to establish patterns. One can only speak of uncompleted processes for purposes of forecasting, but for that we have to have a formula of regularity available - the same as the one we are looking for. In addition, when we are studying twentieth-century phenomena, there is the possibility of an aberration of propinquity by which phenomena lose scale just as with the aberration of distance. I shall therefore limit myself to the 3 000 years between the twelfth century B.C. and the nineteenth century A.D., for posing the problem, or for clarity of representation, from the fall of Troy to the overthrow of Napoleon.

To begin with I shall investigate our abundant material by a synchronic method, basing myself on a comparison and collation of information about whose reliability there is no doubt. The new element that I shall decide to introduce will be the combining of facts in the aspect I propose. That is necessary because the kaleidoscope of dates in the various chronological tables does not give the reader any idea of what happened with peoples throughout their historical life. The method proposed is not as characteristic of the humanities, as it is of the natural sciences. Empirical generalization is neither a hypothesis nor a popularization, although it is built on facts already assembled and tested rather than on original material (experience, observation, and reading of primary sources). The introduction of material into the system and the construction of a conception is the middle stage of comprehension of the problem that precedes philosophical generalization. For my purposes I need precisely this middle stage.

It would seem that the more detailed and numerous the information about a subject the easier it is to form an exhaustive idea of it. But is that so in fact? Most likely not. Unnecessary and too fine information, while not altering the picture as a whole, creates what they call 'noise' or 'interference' in cybernetics and the study of systems. But for other purposes it is precisely nuances of mood that are needed. In short, in order to clarify the nature of phenomena one must take in the whole concatenation of facts relating to the problem under consideration, but not all the information available in the arsenal of science.

But what are we to take as 'relating to the problem'? The answer will obviously be different in different cases. The history of mankind and the biographies of famous people are not equal phenomena, and the pattern of development will be different in both cases, but there are as many gradations as you like between them. The point is complicated by the fact that any historical phenomenon (war, the promulgation of a law, the building of an architectural monument, the founding of a princedom or republic, and so on) has to be treated in several degrees of approximation, the comparison of which, moreover, yields contradictory results at first glance. Let me take an example from the history of Europe. After the Reformation a struggle began between the Protestant Union and the Catholic League (approximation A). Consequently all the Protestants of Western Europe should have been battling against all the Catholics. But Catholic France was a member of the Protestant Union, and Protestant Denmark stabbed Protestant Sweden in the back in 1643, i.e. political interests were put before ideological ones (approximation B). Does that mean that the first statement was not true? By no means. It was only more generalized. In addition, mercenaries fought in the armies of both sides, for the most part indifferent to religion, but avid for plunder. That means that one could characterize the Thirty Years' War in the next approximation (C) as an orgy of banditry, and that, too, would be to some extent correct. Finally, real class interests lay behind the religious slogans and the golden diadems of kings, interests it would be wrong not to take into account (approximation D). And one can add to that the separatist tendencies of the different, separate regions (approximation E) discoverable by paleoethnography, and so on.

As will be seen from this example, the system of successive approximations is a complicated business, even when we are investigating a local episode. Nevertheless we need not lose hope of success because there remains the path of scientific deduction. Just as the motion of Earth is composed of many regular motions (rotation around its axis, rotation around the sun, movement with all the planets of the solar system through the galaxy, and many others), so mankind, the anthroposphere, experiences in developing not one but several effects that are studied by separate sciences. The spontaneous movement, reflected in social development, is studied by historical materialism; human physiology is a field of biology; man's relation with the landscape - historical geography - lies in the, sphere of the geographical sciences; the study of wars, laws, and institutions is political history, and of opinion and thoughts the history of culture; the study of languages is linguistics, and of literary creation philology, and so on. Where does our problem fit in?

Let me begin with the point that an ethnos (any one), like a language, for example, is not a social phenomenon, because it can exist in several formations. The influence of spontaneous social development on the molding of an ethnos is exogenous. In order to affect the forming or the break-up of an ethnos, social development operates through history, both political and cultural. One can therefore say that the problem of ethnogenesis lies on the boundary of historical science where its social aspects pass smoothly into the natural ones.

Since all phenomena of ethnogenesis originate on the earth's surface in certain geographical conditions, the question of the role of terrain and relief inevitably arises, as a factor presenting economic opportunities for human collectives (ethnoi). [+6] But the combination of history and geography is not sufficient for my problem because it is a matter of living organisms which, as we know, are always in a state of evolution or involution, or monomorphism (stability within the species), and interact with other living organisms, forming communities, and geobiocoenoses.

I must thus put my problem at the junction of three sciences: history, geography (study of relief), and biology (ecology and genetics). But that being so, we can make a second approximation of the definition of the term 'ethnos': an ethnos is a specific form of existence of the species Homo sapiens, and ethnogenesis is a local variant of the intraspecific form-making determined by a combination of historical and choronomic (landscape) factors.

The aspect in which mankind appears as an anthropofauna may seem extravagant, but Darwin and Engels laid the foundations for such a study. Following the scientific tradition, I shall turn my attention to this aspect of human activities which has been missed by most of my predecessors.


'The historian without geography stumbles'. Man's dependence on the world around him, or rather on his geographical environment, is never disputed, although the degree of dependence is assessed differently by different scholars. In any case, however, the economic life of the peoples who have inhabited Earth and now live in it is closely linked with the relief and climate of the territories inhabited. It is quite difficult to trace the rise and decline of the economy of ancient periods, again because of the incompleteness of the information obtained from primary sources. But there is an excellent indicator - military power. As for modern times, there are no doubts whatsoever about that, but for 2 000 years matters remained precisely the same, for nomads as well as for settled peoples. Not only were well-fed, strong, tireless people needed for a campaign, capable of drawing a bow 'to the ear' (which enabled an arrow to be shot for 700 meters while with drawing 'to the eye' the range of an arrow was 350-400 meters), and of fencing with a heavy sword or (much harder) with a curved saber. It was also necessary to have horses, roughly four or five per man, taking the wagon train or pack train into account. A stock of arrows was needed, and making them was a laborious business. Stocks of provisions were needed, for example, for nomads, a flock of sheep and consequently shepherds for it. A reserve guard was needed to protect women and children. In short, war required funds even then, and big ones at that. It could only be waged at the enemy's expense after the first, considerable victory, and in order to win it a strong rear was required, a prosperous economy, and consequently optimum natural conditions.

The significance of geographical conditions, for example, relief, for military history has long been talked about, always, one might even say. Suffice it to recall some examples from ancient history. Hannibal won the battle of Lake Trasimene by making use of several deep valleys disposed at right angles to the lake's shore and the road along which the Roman troops passed. Thanks to that he attacked the Roman army in three places at once and won the battle. At Cynoscephalae the Macedonian phalanx was scattered on broken ground, and the Romans easily broke the heavily armed enemy, who had lost formation. Examples like these have always been in historians' field of vision and gave the eighteenth-century Russian scholar Ivan Boltin grounds for a famous comment: 'The historian who is not strong in geography stumbles'. [+7] But it is pointless to dwell on such an obvious problem in the twentieth century, because history is now faced with more profound tasks than it used to be, while geography has moved away from simple description of the marvels of our planet and has acquired possibilities that were inaccessible to our ancestors.

I shall therefore put the question differently: not only how does the geographical environment affect people 6ut also how far do people themselves constitute part of the envelope of Earth that is now called the biosphere; and also to what extent, precisely, do the patterns of mankind's life influence the geographical environment and to what extent do they not. That posing of the matter calls for analysis, i.e. an artificial breaking down of the problem for convenience of investigation. It consequently has only subsidiary significance for understanding history, since the aim of our work is a synthesis. Alas, however, just as one cannot build a house without a foundation so it is impossible to generalize without preliminary differentiation. Let us limit ourselves to the minimum. When we speak of the history of mankind we usually have in mind the social form of the movement of history, i.e. mankind's progressive development, as a whole, along a spiral. This is a spontaneous movement and for that reason cannot be a function of any external causes whatsoever. Neither geographical nor biological effects can influence that aspect of history. So what do they influence? Organisms including human ones. L.S. Berg had already drawn that conclusion in 1922, legitimate for all organisms, including people.

The geographical landscape necessarily affects the organism, compelling all individuals to vary in a certain direction insofar as the organization of the species permits. The tundra, forest, steppe, desert, mountains, water medium, life on islands, etc. all put a special stamp on organisms. Those species that are incapable of adapting must migrate to another geographical terrain or perish. [+8]

But by 'terrain' is meant

a sector of the earth's surface that differs qualitatively from other sectors, framed by natural boundaries, and representing a whole, and reciprocally conditioned, natural aggregate of objects and phenomena typically expressed over a considerable area and inseparably linked in all respects with the topographical envelope. [+9] 

Berg called this thesis the choronomic principle of evolution (from the Greek choros, place), so linking geography and biology. In the aspect I have adopted history is added to these two sciences, yet the principle remains unshakeable. Furthermore it has received unexpected confirmation, and that obliges me to continue the examination of an ethnos's patterns of development, but now with allowance for the dynamic moment, the development of new ethnoi, i.e. of ethnogenesis, on the basis of a description of the phases of ethnogenesis. But that is the theme of another chapter.


Nature and History


The combination of nature study and history. In antiquity, when the world seemed a whole to man, in spite of its obvious diversity, and interconnected, in spite of the seeming isolation, the problem of coupling natural science and history could not even arise. All events considered worthy of perpetuation were entered in the annals. Wars and floods, revolutions and epidemics, the birth of a genius and the flight of a comet were all considered phenomena of equal significance and interest for posterity. The principle of the magi then prevailed in scientific thought, viz., 'like breeds like', which made it possible, through broad associations, to catch the connections between phenomena of nature and the fates of people or of 'individual persons. That principle was developed into astrology and mantik (the lore of divination), but with the development of the separate sciences, as knowledge accumulated, it was discarded as unsound, and not substantiated in practical application.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, thanks to the differentiation of the sciences, a huge amount of information was accumulated, which had become vast by the beginning of the twentieth century. Figuratively speaking the mighty river of Science had been diverted into irrigation ditches. Life-giving moisture watered a broad area, but the lake previously fed by it (i.e. integral world-contemplation) dried up. And now the autumn wind drifts the bottom sediments and blows salty dust onto the friable land of fields. Soon, in the place of steppe which, even though dry, fed herds, salt marshes arise, and the biosphere gives way to inert matter, not forever, of course, but for a long time. For when people quit a doomed land, the ditches begin to silt up, and the river again cuts a channel, and fills a natural depression. The wind blows a fine layer of fresh dust over the salt marshes, grasses sprout and die, uneaten by ungulates. In a few centuries a humus layer is formed on the plain, and plankton in the lake; then herbivores arrive, and waterfowl carry fish spawn to the lake on their feet. Life again triumphs in its diversity.

So it is in science. Narrow specialization is only useful as a means of accumulating knowledge. The differentiation of disciplines was a stage, necessary and inevitable, that inevitably becomes disastrous when dragged out for a long time. Accumulation of information without its systematization into an object of broad generalization is a quite senseless task. Were the principles of ancient science indeed false? Perhaps its unsoundness was not rooted in its postulates, but rather in lack of skill in applying them. For there is an interaction 'of the history of nature and the history of men' that can be caught by employing the total of accumulated knowledge and a method of research that is developing under our eyes. So I shall endeavor to follow this path and to formulate the problem as follows: can the study of history be of benefit for interpreting phenomena of nature?

Social and natural phenomena are obviously not identical, but they do have a point of contact somewhere. And it is necessary to find it, because it cannot be the anthroposphere as a whole. Even if we understand the anthroposphere as the biomass, we must note two aspects of the phenomenon: (a) its mosaic structure, because various collectives of people interact differently with the environment; if we take into account the well-known history of the past 5 000 years, this diversity and elucidation of its causes will prove the key to the problem posed; (b) the many-sided character of the object being studied, i.e. mankind. This has to be understood in the sense that every person (or mankind as a whole) is a physical body, and an organism, and the upper fink of any biocoenosis, and a member of a society, and a member of a people or ethnic national grouping, and so on. In each of these the object (in this case man) is studied by a corresponding scientific discipline, which does not deny other aspects of research. It is the ethnic aspect of mankind as a whole that is important for my problem.

Let me make a slight excursus into epistemology. Ask yourself what is accessible to direct observation. It is not the object itself, but the limits of object. Thus we know that time, as a category, exists, but unless we see its limits we have no chance of giving a generally accepted definition of time. And the greater the contrast, the clearer objects a-re for us that we do not see but dream up, i.e. imagine.

We constantly observe history as a chain of events; consequently history is a boundary. Happily we know of what - the social and the four natural forms of the motion of matter. That being so there is, together with the sociosphere and the technosphere generated by it, a living essence that not only surrounds people but is also within them. And these elements are so contrast that they are caught by human consciousness without the least effort. Humanitarian conceptions have proved unnecessary, or rather inadequate, precisely because they pose the question of the influence on the historical process, or processes, of geographical, biological, social, or ('in idealist systems) spiritual factors, and not of the connection of the one and the other, thanks to which both the process itself and its components become accessible to empirical generalization. The approach suggested here is nothing other than the analysis, i.e. 'breaking down', needed to untangle the unclear places in history and then pass on to a synthesis in which the results of the various methods of research are taken into account.

In the historiography of the nineteenth century the interaction of the social and natural was not always allowed for. [+10] But now the dynamics of natural processes has been sufficiently studied for their comparability with social events to be obvious. Biocoenology has shown that man enters the biocoenosis of the terrain as an upper final link, because he is a major predator and, as such, is dependent on the evolution of nature, which by no means rules out the existence of an additional element, i.e. the development of the productive forces, which produce the technosphere, lacking self-development and capable only of disrupting.


Formations and ethnoi. If, however, we look at all world history, we will note that coincidences of changes of formation and the appearance of new peoples are only rare exceptions, while ethnoi very dissimilar to one another constantly arise and develop within a formation.

Take the example of the thirteenth century when feudalism nourished from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The French barons were hardly like the free peasants of Scandinavia, the slave-warrior Mamelukes of Egypt, the unruly population of the Russian veche towns, the indigent conquerors of half the world, the Mongol nomads, or the Chinese landowners of the Sung Empire. Common to them all was the feudal mode of production, but little else. Agriculturists' and nomads' attitudes to nature did not coincide; receptivity of things foreign, or capacity for cultural borrowings, was higher in Europe than in China, no less than the striving for territorial conquests that stimulated the Crusades; Russian slash-and-burn agriculture was simpler and more primitive than the viticulture of Syria and the Peloponnese, but yielded a fabulous harvest with less expenditure of labour; languages, religion, art, education were all unlike each other, but there was no confusion in this diversity because each fife style was the property of a definite people.

It should not be thought, however, that the degree of ethnic individuality is determined only by nature. Centuries passed and the relations of ethnoi changed, some disappearing, others appearing; it is accepted in Soviet ethnography to call that process ethnogenesis. The rhythms of ethnogenesis are coupled in world history with a pulse of social development, but the coupling does not mean coincidence, let alone unity. History is a single process, but its factors are different, and my task, i.e. analysis, is to single out the phenomena directly inherent in ethnogenesis, and so to clarify what an ethnos is and what its role in the fife of mankind.

It is necessary, to start with, to agree on the meaning of the terms and the limits of the investigation. The Greek word ethnos has many meanings in the dictionary, of which I have chosen one, viz., 'species, breed', implying by that people. There is no point, for my posing of the theme, in singling out such concepts as tribe or nation, because I am interested in the common denominator; in other words the general that exists among Englishmen and among Masai, among ancient Greeks and modern Gypsies. This is the property of the species Homo sapiens to group together so as to counterpose themselves and 'theirs' (sometimes close, but often quite remote) to all the rest of the world. This singling out is characteristic of all epochs and countries: Hellenes and barbarians, Jews and the uncircumcised, Chinese (people of the Middle Kingdom) and Hu (the barbarian periphery, Russians included), Muslim Arabs in the time of the first Caliphs and 'infidels'; Catholic Europeans in the Middle Ages (the unity called the 'Christian world') and 'godless', including Greeks and Russians; 'Orthodox' (in the same period) and unbaptized, including Catholics; Tuaregs and non-Tuaregs, Gypsies and all other people, etc. This opposition is a universal phenomenon, which indicates its deep foundation, but in itself it is only the foam on a deep river, and I have still to bring out its essence. But the observation already made is enough to attest the complexity of the effect which can be called ethnic (in the sense 'stock' or 'breed') and which can be taken as an aspect for constructing an ethnic history of mankind. My task is therefore first of all to find the cause of the process.

There is an undoubted link between ethnic history and geography, but it cannot exhaust the whole complexity of the relationship of the diverse phenomena of nature and the zigzags of the history of ethnoi. Furthermore, the thesis: 'Any attribute by which ethnoi can be classified is adaptive to a concrete environment' reflects only one aspect of the process of ethnogenesis. As Hegel wrote: '...the mild Ionic sky certainly contributed much to the charm of the Homeric poems, yet this alone can produce no Homers'. [+11]

However, when an ethnos that has taken shape in a definite region where adaptation to the terrain has been maximum migrates, it retains many of the original features that distinguished it from the aboriginal ethnoi. The Spaniards who settled in Mexico, for example, did not become Indians - Aztecs or Mayas. They created an artificial microlandscape for themselves - towns and fortified haciendas - and preserved their culture, both material and spiritual, in spite of the fact that the moist tropics of Yucatan and the semideserts of Anlhuac were very different from Andalusia and Castile. But the separation of Mexico from Spain in the nineteenth century was largely the work of the descendants of Indian tribes that had adopted the Spanish language and Catholicism, but that were supported by the free tribes of the Comanche who had migrated north of the Rio Grande.

Let me now draw a first conclusion, which will be the starting point for the further exposition. The mosaic anthroposphere, which has been constantly changing in historical time and interacting with the topography of planet Earth, is nothing else than an ethnosphere. Since mankind has spread everywhere, though unevenly, over the land surface, and always interacts with Earth's natural environment, but differently, it is sensible to treat it as one of Earth's envelopes, but with an obligatory correction for ethnic differences. So I am introducing the term 'ethnosphere' which, like other geographical phenomena, must have its own patterns of development, different from the biological and the social. Ethnic patterns are observable in space (ethnography) and in time (ethnogenesis and the palaeogeography of the anthropogenic landscape).


Can one trust the historical sources? Yatsunsky, the author of fine surveys of the geographical thought of the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries, justly remarked: 'Historical geography does not study the historical ideas of people of the past but the concrete geography of past centuries'. [+12] The initial data for this quest obviously have to be sought in the historical works of past ages, but how? Unfortunately, there are no pointers to a possible method of research. And here is why.

Historical materials, as sources for the reconstruction of ancient climatic conditions, have been and are employed very widely. A famous polemic developed on this plane between Berg [+13] and Grumm-Grzhimailo [+14] on the desiccation of Central Asia in the historical period. They tried to solve the problem of the fluctuations of the level of the Caspian Sea in the first millennium A.D. associated with this question by selecting citations from the works of ancient authors. Special digests of information from Russian chronicles were made so as to draw conclusions about the change in Eastern Europe's climate. But the results of the numerous, laborious studies did not come up to expectations. The information of the sources was sometimes confirmed, but tests by other ways sometimes refuted them. Hence it follows that the coincidence of the data obtained with the truth was a matter of chance, which suggested that the method was defective. In fact the method of simple references to the evidence of an ancient or mediaeval author leads to a false conclusion, or at best to an inexact one. And so it should. The chroniclers either mentioned phenomena of nature among others or, starting from the ideas of the science of their time, treated storms, floods, and droughts as omens or punishment for sins. In both cases the phenomena were described selectively, when they came into an author's field of view, and we cannot even guess how many got left out. One author would draw attention to nature, but another, in the next century, did not; and it could turn out that rains were mentioned more often in a dry time than in a wet one. The historical criticism is unable to help here because it is power. less as regards omissions of events not linked by a causal dependence.

Ancient authors always wrote their works with a definite purpose and, as a rule, attached exaggerated importance to events that interested them. The degree of exaggeration or belittling is very difficult to determine, and is not always possible. So Berg concluded, from historical works, that the conversion of cultivated land into desert was a consequence of wars. That idea is now taken without criticism; P.K. Kozlov's find, the dead Tangut city of Yijing-ai known as Hara-Hoto [+15], is often cited as an example. This is so significant a point that I shall concentrate attention on one problem the geographical location of this city and the conditions of its death.

The Tangut kingdom was located in the Ordos and the AlaShan, in places where there are now sandy deserts. This state, it would seem, was poor and thinly populated, but in fact it maintained an army of 150 000 horsemen, had a university, an academy, schools, a legal procedure, and even a trade deficit, because it imported more than it exported. The deficit was covered in part by gold dust from its Tibetan possessions; the main export was live cattle, which constituted its wealth.

The city discovered by Kozlov lay in the lower reaches of the Edzin-Gol, in a locality now uninhabited. The two ox-bow lakes that surround it on the east and west indicate that there used to be water, but the river changed course to the west and now falls by two arms into lakes (a salt one - Gashun Nor, and a fresh one - Sogo Nor). Kozlov described the valley of the Sogo Nor as a freshwater oasis in the desert surrounding it, but noted at the same time that it could not feed a large population. But the citadel of Hara-Hoto alone is a square with sides of 400 metres. Around it there are traces of lesser structures and fragments of ceramics that indicate the existence of handicraft suburbs. The destruction of the city is often ascribed to the Mongols. In fact Genghis-khan took the Tangut capital in 1227 and the Mongols brutally made short work of its population. But the city discovered by Koziov continued to exist still in the fourteenth century, as is attested by the dates of the many documents found by members of the expedition. Then the end of the city was linked with the change in the river's course, which was diverted by the besiegers, according to Torgod folk tradition by means of a dam made of sandbags. The dam has survived to the present in the form of a wall. So, it seemingly existed, but the Mongols had nothing to do with it. In the descriptions of the capture of the city of Urahai (Mongolian) or Heshuicheng (Chinese) there is no such information. And it would simply have been impossible since the Mongol horsemen were not equipped with the necessary trenching tool. The death of the city was ascribed to the Mongols by an evil tradition that began back in the Middle Ages of ascribing everything bad to them. In fact the Tangut city perished in 1372 and was captured by Chinese troops of the Ming Dynasty, who were then waging war against the last of the Genghisites, and was laid waste as a base of Mongols who were threatening China from the west.

But why didn't it revive? The change in the river's course was not the reason, since the city could have migrated to another tributary of the Edzin-Gol. An answer to that can be found in Kozlov's book. With the powers of observation characteristic of him, he noted that the amount of water in the Edzin-Gol had got less, and the lake Sogo Nor had grown shallower, and overgrown with reeds. The shifting of the river bed to the west had played a certain role in that, but it alone could not explain why the country had fed a huge population in the thirteenth century, but had been converted into a sandy desert at the beginning of the twentieth.

So the blame for the desolation of the cultivated land of Asia does not fall on the Mongols but on changes of climate which I have described in special works. [+16]


Can we believe the memorials? But why were Genghis-khan and his sons blamed for the devastation of Asia, while other events of a much greater scale (for example, the defeat of the Uighurs by the Kyrgyz in A.D. 841-846, or the general extermination of the Kalmycks by the Manchurian emperor Ch'ien Lung in 1756-1758) [+17] have remained outside historians' field of view?

The answer has to be sought in historiography rather than in the history of peoples. Talented books on history are not often written, in any case, and besides do not all come down to us. In the Near East the age of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was a period of the flowering of literature, but the struggle against the Mongol yoke both in Persia and in Russia then was the most pressing problem, and a host of works was devoted to it there that have survived to our day. Among them were both talented and brilliant works, judging by those that have come down to us. They evoked imitations and repetitions, which increased the total number of works on this question. The extermination of the Oirats did not find its historian, or he perished in the massacre. Thus, it turned out, events were not illuminated uniformly and their significance was distorted, since they were presented, as it were, on different scales. Hence, too, a hypothesis arose that ascribed the almost total annihilation of the population of the lands conquered by Genghis-khan, and the complete alteration of the landscape, to his hordes, which by no means corresponds to the truth. It should be noted that the maximum desiccation did not occur in countries ravaged by the hordes, but in Uighuria, where they were not at all, and Jungaria, where no one decided to destroy the grassy steppeland. The historical and geographical information of the sources is consequently unreliable.

And, finally, it is tempting to consider tremendous historical events, like the Mongols' campaigns of the thirteenth century, as migrations. The eminent British scholars Ellsworth Huntington and C.E.P. Brooks, for example, yielded to this temptation. But the Mongol campaigns were not associated with migrations. The victories were not won by crowds of nomads but by smallish, beautifully organized mobile detachments that returned to their native steppes after the campaigns. The numbers on the move were insignificant even for the thirteenth century. The khans of the Juchid branch, for instance, Batu, Orda, and Shayban, received by Genghis-khan's will only 4 000 horsemen, i.e. around 20 000 persons, who were settled over a territory from the Carpathians to the Altai. The real migration of the Kalmycks in the seventeenth century, on the contrary, remained unnoted by most historians because it did not have great resonance in works of world history. Consequently, a more solid knowledge of history is required, in order to tackle the problem posed, than what is readily derived from summary works, and a more detailed knowledge of geography than that to which historians or agricultural economists usually limit themselves. The main point is that it is necessary to extract reliable information from the subjective perceptions characteristic of many authors of written sources from Herodotus to our day.

We are well acquainted with the dates and details of battles, peace treaties, palace revolutions, and great discoveries, but we do not always know how to link these data up with definite phenomena of nature. The method of comparing the facts of history and changes of nature only began to be developed in the twentieth century.

Le Roy Ladurie, the historian of climate, has noted that the tendency to reduce booms and slumps of the economy in the various countries of Europe to periods of increased or lowered precipitation, cooling or warming, was based on an ignoring of economic and social crises, whose role was not doubted. He thus considered that the increase in imports of Baltic (i.e. Russian.-L.G.) grain into the Mediterranean, and reduction of the number of sheep in Spain in the sixteenth and especially the seventeenth centuries, are more easily correlated with the destruction inflicted on European countries by the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation than with insignificant changes in annual temperatures. [+18] He is right! Suffice it to note that there was a fall in population in that century not only in Germany, on whose territory the devastating Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) was fought, but also in Spain, a country that did not suffer ravages (in 1600, 8 000 000, and in 1700, 7 300 000). But that was due to a large part of the young men having been mobilized in America or the Netherlands, as a consequence of which there were not enough working hands in the country to maintain the economy and families.

What would we think of a historian who undertook to explain all the economic progress of Europe since 1850 by the retreat of glaciers established beyond doubt in the Alps,

Ladurie wrote; [+19] it is impossible not to agree with him. It is consequently necessary, in his opinion, simply to amass facts dated as accurately and unambiguously as possible, so as not to encourage contradictory interpretations.

There is no exact method of determining absolute dating in geography. A mistake of a thousand years is considered quite acceptable in it. It is easy to establish, for example, that deposits of silt have covered strata of loams, and consequently to note the existence of flooding, but it is impossible to say when it happened 500 or 5 000 years ago. Pollen analysis indicates the existence, for example, of xerophilous (drought-tolerant) plants in a place where moisture-loving ones now grow, but there is no guarantee that the swamping of a valley occurred because of a shifting of the channel of a near-by river, and not through a change of climate. Remains of groves have been discovered in the steppes of Mongolia and Kazakhstan but it is impossible to say from them whether they died out from desiccation or from being chopped down by people; and even if the latter were demonstrated, the time of savage treatment of the landscape would still remain unknown.

Perhaps archaeology can help? Memorials of material culture distinctly mark periods of the flourishing and decline of peoples, and are amenable to quite accurate dating. The things found in the ground, or old burials, do not tend to mislead researchers or inspire them to distort the facts. But things are mute, which gives the archaeologists plenty of scope for imagination. And our contemporaries are also prone to romance and let their imagination run away with them; and although their way of thinking is very different from the mediaeval one, there is no certainty that they are any closer to reality. In the twentieth century we sometimes meet blind faith in the power of archaeological excavations, based on the truly successful finds in Egypt, Babylonia, India, and even in the Altai Mts., thanks to which we have been able to discover and investigate forgotten countries of ancient history. But that is the exception; for the most part the archaeologist has to be satisfied with shards got from the dust of scorching steppes, fragments of bones in rifled graves, and remains of walls, the height in one imprint of a brick. And one must remember, moreover, that the find is an insignificant part of the lost. It is never known what precisely is lost, but it is a mistake to consider the lost to be non-existent, and not to make allowances for it, a mistake that leads to obviously incorrect conclusions. In short, archaeology without history can lead the researcher into error. Let us try otherwise.


Are There Ethnoi?


There are no signs for defining an ethnos. According to my suggested definition, the form of existence of the species Homo sapiens is a collective of individuals opposing themselves to all other collectives. It is more or less stable, although it arises and disappears in historical time, which constitutes the problem of ethnogenesis. All these collectives differ more or less from one another, sometimes in language, sometimes in customs, sometimes in system of ideology, sometimes in origin, but always in historical fate or destiny. An ethnos is consequently, on the one hand, a product of history, and on the other is linked, through productive activity or the economy, with the biocoenosis of the landscape and country in which it was formed. Consequently an ethnic national group can change this relation, but with that it is altered beyond recognition, and continuity is only traceable by the scientific method, with the strictest criticism of sources, because words are deceptive.

Before I go any further, we must agree on the concept 'ethnos', which I have not yet defined. We do not have a single real attribute for defining an ethnos as such, although there has never been, and is not, a human being who is unethnic. All the attributes listed define an ethnos 'sometimes', but their aggregate defines nothing at an. Let us check this thesis by the negative method.

In the theory of historical materialism the basis of society is recognized as the mode of production, which develops through socioeconomic formations. That is why self-development plays the decisive role in it; the influence of erogenous factors, including natural ones, cannot be basic in the genesis of social progress. The concept 'society' signifies an aggregate of people united by the concrete historical conditions of material life common to them. The main force in this system of conditions is the mode of production of material goods. People are united in the course of production, and the result of this uniting Is social relations, which are formed in one of the five known formations (primitive communal, slaveowning, feudal, capitalist, and communist).

It is impossible 'to be united in an ethnos', since membership of one ethnos or another is directly perceived by the subject himself, and the surrounding ones take it as a fact not subject to doubt. Feeling or sensation consequently underlies the ethnic diagnostic. A person belongs to his ethnos from infancy. It is sometimes possible to incorporate strangers, but if that happens on a broad scale it disintegrates the ethnos. An ethnos can be broken up, but it is preserved in a diasporic state, forming numerous relict forms. The historical conditions are altered more than once during the fife of an ethnos; conversely, divergence of ethnoi is often observed during the predominance of one mode of production. Starting from Marx's idea of the historical process as an interaction of the history of nature and the history of men, [+20] we can propose a first, most general division into social stimuli arising in the technosphere, and natural stimuli constantly operating from the geographical environment. Everyone is not only a member of some society or other that is at a certain level of development, but is also a physical body subject to gravitation, and the final link in some biocoenosis, an organism capable of adaptation and existing at an age determined by the effect of hormones. The same can be said about the long-living collectives that socially form class states or tribal unions of various character (social organisms), and in nature form ethnoi (tribes, nationalities, nations). Their non-coincidence is obvious.


An ethnos is not a society. But there is another point of view, in accordance with which

an ethnos ... is a socio-historical category, whose genesis and development are determined, moreover, not by the biological laws of nature but by the specific laws of the development of society. [+21]

How is that to be understood? According to the theory of historical materialism, the spontaneous development of the productive forces causes changes in the relations of production which generates a dialectical process of class formation that are transformed by processes of class abolition. This is a global phenomenon, a peculiar social form of the development of matter. But what does that have to do with ethnogenesis? Surely the appearance of such well-known ethnoi as the French or English did not coincide chronologically or territorially with the moulding of the feudal formation. Or did these ethnoi disappear with its collapse and the transition to capitalism? But in that same France the 'socio-historical category', the Kingdom of France, already embraced, in the fourteenth century, Celtic Bretons, Basques, Provencals, and Burgundians in addition to the French; so surely they were ethnoi? Doesn't this fact, one of very many, indicate that the pedigree definition is one-sided? And so that is grounds for scientific dispute.

Dialectical materialism distinguishes various forms of the motion of matter. The mechanical, physical, chemical, and biological are natural forms, while the social stands alone; by virtue of its specific nature it is characteristic only of mankind in all its manifestations. Every person and collective of people with technique and domesticated things (tame animals and cultivated plants) is subject to the effect of both social and natural forms of the motion of matter, which are ceaselessly correlated in time (history) and space (geography). When we generalize the material in a single complex (historical geography), amenable to observation and study, we have to examine it in two aspects - the social and the natural. In the first we see social organizations (tribal unions, states, theocracies, political parties, philosophical schools, etc.), in the second, ethnoi, i.e. collectives of people that arise and break up in a relatively short time but in each case have an original structure, a unique stereotype of behaviour, and its own rhythm of development, existing within the limit of homeostasis.

It is accepted, of course, to call classes, for example, sometimes juridically registered in estates or castes, socio-historical categories. In pre-class society tribal or gentile unions, for example the Celts' clans, were their analogue. In its broad sense 'social category' can be extended to stable institutions, the state, for example, or church organization, the polis (in Hellas), or the fief. But everyone who knows history is aware that such categories only coincide with the boundaries of ethnoi in very rare cases, i.e. there is no direct link here. And, what is more, the economy, which belongs completely to the social form of the motion of matter, demolishes national boundaries. With the existence of a common European market, similar technique, similarity of education in the various countries, and widespread study of related languages, it might seen, that ethnic differences would be wiped out in twentieth-century Europe. But are they in fact? The Irish broke away from Great Britain and spared no efforts to study their ancient, almost forgotten language. Scotland and Catalonia lay claims to autonomy although they had hardly considered themselves oppressed for the past 300 years. In Belgium Flemings and Walloons, who lived in harmony until recently, have suddenly begun a violent struggle that has come to street fights between students of the two ethnoi. And since only chance coincidence of social and ethnic peaks and slumps were also observed in antiquity, it is obvious that we are observing an interference of two lines of development or, in the language of mathematics, of two independent variables. This can only be ignored with a very strong desire to do so.


Language. Let us try to discover the nature of the perceptible manifestation of the existence of ethnoi, the phenomenon of the counterposing of itself to all others, i.e. the 'we' and the 'not us'. What gives rise to this opposition and feeds it? Not unity of language, because there are many bilingual and trilingual ethnoi and on the contrary different ethnoi that speak one language. The French, for instance, speak four languages - French , Celtic, Basque, and Provencal, which does not prevent their present ethnic unity in spite of the history of the unification, or rather the Parisian kings' conquest of France from the Rhine to the Pyrenees, having been quite bloody. On the other hand, the Mexicans, Peruvians, and Argentines speak Spanish, but are not Spaniards. For some reason torrents of blood were spilled at the beginning of the nineteenth century only in order for war-torn Latin America to fall into the hands of trading companies of Great Britain and the USA. The Englishmen of Northumberland speak a language close to Norwegian because they are the descendants of Vikings who settled in England; and until recently the Irish knew only English but did not become English. Several different peoples speak Arabic; for many Uzbeks their mother tongue is Tajik, and so on. In addition there are group languages, like French in England in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Greek in Parthia in the second and first centuries B.C., Arabic in Persia from the seventh to eleventh centuries A.D., and so on. Since the integrity of the ethnic national group was not disrupted, one must conclude that it is not a matter of language.

Furthermore, linguistic diversity often finds practical application, the practice bringing people speaking different languages closer together. During the U.S.- Japanese war in the Pacific, for example, the Japanese succeeded so well in decoding American radio transmissions that the Americans lost the possibility of transmitting secret information by radio. But they found a clever, unexpected way out, by teaching the Morse code to called-up Indians. An Apache transmitted to a Navajo in Athabaskan, an Assiniboin to a Sioux in Dakota, and the receiver translated the text into English. The Japanese broke the code but were helpless in face of the texts. Military service often brings people together; the Indians who returned home remained friends with their paleface war comrades. It did not, however, assimilate the Indians; the command, moreover, valued precisely their ethnic features, including bilingualism. So, although language may serve as an indicator of ethnic community in separate cases, it is not the cause of it.

The Weps, Udmurts, Karelians, and Chuvash, let us note, still speak their our languages at home, but study Russian in school, and on quitting their villages are practically indistinguishable from Russians. Their knowledge of their native language does not in the least prevent them from working on a common footing.

Finally, the Ottoman Turks! In the thirteenth century the Turkmenian chieftain Orthogrul, escaping from the Mongols, led around 500 horsemen and their families into Asia Minor. The sultan of Iconium settled the arrivals in Brussa, on the border with Nicaea, to wage a border war with the 'infidel' Greeks. Under the first sultans volunteer ghazi gathered in Brussa from all over the Near East, attracted by the allure of booty and land for settlement; they constituted cavalry, spahis. The conquest of Bulgaria and Macedonia in the fourteenth century enabled the Turkish sultans to organize infantry from Christian boys, who were torn from their families, converted to Islam, trained for warfare, and given the status of guards - the 'new troops' (janissaries). In the fifteenth century a navy was created, manned by all the adventurists of the coasts of the Mediterranean. In the sixteenth century light cavalry (akinji) were added, formed from emigrants from conquered Diarbekr, Iraq, and Kurdistan. French renegades became diplomats, and Greeks, Armenians, and Jews financiers and economists. These people bought wives in the slave markets (Poles, Ukrainians, Germans, Italians, Georgians, Greeks, Berbers, Negroes, etc.). These women were the mothers and grandmothers of the Turkish troops. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Turks were an ethnos, but the young soldier received orders in Turkish, talked with his mother in Polish, and his grandmother in Italian, traded in the bazaar in Greek, read verses in Persian, and prayed in Arabic. But he was an 'Ottoman' because he behaved as an Ottoman did, a brave, pious warrior of Islam.

The numerous European renegades broke down this unity in the nineteenth century, and formed the Young Turks in Paris. In the twentieth century the Ottoman Empire fell, and the ethnos broke up - people passed into other ethnoi. The descendants of the Seljuks raised a new Turkey from the depths of Asia Minor, and the remnants of the Ottomans lived out their remaining days in the alleys of Istanbul. So, a religious community, not a linguistic one, united the Ottoman ethnos for 600 years.

Ideology and culture are sometimes also attributes, but not necessary ones. Only an Orthodox Christian could be a Byzantine, for example, and all Orthodox were considered subjects of the Constantinople emperor, and perceived as 'ours'. But that was disrupted as soon as the baptized Bulgars started war with the Greeks, while Rus, having adopted Orthodoxy, did not dream of submitting to Czargrad. The principle of like-mindedness was also proclaimed by the Caliphs, the successors of Muhammed, but it did not withstand the rivalry of living reality - ethnoi again arose within the unity of Islam. On the other hand, preaching sometimes unites a group of people, which becomes an ethnos-the Sikhs in northwest India, for example, and the Ottoman Turks (see above). But in the Ottoman Empire there were Sunni Muslims, subjects of the Sultan, Arabs, and Crimean Tatars, who did not, however, consider themselves Turks. Even linguistic closeness to the Ottomans played no role for the Tatars. So faith, too, is not a common attribute of ethnicity.

A clear example of the confessional self-awareness of an ethnos is the Sikhs, a sect of Indian origin. The caste system established in India was considered obligatory for all Hindus. It was a special structure of the ethnos. Being a Hindu meant being a member of a definite caste. It was not a political unity, but the stereotype of behaviour was firmly maintained, even quite brutally. Each caste had the right to a certain type of occupation, and those on whom military service was settled were few. That made it possible for Afghan Muslims to master India and jeer at the defenseless population, the inhabitants of Punjab suffering most. In the sixteenth century a teaching appeared there that at first proclaimed non-resistance to evil, but later set an aim of war against Muslims. The caste system was abolished, which distinguished the Sikhs (the name of devotees of the new faith) from Hindus. They isolated themselves from the Indian community by endogamy, developed their own stereotype of behaviour, and established a structure of their own community. According to the principle I have adopted, the Sikhs should be regarded as a rising ethnos counterposed to Hindus. And so they perceive themselves. The religious conception has become a symbol for them, and for us an indicator of ethnic divergence.

The teaching of the Sikhs cannot be considered just a doctrine, because if anyone in Moscow were to embrace this religion fully he would not become a Sikh, and they would not consider him one of them. The Sikhs became an ethnos on the basis of religion, the Mongols on the basis of kinship, the Swiss through a successful war against Austrian feudalists, who welded together a country where four languages were spoken. Ethnoi are formed by various means, and our task is to find the common pattern in that.

Most major peoples have several ethnographic types that constitute a harmonious system but that differ very much from one another both in time and in social structure. Compare seventeenth century Moscow with its boyar hats and beards, when women spun behind mica windows, or eighteenth-century Moscow when magnates in wigs and camisoles took their wives to balls, and nineteenth-century Moscow when bearded nihilist students educated young ladies from all estates; and add the decedents of the early twentieth century. Comparing them all with our age, knowing that they are one and the same ethnos, we see that ethnography could lead the investigator without a knowledge of history into error. No less indicative is a spatial cross-section for one year, say 1869. White Sea Russians, Petersburg workers, Transvolga Old Believers, Siberian gold prospectors, peasants of the forest provinces and peasants of the steppes, the Don and Ural Cossacks were outwardly quite unlike one another, but that did not disrupt the folk unity, while the closeness of the everyday life of the Greben Cossacks and the Chechens did not unite them.

Strange as it may be, the point of view put forward here has met active resistance precisely where it should attract attention. Kozlov and Pokshishevsky, whose paper I cited above, have opposed their view to mine both on the relationship of ethnography and geography and on the history of the question, i.e. on historiography. While not desiring to polemize, I nevertheless cannot ignore another conception that lays claims (without grounds) to canonicity. That would be academically incorrect.

These scholars represent the formation of ethnography as a science as follows. Up to the middle of the nineteenth century geography and ethnography developed together, but ethnography later split into socio-historical and geographical trends. Lewis Morgan, J.J. Bachofen, E.B. Tylor, Sir James Frazer, and L.Ya. Sternberg belonged to the first trend, and Friedrich Ratzel, L.D. Sinitsky, and A.A. Coubert and the French school of 'human geography' to the second. There is a substantial defect in the classification proposed, which reduces it essentially to nought. The members of the 'trends' were interested in different subjects and devoted their attention to different themes. And that being the case, it is unjustified to counterpose them. For when Ratzel tried to substantiate the geographical character of ethnographic division into districts he by no means disputed the conception of animism, sympathetic magic, or ritual murder of a priest, i.e. the subjects to which Frazer devoted his Golden Bough. But it was to the existence of versatile scholars' diverse interests that authors ascribed the separation of ethnography from geography, and its rebirth as a social science. There was a certain confusion in that fraught with sorry consequences. Any science develops by broadening its range of investigation, and not by a simple change of thematic. Consequently, when historical aspects were added to the achievements of geographical ethnography, that was progress of the science, but when some subjects were replaced by others that was marking time, which is always extremely damaging.

Equally, one must not replace ethnography by a theory about 'economic-cultural types' characteristic of peoples that are approximately at an identical level of socioeconomic development and living in similar natural geographical conditions (for example, the type of 'Arctic marine-mammal hunters', 'herdsmen of the and steppes', and so on). [+22] This trend is fruitful for paleo-economic geography, but does not and cannot have any relation to ethnography - there are, for example, reindeer Chukchi i.e. pastoralists, and Chukchi hunters of marine mammals. According to the classification proposed they should be put into different groups, although they are one ethnos. And surely the Russian peasants of Moscovy, the White Sea Russians (Pomors), and Siberian sable hunters are one ethnos. And there is indeed no end of examples.

It, is also incorrect to equate ethnos with biological taxonomic units, i.e. races or populations. Races differ from one another in physical attributes that have no essential significance for man's life activity. [+23] A population is an aggregate of individuals peopling a definite territory, in which they freely cross-breed, and are separated from neighboring populations by isolation of some sort. An ethnos, in my understanding, is a collective of individuals that has a unique inner structure and an original stereotype of behaviour, both components being dynamic. Consequently an ethnos is an elementary phenomenon that is not reducible to either sociological biological, or geographical phenomena.

Reduction of ethnogenesis to 'linguistic-cultural processes' distorts reality, removing the complexity of ethnic history, which Bromley pointed out when he proposed introducing the supplementary terms 'ethnikos' and 'eso' (ethno-social organization) in order to clarify the problem. [+24] I believe one can be not satisfied with his solution, but it is incorrect to ignore it altogether.


Descent from a single ancestor. In ancient times such descent was considered obligatory for an ethnos. Often an animal, which was not always a totem, figured as the ancestor. For the Turks and the Romans it was a she-wolf wet-nurse; for the Uighurs a wolf that fertilized a queen; for the Tibetans an ape and a female rakshas (forest demon). But usually it was a man whose image was distorted beyond recognition by legend: Abraham, the ancestor of the Jews, his son Ismail, the ancestor of the Arabs, Cadmus, the founder of Thebes and initiator of the Beotians, and so on.

Strange as it may seem, these archaic views have not died out; only in our time we try to put some ancient tribe in the place of a person, as the ancestors of an existing ethnos. But that, too, is incorrect. As there is no person who has only a father or a mother, so there is no ethnos that had not been produced by various ancestors, And one should not confuse ethnoi with races, as is often done, but without justification. The grounds for temptation is the preconceived idea that 'the processes of racial origin (like the processes of ethnogenesis.- L. G.) probably developed in certain areas of the world and were governed by the specific nature of the natural environment,' [+25] i.e. by the climate, flora, and fauna of geographical zones.

There is an impermissible substitution of an object here, i.e. the initial race is arbitrarily equated with ethnos. Let us examine this.

During the Upper Paleolithic, when sub-arctic conditions prevailed in Europe, with a very arid climate, the valley of the Rhone was settled by the Grimaldi Negroid race, while the tropical forests of Africa were inhabited by the Khoisan race, which combined Mongoloid and Negroid features. This race was ancient; its origin is unclear, but there are no grounds for considering it a hybrid. The Negroid Bantu pushed the Khoisan to the extreme south of Africa in a quite historical period, beginning in the first century A.D. up to the nineteenth century, when the Bechauna drove the Bushmen into the Kalahari Desert. Negroid features did not arise at all in equatorial America, although the natural conditions were similar to the African.

The arid zone of Eurasia was peopled by Europeoids of the Cromagnon type and by Mongoloids, but that did not lead to a wiping out of racial features. In Tibet the Mongoloid Bod (Bodyul) were neighbors of the Europeoid Dardi and Pamirtsy, and in the Himalayas the Gurkhas of the Patani. But the similarity of natural environment did not influence the racial character. In short, one must recognize that the functional connection of anthropological differences among various populations and the geographical conditions of the areas peopled by them is not clear. Furthermore, there is no certainty that there is one in general in nature, the more so that the idea runs counter to the achievements of modern paleoanthropology, which bases racial classification not on zones of latitude but by meridional regions (Atlantic, to which Europeoids and African Negroids are assigned; and Pacific, to which the Mongoloids of East Asia and America belong). This point of view rules out the effect of natural conditions on the origin of races because both groups took shape in various climatic zones.

Ethnoi are always linked, on the contrary, with natural conditions, through active economic activity, which is manifested in two directions, viz., adaptation to the terrain, and of the latter to the ethnos. In both cases, however, we come up against an ethnos as a really existing phenomenon, although the reason for its origin is not clear.

It is also not necessary to reduce the whole diversity of my theme to some one thing. It is better simply to establish the role of certain factors. The terrain, for example, determines an ethnic collective's possibilities during its rise, but a newly born ethnos alters the terrain in accordance with its requirements. Such mutual adaptation is only possible when a rising ethnos is full of strength and is seeking to apply it. Later, however, it becomes used to the established situation, which becomes near and dear to its descendants. Denial of that leads inevitably to a conclusion that peoples have no homeland, understood here as a combination of topographical elements dear to all hearts. Hardly anyone will agree with that.

That alone indicates that ethnogenesis is not a social process, because spontaneous development of the sociosphere only interacts with natural phenomena, but is not a product of them. But it is precisely because ethnogenesis is a process, and a directly observed ethnos is a phase of ethnogenesis, and consequently an unstable system, that any comparison of ethnoi with anthropological races is ruled out, and so with any racial theories. In fact, the principle of anthropological classification is similarity, and the people who comprise an ethnos are diverse.

Two or more components always operate during ethnogenesis. The crossing of various ethnoi sometimes yields a new stable form, but sometimes leads to degeneration. A mixture of Slavs, Ugrians, Alans, and Turks merged into the Great Russian nationality, while the Mongolo-Chinese and Manchurian-Chinese mixtures that often took shape along the line of the Chinese Great Wall over the last two thousand years proved unstable and disappeared and did not form independent ethnic units.

Central Asia was inhabited by Sogdians in the seventh century A.D., and the term 'Tajik' already meant 'Arab' in the eighth century, i.e. warriors of the Caliph. Nasr ibn Sayyar, when suppressing a rising of Sogdians in A.D. 733, was forced to recruit Khorassan Persians, who had already adopted Islam, to his depleted forces. He picked many of them, so that Persian began to predominate in his Arab army. After his victory, when the Sogdian men were slaughtered, and the children were sold into slavery, but the beautiful women and flourishing gardens were shared out among the victors, a Persian-speaking population developed in Sogdiana and Bukhara, that resembled the Khorassians. But in 1510 the fates of Iran and Central Asia diverged. The Turk Ismail Safevi, a zealous Shiite, conquered Iran and converted the Persians to Shi'ism. But Central Asia fell to Sunni Uzbeks, and the Persian-speaking population retained the old name 'Tajik' which, before the fall of the Bukharan dynasty of the Mangyts in 1918, had no significance attached to it. When the Uzbek and Tajik Republics were formed m the old Turkestan Territory, the descendants of the Khorassan Persians, the eighth-century conquerors, who lived in Bukhara and Samarkand, were counted as Uzbeks in the census, and the descendants of the Turks, the conquerors of the eleventh and sixteenth centuries, living in Dushanbe and Shakhrisabz, as Tajiks. They knew both languages from childhood, were Muslims, and were indifferent to how they were recorded. Over the past 40 years the position has altered; Tajiks and Uzbeks have been formed as socialist nations, but how were they to be regarded before then, when religious affiliation determined ethnic affiliation (Muslims and Kafirs) and there were no clans among Tajiks? For both ethnic substrata Turks and Iranians --were 'imported' ethnoi in Central Asia a thousand years ago, quite a long enough period for adaptation. There is obviously a certain pattern here that needs to be brought out and described. But clearly community of origin cannot be the indicator for determination of an ethnos. It is a myth inherited by our consciousness from the primitive science of primitive society.


Ethnos as an illusion. But perhaps 'ethnos' is simply a social category that takes shape with the formation of a society. [+26] Then 'ethnos' is an illusory value and ethnography a meaningless past-time, since it is simpler to study social conditions directly. That point of view is mistaken, however, which becomes obvious when speculation is replaced by observations of natural processes accessible to a thoughtful person. Let me clarify this from real examples. Celtic Bretons and Iberian Gascons live in France. In the forests of the Vende and on the slopes of the Pyrenees they dress in their own costumes, speak their own language, and distinguish themselves distinctly in their homeland from the French. But can one say of Marshal Murat or Lannes that they were Basques and not French? Or about D'Artagnan, both as a historical personage and the hero of Dumas' novel? Can we not consider the Breton nobleman Chateaubriand and Gilles de Retz, the companion of Joan of Arc, Frenchmen? Wasn't the Irishman Oscar Wilde not an English writer? The famous Orientalist Chokan Valikhanov said of himself that he considered himself equally Russian and Kazakh. There is any number of such examples, but they all show that the ethnic affiliation discoverable in peoples' consciousness is not a product of consciousness itself. It evidently reflects some aspect or other of the person, much deeper, and external as regards consciousness, by which I understand a form of higher nervous activity. But in other cases, ethnoi for some reason manifest immense resistance to the effects of their surroundings and do not assimilate.

The Gypsies have now been separated from their society and India for a thousand years, have lost their link with their native land, and nevertheless have not merged with the Spaniards, or the French, or the Czechs, or the Mongols. They did not adopt the feudal institutions of the societies of Europe, remaining an outsider group in all the countries where they lived. The Iroquois still live as a tiny ethnic group (totaling 20 000 persons), surrounded by hypertrophied capitalism, but do not adopt the 'American way of life'. In the Mongolian People's Republic there are Turkic ethnoi (Soyots or Uranhaitsy, Kazakhs, etc.), but in spite of a similarity of the 'material and spiritual development of society', they have not merged with the Mongols, but constitute independent ethnoi. And conversely, French settled in Canada in the eighteenth century and still retain their ethnic face. Jews lived in Salonika as an endogamous group more than 400 years after their expulsion from Spain, but according to the data of 1918 they were more like Arabs than their neighbors the Greeks. Exactly the same way Germans from Hungary outwardly resembled their confrres in Germany, and Gypsies Hindus. Selection alters the correlation of attributes slowly, and mutations, we know, are rare. Any nationality living in a terrain customary for it is therefore almost in a state of equilibrium.

But one must not think that a change of conditions of existence never influences an ethnos. Sometimes it exerts such a strong impact that new attributes are formed, and new ethnic variants that are more or less stable. We must therefore examine how these processes come about and why they yield different results.


Between West and East. When we acquaint ourselves with the cultures of the Mediterranean, we rind ourselves in an environment of accustomed concepts and values. Religion signifies belief in God, the state is a territory with a definite order and authority, countries have names, peoples an ethnic affiliation, and rivers and lakes are in definite places.

Only the customary titles 'West' and 'East' do not behave quite geographically. Morocco is considered 'East' and Hungary and Poland 'West'. But everyone manages to adapt to this convention, and there is no confusion of the concepts. Non-specialists' familiarity with the subject as a consequence of reading fiction, and the availability of living tradition, are very conducive to this.

But as soon as we cross the mountain passes that divide Central and Eastern Asia, we come into a world of another system of reckoning. Here we meet religions that deny the existence not only of a divinity but also of the world around us. Regimes and social structures prove to contradict the principle of the state and authority. We find ethnoi in nameless countries without a community of language and economy, and sometimes even of territory, while rivers and lakes will migrate like pastoralists. The tribes that we are accustomed to consider nomads prove to be settled, and the strength of armies will not depend on their numbers. Only the patterns of ethnogenesis remain unchanged.

Other material calls for another approach and consequently another scale of investigation. Otherwise it will remain incomprehensible and my book will become unnecessary for the reader. That is to say, the reader accustomed to European terms. He knows what a 'king' is, and a 'count' or 'earl', a 'chancellor', and a 'bourgeois commune'. But in the East of Oecumene there were not equivalent terms. A 'khaghan' was not a king or an emperor, but a military chieftain elected for life who combined with it the performance of rituals of honoring ancestors. But can we imagine Richard the Lion-Hearted saying a funerary mass for Henry II, whom he drove to heart failure? And even that members of the Gascon and English nobility were present at this mass? Indeed, it is nonsense! But in the east of the Great Steppes, he would have been obliged to do so, otherwise he would have been killed.

Such appellations as 'Chinese' or 'Hindus' are not equivalent to 'French' or 'Germans' but to West Europeans as a whole, because they are systems of ethnoi but united on other principles of culture. Hindus are linked by a system of castes, and Chinese by hieroglyphic writing and an education connected with it. As soon as a native of Hindustan was converted to Muhammedanism, he ceased to be a Hindu since he became an outcast or renegade for his fellow-countrymen and fell into the category of untouchables. And a Chinese living among barbarians according to their customs, was treated, according to Confucius, as a barbarian. But a foreigner who observed Chinese etiquette was regarded as a Chinese.

In order to compare the ethnoi of East and West we have to find a proper correlation with an equal scale of division. For that purpose I shall study the properties of an ethnos as a natural phenomenon characteristic of all countries and ages.

To achieve this purpose one must be very attentive to ancient traditional information about the world, and not to reject it in advance because it does not correspond to our modern notions and ideas. We constantly forget that people who lived several thousand years ago had the same consciousness, capacities, and aspiration for the truth and knowledge as modern people. Treatises that have come down to us from the various peoples of various times testify to that.

The ordinary approach is not suitable for understanding the history and culture of Eastern Asia. When we study the history of Europe we can divide it up -- into the history of France, Germany, England, etc., or ancient history, mediaeval, and modern. Then, studying the history, say, of Rome, we are interested in neighboring peoples only insofar as Rome clashed with them. For Western countries such an approach is justified by the results obtained, but when we study Central Asia by this means we do not get satisfactory results. The reason lies deep; it is that the Asian and European understanding of the term 'people' ('folk') is different. In Asia itself ethnic unity is perceived differently, and even if I take off the Levant, and India with Indo-China, as without direct relation to my theme, there remain all the same three different understandings, the Chinese, Iranian, and nomadic. The last-named, moreover, varies particularly strongly with the epoch.

In Europe an ethnonym is a stable concept; in Central Asia it is more or less fluid; in China it is absorbent, and in Iran exclusive. In other words, in order to be considered a Chinese in China, a person had to adopt the fundamentals of Chinese morality, education, and rules of behaviour. Origin was not taken into account, nor language, because the Chinese spoke different languages in antiquity. It is therefore clear that China inevitably expanded, swallowing and absorbing small peoples and tribes. In Iran, on the contrary, a Persian had to be born one, but above all, in addition, had to honour Ahura Mazda and hate Ahriman. Without that it was impossible to be an 'Aryan'. The mediaeval (Sassanid) Persians did not think it even possible to include anyone in their ranks since they called themselves 'well-born' or 'noble' (nondoron), and others did not belong to that number. As a result, the number of the people steadily fell. It is difficult to guess at the Parthian conception, but it seemingly differed from the Persian only in being rather broader.

With the Hunni it was necessary, in order to be considered one, to be a member of a clan, but a clan could only be joined through marriage or by the command of a shanyui, by which a person became a member of a clan. The heirs of the Hunni, the Tyrians, began to incorporate whole tribes. Mixed tribal alliances arose on the basis of acceptance, for example Kazakhs, Yakuts, etc. Among the Mongols, very close in general to the Turks and Hunni, the horde was given predominance, i.e. a group of people united by discipline and leadership. Neither origin nor language, nor religious belief was required for that, but only courage and readiness to submit. The names of the hordes were clearly not ethnonyms, but with the existence of hordes ethnonyms fell out of use in general since there was no need for them; the concept 'people' coincided with that of 'state'.

In that connection we have firmly to remember that the concept 'state' differs in all the cases mentioned above, and is not intertranslatable. The Chinese 'guo' is represented by a hieroglyph, viz., an enclosure and a man with a spear. That does not, by any means, correspond to the English 'state' or the French 'tat', or even the Latin 'imperium' and 'respublica'. It is also remote in content from the Iranian 'shahr' or the above-mentioned term 'horde'. The nuances of the difference often prove more significant than the elements of similarity, and that determines the behaviour of the figures of history. What seems monstrous to a European is natural for a Mongol, and vice versa.

We cannot help regretting, of course, the widespread idea that all state forms, social institutions, ethnic norms, and even manners of exposition not like the European, are simply backward, imperfect, and defective. Banal Eurocentrism is sufficient for Philistine perception but not suitable for scientific comprehension of the diversity of the observed phenomena. For from the standpoint of a Chinese or an Arab West Europeans seem to be defective. And that is also incorrect, untrue and unpromising for history. We obviously have to find a system of reckoning by which all observations will be made with an equal degree of accuracy. Only such an approach will make it possible to compare dissimilar phenomena and so yield reliable conclusions.

In the West countries are distinguished by name, but in the East?


A country and people without a name. Between the eastern boundary of the Muslim world and the north-western outskirts of the Middle Kingdom which we call China, lies a country that has no definite name. That is all the more strange since its geographical frontiers are very exactly delineated, the physical and climatic conditions within it are original and unique, the population numerous, and long concerned with culture. This country was very well known to Chinese, Greek, and Arab geographers; it was visited by Russian and West European travelers; archaeological excavations have been carried out in it many times; and everyone called it descriptively someway or other, but it did not have a name of its own. We therefore only know where it was located.

Two mountain ranges stretch eastward from the Pamirs -- the Kunlun Shan, to the south of which lies Tibet, and the Tien Shan. Between these ranges lies a sandy desert, the Takla-Makan, intersected by the river Tarim. This river has neither source nor mouth. Its beginning is taken to be the 'Aral', i.e. the 'island' between the branches of three rivers, the Yarkand, the Aksu, and the Khotan. Its end is sometimes lost in the sands, sometimes gets to the lake Karaburunkul and sometimes fills Lop Nor, a lake that constantly changes place. [+27] In this strange country the rivers and lakes wander, and people huddle in the mountain foothills. Fresh brooks flow down from the mountains, but then and there disappear under heaps of scree and come out on the surface at a considerable distance from the ridges, There are oases there; then the rivers again disappear, this time into the sands. In this very continental country there is a very deep depression, the bottom of which lies 154 meters below sea level, and in this depression there is an ancient cultural center, the Turfan oasis. How were sciences and the arts studied there in a summer heat as high as 48C and winter frosts as low as -37C, in the unbelievable dryness of the autumn air and the strong spring winds?! Yet they were, and with no little success.

The ancient population of this country had no name for itself. It is accepted now to call these people Tocharians, but that is not an ethnonym, but a Tibetan sobriquet -- tha gar, which means 'white head' (blond). The inhabitants of the various oases spoke various languages of the Indo-European group, including even a West Aryan one unlike those known in Europe. In the south-west of the country, in the foothills of the Kunlun Shan, roamed Tibetan tribes that were in close contact with the inhabitants of Khotan and Yarkand, but did not mix with them. In the early centuries A.D. Sakas penetrated this country from the west, who settled south of Kashgar as far as Khotan, and Chinese emigrants escaping the terrors of civil wars. The Chinese built themselves a colony Gaochang, in the Turfan oasis, which lasted until the ninth century A.D. and disappeared without trace.

As you will see, it is impossible to choose a name for this country by ethnonym, but this was a cultured population which organized an economy that must be considered the best in the ancient world.

The nature of the oases of Central Asia was brought into harmony with the needs of man. The Turfan people assimilated the Iranian system of underground water supply, keriz, thanks to which the irrigated area fed a big population. Two harvests a year were gathered. Turfan grapes can rightly be considered the best in the world; there were melons, watermelons, and apricots from spring to late autumn; the sowings of long-fiber cotton were protected from the winds by Lombardy poplars and mulberry trees. And around was a stony desert of fragments of disintegrated rocks, shingle, and boulders, through which neither tree nor shrub penetrated. This was a reliable defense of the oasis against big armies. It was very difficult to send foot soldiers across the desert, because they had to carry not only food with them, but also water, which greatly increased the baggage train. And raids of the nomads' light cavalry were not terrible for the fortress walls.

A second large center of this country, Karashahr, lay in the hills around the freshwater lake Baghrash-kul. This town 'has rich lands... abounds in fish... It is well fortified by nature and is easily defended.' [+28] From Baghr-ash-kul flows the Konche-darya, which feeds Lop Nor. The full-flowing Tarim river, bordered by groves of poplars, tamarisks, sea buckhorn, and tall reeds that give cover to deer and wild boars, can be reached along its banks without suffering thirst.

The old ideology of the settled dwellers of this country was Buddhism in the Hinayana form ('Lesser Way' or 'Lesser Vehicle', i.e. the most orthodox teaching of the Buddha without admixtures), which it is impossible to call a religion. The Hinayanists deny god, putting the moral law of karma (causal succession) in his place. A Buddha is a man who had achieved perfection and is an example for anybody wishing to liberate himself from sufferings and rebirths through the achievement of Nirvana, the state of absolute peace. Only a purposeful person or arhat (holy man) could achieve it, without depending either on divine mercy or on outside help.

It goes without saying that achieving the 'path of perfection' is the affair of the few. But what are the rest to do? They simply concerned themselves with everyday affairs, respected arhats, listened to sermons in their spare time, and hoped that they themselves might, in future rebirths, become holy ascetics. But we have already seen, by way of other examples, how insignificantly dogmas influence the ethnic stereotype of behaviour. The arhats, merchants, soldiers, and farmers of Turfan, Karashahr, and Kucha constituted a single system for which Hinayana Buddhism was only a coloring.

The coloring of an object plays its role, however, sometimes an essential one. The Hinayana community lasted until the fifteenth century, but the Mahayana, also a Buddhist doctrine, but a vague, complicated one of different character, which spread in Yarkand and Khotan, obviously not accidentally, had already given way to Islam in the eleventh century.

The Uighurs who arrived in Turfan professed Manichaeanism, but seemingly as formally as the Turfanites professed Buddhism. Manichaeanism had already disappeared as an independent confession before the twelfth century, but Manichaean ideas passed into certain Buddhist philosophical currents, and into Nestorianism which made a victorious march throughout Central Asia in the eleventh century. And in those centuries the inhabitants of Turfan, Karashahr, and Kucha began to call themselves Uighurs.

The Nestorians in Uighuria got along with the Buddhists in spite of their inherent intolerance. Christianity was seemingly welcome to people of a religious mentality remote from the atheistic abstractions of Hinayana. The merchants also became Christians, because the Buddhist doctrine forbade 'those who have taken the path' to touch gold, silver, and women. Religious people who were actively involved in economic life were therefore compelled to seek a faith that did not prevent them from living and working. One can consequently conclude that convenient ecological niches were found for both ideological systems.

The wealth of this country was mainly based on a favorable geographical position. Two caravan routes passed across it: one north of the Tien Shan and the other south of them. Chinese silk flowed by these routes to Provence, and luxury articles of France and Byzantium to China. The caravaners rested in the oases from the arduous desert crossings, and fattened their camels and horses. In that connection the local women widely practiced the first oldest profession, while the husbands permitted their wives these earnings, part of which went into their pockets. The Uighurs were so accustomed to this that even when, thanks to an alliance with Mongols, Uighuria became fabulously rich, its inhabitants begged the Mongol khan not to forbid their wives to entertain travellers. [+29]

This custom, or more correctly element of the ethnic stereotype of behaviour, proved more stable than language, religion, political system, and own name. The stereotype of behaviour developed as an adaptive attribute, i.e. as a mode of adaptation of the ethnos to its geographical environment. The names changed here more often than the ethnoi bearing them, the change of ethnonyms being explained by the political climate.

The rich, numerous population of these fertile oases could, without difficulty, feed the warlike nomads, the more so that the Uighurs, and later the Mongols, took on themselves the defense of their subjects against foreign enemies. For three hundred years the Uighurs mixed with the aborigines, but forced them to change from the Tocharian language to Turkish. That did not need much effort, incidentally, because in the eleventh century all peoples from the azure waters of the Sea of Marmara and the forested slopes of the Carpathians to the jungles of Bengal and the Great Wall of China spoke dialects of the Turkish language. Such a broad distribution of Turkish-speaking made this language convenient for trading operations, and the inhabitants of the oases of both halves of Central Asia were identically fond of trading. Change of a native but little used language for a generally accepted one therefore happened without difficulty, not only in the north-east of the Tarim basin but also in the south-west, where the role of the Uighurs had been taken on by the Turkish Yagma and Karluk tribes. But the difference between them and the Uighurs was immense. The Uighurs did not affect the way of life, religion, or culture of their subjects, but the Karluks, who had adopted Islam in A.D. 960, converted the Yashgar, Yarkand, and Khotan oases into likenesses of Samarkand and Bukhara.

A geographically monolithic region thus proved to be divided into two ethno-cultural provinces by no means friendly to one another. But the forces were balanced, and the distances between the oases were vast and almost impassable. The position therefore became stabilized for a long time.

This situation explains why the country remained without a single name. In antiquity the Chinese called it Xiyu, i.e. the 'Western Territory', and considered its end to be the 'Bow Mountains', the Pamirs and Altai. The Hellenes called this land 'Serika' and the precious commodity obtained from it serikos (silk). I shall not bother to explain the etymology of this word.

In modern times conventional names have also been used Kashgaria, Eastern Turkestan, or Sinkiang, i.e. literally the 'new frontier' established by the Manchurians in the eighteenth century. None of these names are suitable for our times. What was the 'West' for the ancient Chinese became the middle in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. To call a country inhabited by Indo-Europeans who have learned to understand Turkish speech 'Turkestan' is stupid. Kashgar never became the capital, and the 'New Frontier' did not seem to be even the horizon. Best of all we are left with the geographical conventional name, the Tarim basin. The river is a reliable reference point, in any case neutral and lasting. In addition the term 'Sinkiang' includes Jungaria (also a conventional and later name), located north of the Tien Shan, which had a quite different historical fate.

The eastern boundary of Uighuria is difficult to define. Since the disappearance of the river it has shifted significantly and many of the changes have not been dated. It can be thought that the Hami oasis belonged to the Uighurs, and perhaps the cave town of Tunhuang, a treasure-house of Buddhist art. But the more eastern lands, the oases of the Nan Shan foothills, were taken from the Uighurs by the Tanguts. These were a people which, like the Uighurs, do not now exist, although there are people who call themselves such. But that, too, is a mirage. The people calling themselves Uighurs are Ferghana Turks who settled in the east in the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries. And those who are taken for Tanguts are nomadic Tibetans, a relict ethnos who were once the most savage enemies of the Tanguts.

So, a historical critique shows that the meaning of name and the sound of it do not always correspond in Asia. In order to avoid annoying and, alas, frequent mistakes, one must develop a system of reckoning that would be real for Europe and Asia and America, Oceania, Africa, and Australia. But in this system sense will be preferred to phonetics, i.e. it will be based on history rather than on linguistics.


'States' and 'processes'. The aggregate of adduced facts indicates that the system of reference taking socioeconomic formations as its basis does not apply in principle to ethnogenesis. This system fixes 'states' of society determined by the mode of production, which in turn depends on the level of the productive forces, in other words on technosphere. This system of reference is very convenient for studying the history of material culture, state institutions, styles in art, philosophical schools, in short for everything created by people. It has become so customary over the past century that it has been mechanically transferred to the analysis of ethnogenesis.

The concept 'state' has its place in both nature and society. In nature there are four states: solid, liquid, gaseous, and plasma. The transition of a molecule of inanimate matter from one state to another occurs through a certain expenditure of energy (the latent heat of melting or the generation of steam), i.e. a small jump; and the process is reversible. In the live matter of the biosphere this transition is linked with death of the organism, and is irreversible. That can mean that there are only two states, viz., life and death, for an organism, but since death is annihilation of the organism as an entity, it is ridiculous to call this moment of transition a 'state'. As for an organism's life, it too is not a 'state' but a process - from birth through an acme form in which there is reproduction, to death. The analogy of the process of life in inanimate matter is the crystallization of minerals and their subsequent metamorphosis into amorphous masses.

When studying 'states' and 'processes' we always employ different methods: for 'states', classification, by any conventionally accepted principle convenient for surveying the phenomenon as whole; for 'processes', particularly linked with evolution or the formation of species, systematics is needed, based on a hierarchical principle, i.e. the correlation of similar although not identical groups of different rank. Such is Linnaeus' systematics perfected by Darwin. The hierarchical character of the system of the organic world is governed by the course and character of evolutionary processes inseparable from life and obligatory for it. But as soon as life dies a state' arises, more or less rapidly broken up by the action of the environment, although the latter is constituted by other dead 'states' also subject to irreversible deformation. For an organism, including the human organism, of course, there is only one mode of reaching a 'state', viz., to become a mummy, and for an ethnos to become an archaeological culture.

It is otherwise with the technosphere and the relations of production associated with it. In it there are 'states'. It is easy to make scrap of a tractor, and a tractor from scrap. Only expenditure of a certain (alas, not small) amount of energy is required. There are also 'states' in social life. They used to be called estates (tat). In a metaphorical sense one can call class affiliation a 'state', but it must be remembered that it is the product of relations of production and of the productive forces, i.e. also of the technosphere. This state is extremely unstable. A warrior taken prisoner became a slave, but having run away could become a feudal lord. There is no place or need for the hierarchical principle in the fate of such a person. simple recording is sufficient. Changes of social states are similar (though not identical), for instance, to changes of natural states they are reversible and require, for passage from one state to another, an investment of additional energy. But what is an ethnos? Can one, by making an effort, change one's ethnic affiliation? Seemingly not! But that already indicates that an ethnos is not a 'state' but a 'process'.

A second argument against the conception of 'state' is the erosion of boundaries between ethnoi in zones of ethnic contacts. If the change of social state is, as a rule, a once-and-for-all act, for example, the ennobling of the gentry, demotion to the ranks, sale into slavery, emancipation from bondage, etc., the mixing of peoples in the valley of the Huangho or in Constantinople, or in North America, is always a painful, long, and extremely variable process, in the sense that the results of interbreeding often prove unexpected and are always uncontrollable, which is due mainly to the absence of a developed ethnological theory that would make it possible to act with due allowance for the consequences of one's actions, and not blindly.


[+1] Biosphere, a term introduced by Vernadsky, signifies one of Earth's envelopes that includes, in addition to the aggregate of living organisms, all the fruits of their past life activity, viz., soils, sedimentary rocks, and the free oxygen of the atmosphere. The established links of ethnogenesis with biochemical processes of the bio. sphere is not 'biologism' as some of my opponents suggest, but rather 'geographism', though such a label is hardly appropriate, for everything that is on the surface of Earth is part of the sphere of geography in one way or another, either physical, economic, or historical.

[+2] V.I. Vernadsky. Khimicheskoe stroenie biosfeyy Zemli i ee okruzheniya (The Chemical Structure of Earth's Biosphere and Its Environment), Nauka, M 1965, p 273.

[+3] V.I. Vemadsky. Biosphere. Izbrannye sochineniya v 5 tomakh, Vol. 5. Izdatelstvo Akademii Nauk SSSR, Moscow-Leningrad, 1960, p 19.

[+4] A.A. Matinovsky. Puti teoretichkoii biologii (The Paths of Theoretical Biology), Znanie, Moscow, 1969, p 7.

[+5] H. Selye. From Dream to Discovery. On Being a Scientist. McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, London, Toronto, 1964, p 68.

[+6] S.V. Kalesnik. Osnovy obshchego zemlevedenia (Fundamentals of General Geography), 2nd ed. Uchpedgiz, Moscow, 1961, pp 412-416.

[+7] I.N. Boltin. Primechaniya na istoriyu droniya i nyneshniaa Rossii g. Leklerka, sochinennye general-maiorom Ivanom Boltinim (Notes on M. Leclerc's History of Old and Present Russia, compiled by Maj.-Gen. Ivan Boltin), Vol. 11. St. Petersburg, 1798, p 20.

[+8] LS. Berg. Khomogenez (Homogenesis), Moscow, 1922, pp 190-181.

[+9] S.V. Kalesnik. Op. cit, p 455.

[+10] See: G.V. Pickhanov. Some Remarks on History. Selected Philosophical Works, Vol. 11. Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1976, p 227.

[+11] G.W.F. Hegel, The Philosophy of History Translated by J. Sibree. Dover Publications, New York, 1956, p 80.

[+12] V.K Yatsunsky. Istoricheskaya geografiya (Historical Geography), Moscow, 1955, p 3.

[+13] L.S. Berg. Klimat i zhizn (Climate and Life), Moscow, 1947.

[+14] G.E. Grumm-Grzhimailo. The Growth of the Desert and Death of Pastures and Cultivated Land in Central Asia in the Historical Period. Izv. Geograficheskogo obshchestva, Vol. 1 1, Issue 5, 1933.

[+15] N.Ya. Merpert, V.I. Pashuto, LV. Cherepnin. Genghis-khan and His Heritage. Istoriya SSSAR 1962, 5: 56.

[+16] LN. Gumilev. The Heterochrony of the Moistening of Eurasia in Antiquity (Topography and Ethnos, IV). Vestnik Leningradskogo univversiteta, 1966, 6:64-71; idem The Heterochrony of the Moistening of Eurasia in the Middle Ages (Topography and Ethnos, V). Vestnik Leningradskogo universileta, 1966,18:81-90.

[+17] The Chinese emperor Ch'ien Lung carried out a mass extermination of the Oirats, the Manchus, moreover, hunting down women, children, and old people giving quarter to no one. Official Chinese history limited itself to a simple reference: 'More than a million Oirats were killed'. A tremendous event sank into red tape; and was it really the only one?! We know human history, alas, in various degrees of detail, equivalent to a geographer having a 1:200 000 map on one plane table and one of 1: 100 on another.

[+18] E Le Roy Ladurie. Histoire du clirnal depuis l'an mil. Flammarion, Paris, 1967, pp 16-17.

[+19] Ibid, p 17.

[+20] Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology. Progress Publishers, 1976, p 34.

[+21] V.I. Kozlov, V.V. Pokshishevsky. Ethnography and Geography. Sovetskaya Etnographia, 1973,1: 3-13.

[+22] B.V. Andrianov, N.N. Cheboksarov. Economic-Cultural Types and the Problems of Mapping Them. Sovetskaya etnografiya, 1972, 5: 12.

[+23] Ya,Ya. Roginsky, M.G. Levin. Osnovy antropologii (Fundamentals of Anthropology), M University Press, Moscow, 1955, pp 325-329.

[+24] Yu.V. Bromley. Experience of Typologizing Ethnic Communities. Sovetskaya Etnographia, 1972, 5: 3-4.

[+25] V.I. Kozlov, V.V. Pokshishevsky. Art cit.

[+26] See: V.I. Kozlov. Dinamika chisknnosti narodov (The Dynamics of the Size of peoples), Nauka, M, 1969, p 56.

[+27] F.M. Murzaev. Priroda Sintsyana i formirovtanie pustyn Tsentralnoi Asii (The Nature of Sinkiang and the Formation of the Deserts of Central Asia), Nauka, Moscow, 1968, pp 185-190.

[+28] N.Ya. Bichurin (Iakinf). Sobranic svedenii po istoricheskoi geografii Vostochnoi i Sredinnoi Azii (Digest of Information on the Historical Geography of Eastern and Central Asia). Compiled by L.N. Gumilev and M.F. Khvan. Cheboksary, 1960, p 558

[+29] See: The Book of Sir Marco Polo. Translated and edited, with notes by Sir. Henry Yule. 2 Vols. 3rd ed. London, 1903.


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