Lev Nikolaevich Gumilyov. Passionary theory of ethnogenesis: basic concepts

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Lev Nikolaevich Gumilyov. Passionary theory of ethnogenesis: basic concepts
Lev Nikolaevich Gumilyov. Passionary theory of ethnogenesis: basic concepts

Lev Nikolaevich Gumilev (09/18/1912 - 06/15/1992) was engaged in various activities: he was an ethnologist, archaeologist, writer, translator, etc. But Lev Nikolaevich was remembered in the Soviet Union as the author of the passionate theory of ethnogenesis. Gumilyov, with the help of her, was able to answer many questions asked by ethnologists and philosophers.


LN Gumilyov with his parents

L. N. Gumilyov was born into a family of famous poets, which influenced the choice of his occupation in his youth: in the 30-40s he wrote prose and composed poetry. But in his youth, the future author of the well-known theory felt a craving for historical science. Lev Nikolaevich began to take part in various geological expeditions and archaeological excavations.

In 1934, the famous ethnologist graduated from the Leningrad State Institute with a diploma in history. He received his PhD in 1948.

Ethnologist historian was 4 timesarrested by the Soviet authorities for speeches directed against the then existing policy of the state.

In 1961, L. N. Gumilyov managed to defend his dissertation, and he received a doctorate in history, and in 1974 he submitted a work on geography, but the Higher Attestation Commission did not accept it.

L. N. Gumilyov in his youth

In the 60s he began to work hard on the passionate theory of ethnogenesis. With the help of this hypothesis, the philosopher tried to explain the structure of the historical process. But Gumilyov's views were unusual for the scientific ideas of that time. Therefore, they have been censured by many historians and scholars.

Gumilyov's passionary theory of ethnogenesis

This theory is a detailed description of historical processes, which reveals the structure of ongoing events. It explains the dependence of epochs on the interaction of different ethnic groups with each other and with the landscape surrounding them.

This theory has been presented in various articles published in scientific journals. On the basis of this work, Lev Nikolayevich tried to get a doctorate in geography, but, unfortunately, the Higher Attestation Commission did not approve it. The historian in his dissertation managed to characterize a large number of concepts, as well as give detailed definitions of phenomena in the field of historical processes.

Defense of the thesis

Gumilyov's passionary theory of ethnogenesis did not meet with support from Soviet and foreign scientists, who believed that this hypothesis went beyond the established scientificrepresentations. Currently, this work is included in the main course of teaching in higher schools in Russia and the countries of the former Soviet Union.

To comprehend the ideas described by L. N. Gumilyov, one should become familiar with the basic concepts of the passionate theory of ethnogenesis.

Ethnic systems

Lev Nikolaevich defined this term with the help of a number of characteristics. So, ethnic systems are:

  • biological human communities similar to related animal groups;
  • a way of adapting humanity to the world around;
  • unified groups of people who are connected by the awareness of their unity and who distinguish themselves from other ethnic systems;
  • a set of individuals whose distinguishing feature is common stereotypes of behavior;
  • people who have a common origin and, accordingly, one story;
  • systems subject to constant evolution;
  • a hierarchical structure.

According to L.N. Gumilyov, there are three types of ethnic systems:

  1. Superethnos is the largest species, which consists of a set of ethnic groups. The activities of its members are driven by a worldview, which is a stereotype of their behavior and determines the attitude of these people to life in its main issues.
  2. An ethnos is a system that is lower in the hierarchy than a superethnos. In everyday life, it has the name "people". Its members have stereotypical behavior, which is based on the connection with the place of development of this group, this concept includes:religion, language, economic and political structure.
  3. A consortia is one of the types of an ethnic group that has a strong connection with its habitat, people from this group are in close relationships due to a common life or fate.

As a rule, the higher the ethnic system is in the hierarchy, the longer the period of its existence. So, the consortium very often breaks up during the lifetime of its founders.


Passionarity is an excess of energy of living matter, which has a biochemical nature. It is an impetus that generates sacrifice, which is most often directed towards achieving lofty goals. This term also denotes an internal desire to perform some kind of activity aimed at changing one's destiny or improving the world around. This goal is perceived by representatives of passionarity as more important than their own happiness and life, and this activity is of greater value to them than the interests of their compatriots and contemporaries. The concept of indifference is alien to the person of this group, but it should be understood that the dominant does not necessarily act with good goals. So, under the influence of biochemical energy, not only feats can be committed, but also crimes, and also aspirations can be directed both for good and for destruction. Thanks to passionarity, a person does not become a hero and leader of the crowd, but only enters into its composition. Thus, the excitement of the collective in any era of the ethnos is determined.

According to Lev Nikolaevich, passionarity is alsoinherited features of a person that are responsible for his ability to super-effort or to super-stress. The author of the theory believed that this phenomenon has a psychological explanation and that the degree of passionarity is affected by cosmic radiation.

L. N. Gumilyov's reasoning on this topic in the work "The End and the Beginning":

What is the nature of this radiation? Here we can only hypothesize. There are two of them. The first is about the possible connection of passionary shocks with the long-term variation of solar activity, discovered by D. Eddy. The second hypothesis is about a possible connection with supernova explosions.

In his works, L. N. Gumilyov says that a socio-historical phenomenon can be characterized by the appearance in a limited area of ​​a large number of passionaries (people with increased activity). There is also a measure of this biochemical energy, which is calculated due to the attitude of passionaries to society.

The author of the theory considered the interaction of ethnic groups, trying to explain what causes good neighborly and what gives rise to military relations. The answer to this question was ethnic complementarity.


War with negative complementarity

Lev Nikolaevich defines the term "complimentarity" as an impression about another person that is not subject to the individual, which is the basis for further unconscious sympathy or antipathy. According to the author of the theory, this phenomenon is the main reason for establishing friendly or hostile contact betweenrepresentatives of any racial background, which may have different levels of development and cultural ties.

Levels of passionarity

In the passionary theory of ethnogenesis, there is a basic and detailed classification of the excess energy of living matter.

Basic classification of passionarity

Number Level of passionarity Sign Description
1 Above normal Recessive The bearer's behavior shows enterprise, readiness to make sacrifices of any scale for the sake of the ideal, the desire to change the world around him
2 Norma Harmonic The host is in an idyll with the environment
3 Below normal Subpassionary The wearer is prone to laziness, parasitism, and is also capable of committing betrayal

Detailed classification of passionarity


Level Name Explanation Description
6 Sacrificial Top Level The bearer is able, without hesitation, to sacrifice his own life in order to achieve the goal, which coincides with the interests of the ideals
5 The bearer experiences a greater desire for the ideal of victory, which is expressed in his ability to take great risks in order to achieve his goal (in this case, this is superiority over other passionaries), butsuch a person is not capable of sacrificing his own life
4 Transitional The characteristics of the wearer are the same as the fifth level, but they are not on such a large scale (the desire is not for victory, but for the ideal of success)
3 Broken The wearer strives for the ideal of knowledge, beauty, etc.
2 The wearer's inner aspiration is based on the constant search for happiness or good luck
1 Carriers who strive for the accomplishment without risk to life
0 Everyman Zero level Passionary is a quiet temperamental person who is fully adapted to the landscape
-1 Subpassionaries Such carriers are capable of the most insignificant actions; they are adapted to the landscape
-2 Subpassionaries Passionaries who are not capable of any action or change; gradually they are destroyed or replaced by the townsfolk

L. N. Gumilyov repeatedly drew attention to the fact that passionarity in no way correlates with the abilities of the individual, and called passionaries "people of long will." There can be a smart layman and a rather stupid "scientist", a strong-willed subpassionary and a weak-willed " altar", as well as vice versa; none of these exclude or imply each other.

Ethnic Contact Forms

Thisways in which ethnic groups interact. They determine the level of passionarity and complementarity. There are three types of them, more about them will be discussed below.


This is a system in which each ethnic group occupies its own specific territory and landscape. Symbiosis suggests that the passionaries of each group are isolated from each other, thanks to which they retain their national characteristics. With this form of ethnic contacts, nations interact with each other, enriching themselves.


This is the so-called "guest". The one who does not live in his ethnic system. The main condition for a carrier to obtain such a status is isolation from the "owners".


This is a "guest" that has no isolation from the "host". Most often, the participants in the chimera are two superethnoi, which have a negative complementarity in relation to each other. This leads to bloodshed and destruction, which will lead to the death of one of the ethnic groups or the destruction of two systems at once.

Ethnic anti-systems

If we describe the passionary theory of ethnogenesis in simple terms, then it should be said that there is an ethnic anti-system, which is determined by a group of people interconnected by their negative worldview. They have a special attitude towards the world around them, striving to simplify systems and their connections.

Passionary thrusts


Lev Nikolaevich believed that mass mutations periodically occur in the world,caused by cosmic forces, which entail an increase in the level of passionarity. He introduces the term "passionary pushes" for this phenomenon.

An ethnological historian suggests that their duration is several years. There are massive mutations, in his opinion, along geodesic lines that have a length of a couple of thousand kilometers.

L. N. Gumilyov writes that this process is caused by the simultaneous appearance of new passionate populations in different parts of the Earth. The epicenters of passionary shocks are located in places that can be determined using a stretched thread on the globe, if it is in a plane passing through the center of our planet. Lev Nikolaevich considered it possible that mass mutations could be associated with periodic strong radiation from formations located along the edge of the solar disk.

Criticism of the passionate theory of ethnogenesis

The theory has been criticized by scientists

After Lev Nikolayevich's theory was published in a series of scientific journals, it was criticized by the scientific community. His colleagues, well-known scientists and historians, felt that it deserved strong censure, since, in their opinion, it was not based on a sufficient number of arguments. They came to the decision that drawing private conclusions based on unfounded ideas is a sign of incompetence and unprofessionalism of the author. So, A. L. Yanov openly stated:

The absence of an objective criterion for the novelty of an ethnic group not only makes Gumilyov's hypothesis incompatible with the requirements of natural science, but in gener altakes it beyond the limits of science, turning it into an easy prey of "patriotic" voluntarism.

Criticists point out the main weaknesses of Lev Nikolaevich Gumilyov in the passionate theory of ethnogenesis in the Skeptic magazine. They say that he does not back up his ideas with facts, relying only on the "observations of ethnologists", while refusing to give an example of specific empirical conclusions made by them.

Some public figures accuse Lev Nikolaevich of veiled anti-Semitic views, reinforcing their suspicions with Gumilyov's words about Jews:

Penetrating into an alien ethnic environment, {they} begin to deform it. Not being able to lead a full life in an unfamiliar landscape for them, the aliens begin to treat it consumeristically. Simply put - to live at his expense. By establishing their system of relationships, they forcibly impose it on the natives and practically turn them into an oppressed majority.

L. N. Gumilyov is now called one of the forerunners of folk history. This term defines literary publicistic works and ideological theoretical concepts written on a historical theme, which claim to be "scientific", but in fact are not; they are usually written by non-professionals.

Lev Nikolaevich

This article briefly discusses the passionate theory of ethnogenesis. How to relate to this work, whether to believe it or question it - it's up to everyone to decide for themselves.

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