Home    Number 6, 2022

Ethnos Post-Mortem: Soviet Theories of Ethnos in Present Day Russian-Language Discourses

[Etnos post-mortem: sovetskie teorii etnosa v sovremennom russkoiazychnom diskurse]

DOI: https://doi.org/10.31857/S0869541522060069


Type of publication: Research Article

Submitted: 14.12.2021

Accepted: 04.02.2022

About author(s)

Dmitry Verkhovtsev | http://orcid.org/0000-0001-9232-2952 | dverhovtcev@gmail.com | Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences (32a Leninsky prospect, Moscow, 119991, Russia)


theory of ethnos, ethnos, ethnicity, history of Russian anthropology, Yulian Bromley, Lev Gumilev


The notion of ethnos (etnos in Russian) and derivative or related theories of ethnicity have by and large fallen out of use among Russian ethnologists and anthropologists over the last three decades, having become an object of wide-ranging criticism. They have been criticized both for the inflexible explanation of ethnicity in a primordial or essentialist key and for the neglect of its cognitive aspects. Yet it is striking that, despite the critique within the anthropological community, they have been simultaneously and steadily gaining weight and influence outside it. Indeed, during the post-Soviet period, the appearance of the word etnos, as well as citations from authors like Yulian Bromley or Lev Gumilev, became ever more frequent in non-academic sources and non-anthropological academic literature. This word came to law-making and entered speeches of highest government officials. There emerged a plethora of college – lately, even school – textbooks carrying texts that routinely explained ethnicity in terms of theories of ethnos. Considered against this backdrop, the destiny of the notion of ethnos suddenly does not seem so dismal as it keeps thriving owing to the support of state institutions, political ideologies, and new scholarly approaches biologizing ethnicity.

Funding Information

This research was supported by the following institutions and grants: Russian Science Foundation, https://doi.org/10.13039/501100006769 [grant no. 22-18-00241]


Verkhovtsev, D.V. 2022. Etnos post-mortem: sovetskie teorii etnosa v sovremennom russkoiazychnom diskurse [Ethnos Post-Mortem: Soviet Theories of Ethnos in Present Day Russian-Language Discourses]. Etnograficheskoe obozrenie 6: 79–101. https://doi.org/10.31857/S0869541522060069 EDN: MRIOUL

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