"Ethnogenesis and the Biosphere"
in which the need for ethnology is substantiated and the author sets out his views
on ethnogenesis, without his line of reasoning, to which the rest of the treatise will be
devoted, and in which the author will lead the reader through a labyrinth of
The Grounds for Scientific Quest
Time and history. History is the study of
processes taking place in time, but what that time is nobody knows. There is nothing
surprising in that. Fish probably do not know what water is, because they have nothing to
compare it with. And if they chance to be in air they do not have enough time to compare
it with water.'
V.I. Vernadsky deemed death as the separation of space and time, 1
because inert matter, in his opinion, was timeless. He was seemingly right, but historians
are concerned only with the processes of dying in which the now becomes the past. But is
the past real? There is not unanimity of opinion on that among modern scholars.
There is a very common view that there is no past. Giovanni Gentile wrote:
In times past men were born and thought and labored... but all these
are long since dead like the flowers on whose scent and beauty in their lives they
feasted, or like the leaves which they saw growing green in spring or sere and fallen in
the autumn. Their memory lives; but a world remembered, like the world of dreams, is
nothing; and remembering no better than to dream.2
The historian, in short, knows well enough that the life and meaning
of past facts is not to be discovered in characters or inscriptions, or in any actual
relics of the past; their source is in his own personality. 3
One cannot agree with that, but let us wait to dispute it, since others, too, have
written on this theme. Dilthey and Gardiner were even more categorical. They, in fact,
denied history, affirming that its conclusions were unreliable since historians were
inevitably subjective, and therefore could not be dispassionate. 'The primeval cell of the
historical world is the happening in which the subject finds himself in an active relation
of life with his surroundings.'4
Gardiner has said:
There are no absolute Real Causes waiting to be discovered by
historians with sufficiently powerful magnifying-glasses. What do exist are historians
writing upon different levels and at different distances, historians writing with
different aims and different interests, historians writing in different contexts and from
different points of view. 5
Modern historians, it would seem, have provided these thinkers with the material for
such pessimistic conclusions, the same historians aptly described by Anatole France:
Do we write history? Do you imagine that we attempt to extract the
least parcel of life or truth from a text or a document? We publish texts purely and
simply. We keep to their exact letter... Ideas are crotchets.6
I do not wish to defend that position but surely the dispute is in fact about it. So
let us introduce the needed clarity.
The dispute, if one began it, would be based on a philological misunderstanding. A
whole series of tasks, quite different from one another though interconnected, are called
history now. (1) The publication and translation of ancient sources is a necessary task,
but only yields raw material. (2) Historical criticism, sifting out the deliberate and
sometimes unconscious lies of authors of antiquity, is the production of semifinished
goods. (3) Comparison of the material won about what was previously accumulated is already
the product, but not yet a consumable one. Then there is (4) the interpretation of facts
on the plane of the problem posed and (5) the posing of new problems arising at the
juncture of sciences. The philosophers mentioned above, and many like them, were sorry
essentially about the fact that they could not use the obtained raw material without
further processing, which is actually impossible, but there is no other way and will not
be. The philosophers are right about something else - not everyone can find this road.
The simplest generalizations, it seems, call for such mental йlan and heat of emotions that thought melts and
takes on a new form, astonishing the candid reader at first but then convincing him. The
point is not what course of thought or choice of arguments a thesis is proved by; that is
a craft, which it is necessary to know, of course, but is not enough to know. The point is
why a new thesis is sometimes discovered and demonstrated. That is a mystery of the
psychology of creation that the Greeks ascribed to the muse of history Clio, who reminded
us that the skepticism of the philosophers was unjustified and that the past was not
personal experience and not a dream. Because the present is only a moment, instantaneously
becoming the past. There is no future, because no acts that determine consequences of some
sort are completed, and it is not known whether they will be in the future. The future can
only be gauged statistically, with a tolerance that deprives the calculation of practical
value. But the past exists; and everything that exists is past, since anything completed
then and there becomes the past. That is why history studies the only reality, which
exists outside us and in spite of us.
Talk about the unreliability of subjective perception is idle chatter. Reliability is
always necessary within definite limits, beyond which it becomes meaningless. It is
impossible and unnecessary to calculate the distance from Moscow to Leningrad to an
accuracy of a millimeter. It is the same in history, but it has its own specifics of the
posing of the problem.
It is reasonable to study processes (social, ethnic, and cultural) rather than nuances
of the sensations of historical personages. The degree of accuracy in collecting primary
information is small, but when long-lasting processes are traced chance errors cancel one
another out, so that we can get a description meeting the needs of our practical task,
viz. to understand an epoch. And the wider the coverage the greater the accuracy.
With that posing of the matter there is no sense in increasing the number of petty
details above the necessary, because they create cybernetic 'noise'. And the principle of
the selection of facts is prompted by the task posed.
Since I start from the point that an ethnos is a natural phenomenon in its forming, the
basis for studying it can only be the philosophy of science, i.e. dialectical materialism.
Historical materialism sets itself the goal of disclosing the laws of social development,
i.e. relates (as Marx put it) to the history of people and not to the history of nature
which lies in men's bodies. And although both these 'histories' are closely interwoven and
interconnected, scientific analysis calls for refining the angle of vision, i.e. the
aspect. The historical material we draw on is our information archive and no more. It is
necessary and sufficient for the purposes of analyzing it. Marx expressed himself clearly
History itself is a real part of natural history and
of nature's becoming man. Natural science will in time subsume the science of man just as
the science of man will subsume natural science: there will be one science. 7
We are now on the threshold of the creation of this science.
When it becomes a matter of synthesis, the approach to a problem is correspondingly
altered. But, of course, analysis precedes synthesis, and there is no need to jump the
gun. Let us say simply that the elements of a scientific materialist science will remain
inseparable in it. Having agreed on the meaning of the terms and character of the method,
let us pass to the posing of the problem.
In declaring that an ethnos is a biophysical phenomenon, that drive is an effect of the
energy of the animate matter of the biosphere, and that consciousness, and equally the
history of culture linked with the biosphere, play the role of rudder and not of the
motor, we have not resolved the problem posed but have only noted the means of tackling
it. But let's not rush things; let us see whether there is an analogous posing of the
problem in contemporary science. There is! Karl Jaspers proposed his own solution. 8 Let us familiarize ourselves with it.
A philosophical-historical conception has prevailed in Western Europe (and only there)
since the fifth century A.D., i.e. from Augustine to Hegel, that regarded the historical
process as a single line with a beginning and an end, i.e. with completion of its sense. A
religious comprehension of history as a striving for the Absolute arose initially from
this conception, and then an atheistic 'religion of progress'. Jaspers' views are the
latest version of this theory.
Jaspers singled out from history an 'axial time' when, between 800 and 200 B.C.,
spiritual movements arose parallelly in China, India, Persia, Palestine, and Hellas that
shaped the type of man that allegedly has existed to the present time. In China these were
Confucius and Lao-tzu, in India the Upanishads and Buddhism, in Iran Zarathustra, in
Palestine the prophets, in Hellas Homer and the great philosophers. All the world
religions and philosophical systems arose from them, and other peoples, like the
'pre-axials', are unhistorical and can only become enlightened from the 'axial' peoples
and their successors, because there was an 'awakening of the spirit' and 'ultimate
questions of being' were posed in the 'axial time', questions of death, finitude, tragic
guilt, and the meaning of human existence. The 'axial time' was, as it were, the root of
all subsequent history.
Jaspers did not explain how the parallelism he noted arose in the development of
cultures independent of each other, and from what. Neither the invasion of China, India,
and Europe by nomad Arians nor the social conditions in those countries, can provide a
satisfactory answer. The genesis of the phenomenon remains an open question, but it is an
undoubted fact that a 'philosophy of faith' arose at that time, and in those regions,
which provides a real link, to Jaspers' mind, between nations and cultures.
I shall stop here, because the philosophical part of the doctrine of existentialism,
discussion of the present and future, and attempts to explain the sense of history, can
only be interesting when the structure's foundation is quite firm. And that seems even to
First of all, this 'axis' is very broad. Six hundred years is a period into which much
could be squeezed; in addition, it is clear by comparison that immense changes took place
during that time, with different results for different countries. China, for example, was
united by the Han dynasty, and Hellas and Persia were conquered by 'unhistorical'
barbarians - Macedonians and Parthians. Something is not right.
Let us read further attentively. Jaspers compared how the period of progressive
development was completed: in China the Ch'ing Empire (221-202 B.C.), the Maurya Kingdom
in India, the Roman Empire, and the Hellenistic states. But in the third century B.C. the
kingdoms of the Diadochi in Egypt, Syria, Macedonia, and Bactria were by no means
powerful, while Rome was exhausted by the Second Punic War. The Maurya Kingdom in India
broke up after the death of Asoka in 226 B.C. Was it because there was disintegration in
the West but integration in China? If we compare China with the age of Augustus the
chronological assumption is as much as 300 years. Isn't that a lot?
The idea of an 'axial time' as a source of spiritual life is refuted by the history of
ancient America; the Mayas, Toltecs, and the forerunners of the Incas in the Andes (the
Tiahuanaco culture) were not, after all, inferior to the ancient Chinese, Indians,
Persians, Hebrews, and Greeks. And it is quite untrue that China withstood the onslaught
of the Mongol nomads, rather the contrary.
One can also find more grounds for doubt, but that is not the point. Jaspers'
conception is the most substantiated attempt to understand history as a boon bestowed on
primitive savages by these five peoples that made the 'breakthrough' or 'leap', and were
born anew as it were. This is an arrangement of the views not only of St. Augustine, the
source of all the heresies of the Middle Ages, but even of the old Judaic thinkers who
created their doctrine of being the God-Chosen people. With a theory of ethnogenesis as a
process occurring everywhere, it is impossible to agree with Jaspers. But disagreement is
not enough. Let us try and get evidence from the contrary, but not from an academic survey
of the trifles it is easy to drown any dispute in, but by a graphic survey of historical
reality in the millennium since the 'axial time'.
To begin with, let me note that there actually was the parallelism of the development
of the several cultures of antiquity noted by Jaspers, but it was not the sole parallel,
and not so fruitful one for singling out the Chinese, Hindus, Iranians, Hebrews, and
Greeks in a special category of people; and it faded like other drive explosions of
ethnogenesis. That is my counter-thesis. Now let me proceed to check it.
The view from up above. Feelings for other
ages swirl in the breast of the historian, but when they surface they are converted into
thoughts that hover like ghosts, pale and weightless, incapable of penetrating the
consciousness of the reader -the unknown friend for whom they are born.
How is one to give them the primary force of the passion that once generated them? Let
me try an old dodge-an image-and may the reader forgive me for beginning a scientific
treatise with a lyrical digression.
Imagine that a space vehicle has come close to Earth carrying supermodern observational
instruments that record the details of a strip of the Old World of the surface between 30'
and 50' north latitude. America, let us assume, lies in unilluminated part of the planet
at the time of approach. The observations are fed into the spacecraft's computer, which
rejects data not of interest to the spacemen, leaving only what is connected with human
culture. Natural conditions will be taken into consideration only when it becomes clear
during the work that they are needed in order to understand the genesis of culture.
The first thing the newcomer will see will be the geographical areas of different
independent cultures connected with the peculiarities of relief and climate of the regions
of the Eurasia and of those of North Africa contiguous to it. The cultural types
themselves will be blurred, as for the earthly historian who is concerned with early
antiquity. Before the spaceman there will then be outlined the contours of Egypt and
Babylon of the second millennium B.C., but not yet of China and India. In the first
millennium B.C. he will see, in addition to those countries, Hellas and Rome, but the
main, central part of the continent will open up to his instruments only from the
beginning of our era. He will then be able to begin a global analysis of his historical
Try and imagine yourself in the place of this newcomer from outer space, on the
assumption that he is anthropomorphous and thinks in the categories of earthly logic.
The stream of fight coming to meet him from Earth will bear with it quick panoramas
with intervals (breaks) for the time when the territory interesting him is on the other
side of the planet rotating on its axis.
Assume that historical panoramas are fixed every 300 years for, say (arbitrarily), the
second, fifth, eighth, and twelfth centuries A.D. The sum total of the knowledge so
obtained will correspond approximately to the level of knowledge of an educated person but
not of a professional, i.e. of the dilettante (who loves, as we know, to pass judgment on
the history of mankind, suggesting without grounds of any kind that it is much easier to
do that than to interpret problems of organic chemistry).
But we must not judge by preconceived opinions of any kind. Dilettantism can also be
useful, or rather fruitful. So let us go the whole hog with the hypothetical astronauts
and at the same time check the expediency of the following method, i.e. let us compare
logically impeccable conclusions drawn from instantaneous observations (from the
standpoint of the scale of history) with what in fact happened in the 300-year interval.
First observation. Second century A.D.
Following the Sun. A dim meandering strip on a yellow loess plain, and broad blue ribbons
on a green cover of jungles -these are the Huangho and Yangtse rivers and between them the
great China of the late Han dynasty. The fields are tilled, the peasants are harvesting
millet in the north and rice in the south. Silk garments of various colors and fanciful
patterns are being made in workshops. Clay huts surround the luxurious palaces of
grandees, built of wood and bamboo, and buried in green gardens with light arbors and
In the imperial palace plump eunuch officials keep business accounts on a precious
material-paper, and military commanders come to them with bows and gifts, begging to be
given profitable appointments. The eunuchs take bribes, knowing quite well how short the
giver's career will be. Here a former lucky one is being led to execution for having
robbed the inhabitants of the province he governed, getting money for the patrons. No one
intercedes for the person being executed because grim soldiers armed with halberds and
arbalests - Tanguts or Hunni from the borderlands - are lined up on both sides of the
executioner's block. On the contrary, there is merriment that there is one oppressor less.
The robbed Chinese rejoice, not suspecting that the emperor's current favorite will ask
him to appoint her brother to a profitable place, and that he will begin new extortions.
Only among the Confucian scholars can one note the distress on the faces, because they
foresee the future calamities arising as a rule with the universal venality and decline of
education, and also, perhaps, among the Taoists whose teaching is banned on pain of death.
But the Taoists are bold people; in the mountain villages they not only forecast the
weather, and treat the sick, but also whisper the peasant youths that the 'Blue heaven of
violence' will be succeeded by the 'Yellow heaven of justice'. The authorities, however,
pay no attention to such trifles.
The spacecraft's computer processes these data and proposes a forecast: the economic
system is firm, there are no dangerous neighbors, the export of silk, unprofitable for
China, may be stopped, since the gold obtained for it flows into the hands of favorites
who, foreseeing disgrace, hide it in the ground so as to provide for their children. And
the astronauts draw the logical conclusion that before them is a stable society with a
rich, developing culture, that the boundaries of the Han Empire will be extended to the
north and west so as to enlighten the savage Hunni and Tibetans by an advanced
civilization, and that the drawbacks of the bureaucratic system will be eliminated by the
spread of education, because that is profitable for the state and consequently should lead
to universal good.
I shall not blame the astronauts for ignorance of the dialectic of ethnic history. Let
me say, only, that within 50 years the population of China will decline from 56 million to
7 500 000, that all the possessions 'beyond the Wall' will be lost, and people will forget
to think about culture.
The lens is shifted to the west. The broad dry steppe from the Orhon to the Volga is
bloodstained. Hook-nosed, bearded H are quitting their native land on the banks of the
Selenga and Onon and fleeing, pursued by stocky, broad-faced Hsien Pei, because 'their
horses are faster and their weapons sharper than those of the Hunni'. 9
Only small bands of fugitives remained of the powerful Hunni state. Some found refuge
behind the Great Wall of China, others in the mountain defiles of the Tarbagatai
Mountains, and others on the banks of the Yaik (now the Ural) and Volga-the Hsien Pei
pursuers did not go so far.10
But things were not easy for the victors either. The conquered pastures became deserts
under their very eyes. The Bet-pak-dala (Hungry Steppe) was growing, the Gobi was
spreading south and north, wells and springs sank deep into the ground, rivers became low,
Lake Balkhash was drying up, and reeds began to grow in the shallows of the Sea of Aral
turning it into the 'Oxus marsh' . It was only possible to live on the Great Steppe in the
foothills of glacier-crowned mountain ranges from which little streams of fresh water
flowed even in summer. The outlook there was very gloomy. The bearers of the old nomad
culture, the Hunni, split up and dispersed. The eastern groups became vassals of the
Chinese, the western, having lost many of their wives and most of their children during
the retreat of 158-160 A.D., began to steal women from the Alans and Ugrians. The Ryn
Sands (between the Ural and the Lower Volga) settled by the Hunni fed them so meagerly
that they could be expected either to die out completely or to assimilate with the
aborigines (Ugrians, Alans, and the Chionites).
The Hsien Pei confederacy disintegrated, lasting only half-a-century. The tribes making
it up separated and became mutual enemies. All the visually gathered facts forced a
logical conclusion-the ancient Central Asian culture had collapsed and there were no
grounds for supposing it could revive.
But the opinion about the West European culture of that time would have been
diametrically opposite. The flourishing steppes around the Black Sea were populated in the
second century A.D. by two peoples (ethnoi) -the Alans on the Kuban and the Don, and the
Goths on the Dnieper.
Great deep rivers ruled out even the thought of a possible drought. The Alans' economy
was already a settled one - tillage was combined in it with transhumance herding. The
grain surplus went to the eastern part of the Roman Empire, which paid for the cereals
with the products of handicrafts and objets d'art. The Alans already knew the potter's
wheel. Their heavy armor was made in the best workshops of Asia Minor and Hellas. Their
armored cavalry anticipated the future European knight's armament. All that hinted that a
cloudless future lay before the Alans.
And the Goths, who had migrated from Southern Scandinavia to the estuary of the Vistula
in 155 A.D., continued a victorious march to the lower reaches of the Dnieper, and from
there threw themselves as far as the Aegean Sea where Corinth and Athens, Byzantium and
Miletus and famous Ephesus became their victims. The Goths were the best warriors and most
capable pupils of the philosophers and heretics of the Near East, whose culture they
imbibed as a sponge soaks up water. The Goths subdued or drove away all the ancient tribes
of Eastern Europe, with the exception of the Rossomoni with whom they were forced to
It was obvious for an observer that the Gothic ethnos and its culture were on the rise.
By comparison with the Goths and Alans the forefathers of the Slavonic tribes of the
Middle Danube seemed an insignificant sprinkling. Although the dispassionate computer of
the hypothetical spacecraft would have noted their existence, the interpreter would justly
have paid no attention to them.
On the southern borderlands of the Caspian Sea, from the Oxus (Amu Darya) to the
Tigris, lay the Parthian Kingdom. For five centuries (from 250 B.C.) it divided the
Oecumene into East and West, lying in the very middle.
The Parthians were the most advanced people of Eurasia. They created feudal
institutions before all other peoples. At the head of their state stood four ruling clans:
the Pahlavis, who represented the ruling dynasty, the Surenas, the Karenas, and the
Mihranis, who would succeed the royal family if it died out. Below them in the hierarchy
there were consecutively seven noble clans, 240 noble families, and a host of dihaans, who
were similar to the Polish petty schlachta or Spanish hidalgos - poor knights.
Lower down still were enserfed peasants, urban craftsmen, and the slaves captured in the
endless wars on Parthia's eastern and western frontiers.
The Parthian nobility patronized the culture, or rather the cultures, formed in these
lands. The Parthians themselves came from the slopes of the Kopet Dag as warriors who
drove the Macedonian conquerors out of the holy land of Iran. But the natives of that
country, the Persians, considered the Parthians foreign Turanian conquerors also. Feeling
themselves isolated the Parthians thirstily drank in the philosophy of Hellenism, the
teaching of the Indian Buddhist monks, and the preaching of the first apostles of
Christianity but, equally with these strange ideologies, esteemed the Indian cult of holy
fire and the Bactrian teaching of Zarathustra about the eternal struggle of Good and Evil
- of Ormuzd and Ahriman. Tolerance was the principle of Parthian culture, and Parthia
therefore became an asylum for exiles and outcasts from all the countries around,
including Jews, who in that century were the main population of ancient Babylon.
In the second century A.D. Parthia's eastern rival the Kushan Empire, broke up, while
the Roman attack on Mesopotamia and Armenia petered out. The Parthian kings and grandees
were not only aesthetes but were also fighters.
The space interpreters, examining the computer's data, undoubtedly would have concluded
that the beautifully organized system of the Parthian Kingdom, capable of resistance, was
a model of the way the progressive part of humanity would develop.
On my assumptions it is not allowed to look into the future, and that is a pity,
because in A.D. 224-226 only fragments of its past grandeur remained of Parthia. But the
spacecraft's eye-piece has moved on, and is now over Rome.
Unlike Parthian Iran and Sarmatia, the Roman Empire of the second century A.D. would
also have presented the space observers an example of completion and perfection that had
nowhere to develop, and nothing to develop for.
From the sun-drenched banks of the Euphrates to the Atlantic, and from the parched
steppes of the Sahara to the heather hills of Caledonia, the land of the Picts, one law
prevailed, one and the same administration functioned, a single bilingual Hellenic-Latin
culture flourished, and the overwhelming majority of the population of the polyethnic
empire were loyal to the authorities.
Farming, carried on to perfection on tiny plots of land, fed 50 million people. A wall
along the Rhine and the Danube, and legions that did not know defeat, guarded the northern
frontier, beyond which isolated tribes of Germans lived in the dense forests, and in the
steppes between the Danube and the Carpathians the remnant of the Sarmatian ethnos, the
Iazyges. Neither of these, nor even more the Celts of Hibernia (Erin), the Moors of the
Atlas Mountains, and the Arabs of Transjordan represented the least danger to the regular
army. And there where foci of resistance did arise (the Dacians in the thickets of the
Carpathian foothills, the Jews in the valley of the Jordan, the bucolic pastoralists of
the delta of the Nile, and the Moors of the southern slopes of the Atlas), the enlightened
generals Trajan and Hadrian had not left even a trace of these peoples, enabling their
successors Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, and Lucius Verus to occupy themselves with
philosophy, both Stoic and Epicurean. Rome, whose population rose to two million, began to
be called the Eternal City, since no one could imagine that a stable position that suited
everyone could be altered. That would also have been the conclusion of the space observer.
The events taking place around 155 A.D. in a narrow strip of the earth's surface
stretching from Scandinavia to Palestine could have interested neither him, nor even a
quite earthly outside spectator. For the fact that tribes of Marcomanni and Quadi had
broken up on the Roman Empire's fortified line of the Danube and disappeared from the face
of the earth was small beer, not worth remembering. The fact that a sect had appeared in
Syria and Asia Minor that worshipped the Crucified God was a curiosity for the commonsense
people of the time. For was it so important, they suggested, that there were fools who
preferred an otherworldly existence to an easy, gay life. Well, let them get together in
the evenings to talk about salvation beyond the grave; let them not visit the theatre and
not enjoy the 'dancing wasp' (Roman strip-tease), so long as they observe the laws, pay
their taxes, and bow to the statues of the emperors, because the Roman lick-spittles put
the authorities on the same level as the divinities of Olympus. And if, for some
incomprehensible whim, they refused to bring sacrifices to the statues of the emperors,
they should be punished for not honoring the powers that be, as had been done under all
the philosophically minded rulers. But for some reason the punishments did not lessen the
number of Christians, but had corrupted the heathens from the people, who had become so
addicted to denouncing their acquaintances that Trajan had forbidden the magistrates to
accept denunciations of Christians, telling them to commit only those for execution who
declared themselves to be such. But there were plenty of these also.
But is it worth our while to talk about this theme? For anyone who looks at Earth from
outer space socially perspective phenomena are the important ones, and not psychological
eccentricities with hysterical syndromes. For only one thing is interesting - how far the
forecasts are true.
Second observation. Fifth century. Course -
The cosmic strangers tensely await a new seance of observations, without altering the
position of their eye-piece. At last! Again the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean and the
Mediterranean are outlined but instead of Rome there are ruins, instead of flourishing
Gaul and Spain, there is a mosaic of territories ceded to barbarians. Everything is mixed:
Burgundians, Visigoths, Franks, Suevi, Alans, Almoricans, and remnants of Gallo-Romans
around Lutetia (Paris). Vandals hold the coastal part of the province of Africa, while in
the interior savage Moors spread terror. Angles and Saxons have landed in Britannia,
deserted by the Roman legions; they conquer this country that called on their aid against
the raids of Picts and Scots from highland Caledonia (now Scotland). And an these
conquerors were descendants of small, weak tribes from the coasts of the North Sea and
Baltic, and natives of the Black Sea steppes driven from there by the onslaught of the
The Huns were a mixture of Asiatic Hunni and Uralian Ugrians who had not only not
perished in the Caspian sand dunes but had extended their power from the Yaik (Ural) to
the Rhine. Attila is leading a numerous horde, augmented by Ostrogoths, Gepidae, Rugi,
Heruli and Slavs, to the walls of Orleans and Aquileia. Rome is paying tribute to the Hun
What became of all the marvelous culture, engineering, art, and philosophy? The old
gods had been declared demons in all the cities of the Empire not yet sacked by the
Germans. But these cities were not defended by the descendants of Italian legionaries,
while these same Germans only did so for pay.
It has to be admitted that the prediction was mistaken.
The forecast about the Eastern Empire proved to have as little truth. The very dreamers
who had offered themselves up for execution during the period of universal well-being had
won out there. Now, in the fifth century A.D., their descendants are telling the secular
power, whose representatives are only parishioners and not servants of the Church, what to
do. But among the servants of the Church there is not even a ghost of the friendly spirit
that united the Christians of the second century. People were divided by hostility, old as
the human race, but now dressed in the garb of confessional disputes. The Donatists, who
rejected contact of the Church and State, were strong in North Africa. Arians spread their
doctrine among the German tribes. Nestorians had found support in Syria and Mesopotamia,
and Monophysites in Egypt and Armenia; only Greece, Asia Minor, and Italy remained
Orthodox. In these currents of theological thought, it should be noted, there was
concealed a kernel of future ethnoi, but from outer space these fine nuances are
indistinguishable by the most sensitive instruments. From high up it seems that, since
people were killing each other in the name of slogans, the slogans should be cleared away
and all would live in peace. But since interference in history is ruled out, a new
forecast can be made - the degenerating antique culture must give way to as yet unspoiled
barbarians: Goths, Vandals, Burgundians, and of course the Huns, who knew how to unite and
draw all their neighbors after them. So it could, and even should, have been thought in
452 A.D., but in 453 the Hun federation broke up, and in 469 the remnants of the Huns,
broken by the Byzantines, fled into nowhere and disappeared from the pages of history.
In Iran the Parthian aristocracy has been succeeded by the Persian monarchy, an
alliance of throne and altar, i.e. of the Zoroastrian clergy and the dihaans or village
lords. The aristocracy was unbroken but became an opposition to the shah's centralized
authority, or rather to the bureaucracy of the shah's divan (or chancellery). The money to
maintain the luxurious court and to pay the dabiri (officials) did not come from taxes on
the poor peasants, hardly able to keep alive, but from imposts and duties on the transit
silk trade between China and Europe.
The system of state and society had become rigid, excluding any progress. But it seemed
as unbreakable as a rock, because all its elements were so complicated that any
reorganization would prove fatal. Once a year, it was said, the Persian shah gave a feast
for all the estates of Iran and pronounced a traditional speech at it: 'You are the
happiest people in the world. The grandees of course live worse than me, but better than
the dihaans, and they better than the urban craftsmen, but these live better than the
peasants who live better, than the slaves; but the slaves live better than the criminals
in prison who are better off than those condemned to death, and those who are hanged are
better off than those who are impaled.' After the speech he drank a cup of wine and
withdrew, while the lucky Persians feasted and dispersed. If that is not true, it is
But if one adds to the description of the social system that the Persians successfully
defended their frontiers in the fifth century against the Greeks in the west and the
Hephthalite highlanders of Hindu-Kush in the east, broke the steppe tribes of the
Chionites and Kidarites, subdued the Georgians and held the Armenians in subjection, then
another forecast should be made, that the Persian kingdom would be much more stable than
rebellious Byzantium, and the cult of fire, which had endured for and was hallowed by
centuries, would probably outlive the dismembered Christian Church. Well then, let us draw
a conclusion for the new seance of observations, i.e. three hundred years later.
One surprise follows another. The steppes withering in the second century have again
grown green. The space observer could not know that the Atlantic depressions and Pacific
monsoons that bring moisture to Eurasia were shifting their path a thousand kilometers to
the south. In the fifth century A.D. they were again passing over the steppe zone and
watering the Mongolian and Jungarian steppes.
Nomads of the Tцlцs tribes, one of which, the Uighurs, made itself famous in the
history of Asia, crossed the shrinking Gobi Desert from the south. Failures, criminals,
deserters, and suchlike elements fled there, forming the Kushan Horde in the Great Steppe.
Following them, from Hansu to the slopes of the Hangai arrived the band of a Prince of the
Ashin dynasty, altogether 500 families, which laid the basis of the Old-Turkic ethnos,
saving themselves from the enemy.
On the western edges of the Great Steppe Ugrian tribes (Bulgars) defeated the eastern
Huns in 463 A.D. and spread from the Volga to the Lower Danube. And to the north of the
Bulgars, from west to east in the wooded steppe belt, spread settlements of Slavs, as far
as the right bank of the Dnieper.
Even the outline of the Caspian Sea was different. In the fifth and sixth centuries
A.D. its level reached its lowest ever - minus 34 meters (six meters lower than in the
twentieth century). The delta of the Volga then stretched almost to the Buzachi Peninsula,
and an immense tract of fertile land was not inundated. This country was settled by
Khazars, who spread from there to the lower reaches of the Terek.
The world had really been transformed in 300 years, but not quite as the interpreter in
the spacecraft had suggested.
But if the astronaut could still recognize the world changed by history and appreciate
the magnitude of the mistake of the forecast, he would not have believed his eyes when he
saw the valley of the Huangho, where Han China was located. For a period proved to have
been omitted in which the Yellow Headdress Uprising rumbled across this unhappy land,
destroying the culture, that drove the people to execution. The uprising was suppressed by
the regular army and volunteers, who then destroyed each other, freeing space for bands of
condottieri who put soldier-emperors on the throne of China, under whom the fratricide and
despotism reached its culmination, which provoked an uprising of the Hunni who conquered
northern China. The population of China was then divided; the rich fled south, beyond the
Yangtse, leaving the poor to the mercy of the conquerors.
The age of the 'five hordes' began (there were actually 27). The Hunni were succeeded
by the Hsien Pei Muyongs, and they by the Tanguts, and the Tanguts by Tibetans crushed by
the southern Chinese, the latter being driven back by the steppe Hsiung Nu. Finally, the
Tabghatchi, who arrived in China from the banks of the Kerulen, were victorious. They
defeated all their rivals, but adopted the culture of the local population, the Chinese
language, and Buddhism. In the fifth century, an immense chimera lay in the place of Han
China, savage, senseless, and gradually becoming enfeebled. 11
But in the south, where the Chinese emigrants mixed with the local tribes, a second
chimera was created - evil, cowardly, and treacherous. Between North and South a stubborn
war that no one needed was being waged, the only which the cosmic stranger would have seen
(leaving out the origin of the situation in accordance with the conditions of the
exercise), once more convinced of the wrongness of his predictions and the capriciousness
of the course of the history of various peoples.
But the interpreter is not lost. He is shrewd. Noticing that Buddhism is successfully
spreading throughout China in the fifth century A.D., he ascribes the inertness that the
two ethnoi of China - both the southerners and the northerners - are sunk in, and that
enables savage tyrants and usurpers to push people into senseless bloodshed, to this
'enervating and mystic doctrine'. And it all looks very connected because the events of
three centuries are omitted.
A logical forecast can again be given -the position of the peoples of the Far East is
hopeless. The philosophy of 'inactivity' and 'contemplation' will not give them a chance
to overcome the crisis; stagnation and decline he ahead of China, which will be obvious
during the next seance in the eighth century.
And it is not worth getting discouraged because the first forecasts did not turn out.
The astronaut lacked experience then, which was why some details remained unallowed for.
That made for error, but it will not happen again.
Third observation. The eighth century. Following the Sun.
A new disillusionment with the method employed! In China, united and powerful, rules
Hsьan Tsung, an emperor of the Tang dynasty that had subdued Middle Asia (658 A.D.),
North Korea (668 A.D.), Central Asia (745 A.D.), and the Pamirs (747 A.D.). Within the
country there was plenty; the price of rice had never been so low in all the history of
China. The population grew up to 57 million. Education is valued highly. State
examinations had been introduced for grades of rank, and all officials read (or knew how
to read) Confucius and Lao-tzu. Ch'ang-an, the capital of the empire, was a city of a
million population where schools, a theatre, and a conservatory for singers and dancers
functioned. The best poets of China Li Po and Tu Fu read verses to the court aesthetes;
those not interested in verses listened to debates between Confucian scholars and Buddhist
monks who had visited India and Khotan, while others wrote the history of the past Sui
dynasty (A.D. 581-619).
So, instead of stagnation and decay, an unprecedented flowering and a prospect of
spread of the power of an enlightened, humane monarchy throughout Asia.
All the astronauts of our spacecraft draw such a conclusion. But if they had kept China
in the field of their eye-piece for even a year they would have seen how three of the best
armies of the Tang Empire were routed: one by Arabs in the valley of the River Talas, a
second in Manchuria by the Khitans, and the third in the jungles of Yunnan by Tibetans and
local tribesmen. And in another five years a rebellion by border troops not only destroyed
the might of the Tang Empire but also brought calamities to the population of China
perhaps comparable only with the terrible epoch of the Three Kingdoms. Once more the wrong
But there is no time to linger in China. It is important to know whether the proud
tower of Iran rises high, and whether the golden palace of Byzantium has fallen to pieces?
The eye-piece scans the Near East - and Iran is nowhere to be seen!
In place of Iran, the Arab Caliphate with its capital in Damascus stretches from the
Pamirs to the Pyrenees. But Constantinople stands as before, and in the Church of St.
Sophia mass is sung in honor of Virgin Mary Odigitriya who had granted the Orthodox
Christians victory over the fire-worshippers (Persians), the pagans (Bulgars), and the
Muslims (the Arabs who had conquered Syria, North Africa, and Transcaucasia).
But three hundred years earlier it was not at all possible to foresee that a handful of
nomad pastoralists and camel herders would occupy first place in the world, and that petty
traders from tiny towns (Medina and Mecca) would become the vice-regents of former
kingdoms. The prediction did not take into account something very important that could not
be recorded from up high by the most exact instruments.
It was even more strange that the victorious Arabs were stopped by the small tribe of
Khazars living along the lower reaches of the Terek and Volga, in the reeds and riverside
thickets of those rivers. Who were these Khazars? What did they derive their strength
from? How far would their successes extend? Those are questions the space observer was not
in a position to answer, although he had hopes that one of his forecasts would be
confirmed; the vital forces of barbarism (and he considered the Khazars savages) should
triumph over the gilded rot of civilizations. To test that conclusion he turned his
telescope to the west.
Alas! There, where kingdoms of Vandals (in Africa), Visigoths (in Spain), Ostrogoths
(in Italy), Franks (along the Lower Rhine), Burgundians (in the valley of the Rhone), and
Anglo-Saxons (in Britannia) had been formed in the fifth century, lay ruins. The Vandals
and the Ostrogoths were destroyed by the Byzantine Greeks, and the Visigoths by the Arabs.
The Franks, having conquered Gaul to the Pyrenees and subdued the Burgundians, had
suffered a very violent turmoil. Of what? Of everything! The state, the Merovingian
dynasty, morals, customs, the economy, military might, and spiritual culture.
All their neighbors had attacked the descendants of the bold conquerors: the Celts in
Britanny, the Basques in Gascony, the Frisians in Lower Country, the Avars in Upper
Germany, and the Arabs on the coasts of the Mediterranean. The Franks defended themselves
as best they could, sometimes successfully (as in A.D. 732 at Poitiers, when they beat off
an Arab sortie that had driven from the Ebro to the Loire), but more often badly. The
Angles and Saxons, who had surprised the Celts at first by their cruelty, had gone over to
the defensive, so that instead of coordinating their forces, they had created seven
mutually hostile kingdoms. Ravaged Italy was held by the fierce tribe of Langobards; like
the other Germans of the time, they proved quite incapable of establishing order in the
It turned out that barbarism, too, was not salvation from troubles, and that something
else was needed to create a culture one could live by. But what that something was is not
visible and clear to the astronaut. The interpreter, refusing to make a forecast,
therefore asked for the last seance to be held in the first half of the twelfth century
after which, if he did not cope with predicting the future, the method of research would
have to be changed completely.
Fourth observation. The twelfth century. Course -
countersunwise. Western Europe, which had fallen to pieces, is on the
upgrade that is called feudalism. Everywhere there are wars, big ones, medium ones, little
ones, internal and overseas. The last-named are waged under the grandiloquent title of
'Crusades' to Palestine, where the first colony of Europeans - the Kingdom of Jerusalem -
is noticeable even from a cosmic height. A fierce war to wrest the Iberian Peninsula from
the Arabs and Berbers shakes Castile, Aragon, Portugal, and Navarra. It is called the
reconquest and proceeds with varying success. In the north-east of Europe the Germans
begin a drive to the east. They slaughter the Slavs on the banks of the Elbe and the
Prussians on the shores of the Baltic. The French Normans have already conquered the
English and Sicilian kingdoms and the princedom of Antioch. They were foremost in
boldness, organizing ability, and enterprise, yielding the palm in the realms of
literature and art to their southern neighbors the Provencals. Toulouse was a worthy rival
of Paris and Rome.
Townsmen competed with the feudal lords. Venetian and Genoese galleys ploughed the
azure main of the Mediterranean, bringing the ship-owners overseas luxuries and incomes
prodigious for the times. Florentine money-lenders were extending their tentacles to all
the capitals of Europe. The Roman clergy and the patriciate were not only demanding from
the Pope the right to dictate the mode of life and legal norms to Catholics, but were also
appropriating part of the income from church tithes to themselves. Everything was seething
and in full swing; everything was being rapidly ruined and renewed, but the now wary
cosmic observer declined to predict what would come of it. And that was the best he could
But the distance from the object of study provided an opportunity that was lost in
close up. This is generalization which is just as real and necessary as detailed
elaboration for deepening a narrow theme. Entities became clear for the space traveler
that were only comprehensible mentally for earthmen. From high up it is clear that such
unlike ethnoi as Spaniards and Swedes, Scots and Neapolitans, English and Czechs,
constitute an entity, are aware of it, and even call themselves the 'Christian world',
excluding from that definition the Greeks, Bulgarians, Russians, and Irish. Unity of the
dogmas of faith does not embarrass them because they invest the title with a quite
non-religious sense. They therefore oppose themselves to the eastern pagans, living on the
shores of the Baltic, to the schismatics who do not, in principle, acknowledge the
supremacy of the Pope (at a time when they themselves do not want to reckon with the
Papacy), and to the Muslims.
But the Muslims in turn oppose themselves to all 'nonbelievers', although they wage the
cruelest wars against their own Shiites (the Shiah is a party, here a confessional trend
with a political coloring). In both cases ethnic fragmentation prevented a decisive
victory over opponents, and the astronaut decided not to predict Victory for either the
disturbed 'Christian world' or the divided 'world of Islam', between which Byzantium was
In the thirteenth century Constantinople was the richest city in Europe. Robert de
Clari wrote that 'two-thirds of the property of the world was in Constantinople and one
third dispersed throughout the world'. 12 And in fact the
wonderful structures that skilled craftsmen had embellished with objects of refined
luxury; the markets full of the grain from Alania, the furs, caviar, and slaves from Rus,
the silks from Baghdad and China, the wines from Greece, the horses from Hungary and
Bulgaria; the schools where the poem about the bold Digenes Acritas and the verses of
Roman the Sweet Singer were studied together with Homer and Plato, the radiant temples and
powerful walls made the city a special small world, organically blended into the body of
the Byzantine Empire.
But all around the capital, on both sides of the Bosphorus, on the sun-drenched hills
of Thrace and Bithynia goats grazed, cicadas chirped, and sunburnt peasants pruned
grapevines or gathered olives from rented allotments or in the fields of the landowners.
And the semi-savage highlanders of Epirus and the Taurus made swords and arrows to repulse
enemies - Catholics and Muslims. The luxury of the capital was not for them. Their lot was
labour and war.
The capital and the provinces had ceased to think and feel alike, and that means to act
in agreement. The educated bureaucrats of the capital had created a civil party in order
to curb the provincial landlords, who knew how, and wanted, to defend their homeland.
Unlike the Romano-German 'Christian world', young and on the way up, although very
painfully, the Orthodox world of Byzantium was experiencing its golden autumn in the
thirteenth century. Much lay behind - the fiery speeches of St. John Chrysostom, the
grandiose thoughts of Justinian, the loss of Syria, Egypt, and Italy, the frenzy of the
iconoclasts, and the restoration on the ruins of the Eastern Roman Empire of a powerful
Greek kingdom that united, under Basil II (976-1025), almost all the Orthodox lands of the
Near East. But that prosperity was followed by calamity in 1071 when Asia Minor, overrun
by the Seljuk Turks, Southern Italy, conquered by Norman French, Serbia, which had
rebelled against the Greeks, and then Bulgaria, where the Bogomils called in Pechenegs to
fight the Orthodox in 1086, were lost all at once. Such a combination of calamities could
not have been a matter of chance. Something was obviously rotten in the state. But what?
What would the cosmic observer think about that? He might with equal success have
predicted the triumph of the brilliant urban civilization and the ruin of the
disintegrating Byzantine bureaucracy. But in both cases he would have been wrong.
Hypertrophy of civilization brought Byzantium to the verge of death, while the charm of
culture drew to it the hearts of sincere friends and allies who did not spare life for the
sake of beautiful ideals.
There were friends in the Abyssinian plateau, and in sun-baked Nubia, and in the green
forests of Rus, and in the snowy wastes of Mongolia. The old enmity between Chalcedonites
(Orthodox), Nestorians, and Monophysites had lost actuality. The Orthodox world,
politically divided, was aware of its cultural wholeness, which would have seemed eternal
from cosmic heights.
But where was the Arab Caliphate? It was no more. The sovereign of the Muslims still
sat in Baghdad, but there were few who reckoned with him. The emirs of Spain and North
Africa had become independent rulers. Central Asia, Iran, and Syria had been conquered by
the Seljuk sultans, and in Arabia itself the Karmathians - the Muslims' worst enemies -
were playing havoc. Karmathian fortresses rose on the heights of Lebanon. Ismailites, who
thought like with them, lay hidden in the towns of Persia and the mountains of the Pamirs,
and their co-religionist - the self-styled Fatimid (descendant of the sister of the
Prophet Muhammed) - sat on the throne of Egypt.
The political disorganization was no less than in feudal Europe, but on its background
there was a flowering of Muslim culture and erudition, because scholars were respected
everywhere, and no sultan - a hand against them. The culture of Islam spread deep into
Africa, to the islands of the Malay Archipelago, and up the Volga to Great Bulgar.
Yes, but what became of Khazaria? Why is there no sign of it? Again the fragmentary
character of the observations and incompleteness of the analysis deceived. I can now say
quite definitely that the method of my astronauts was faulty, although it coincided with
the school of aggressive dilettantism very common on Earth. Wherever history is not traced
year by year, and wherever the events described are not tied up with one another, even
when remote in time and space, a proper conclusion cannot be drawn.
But the method of narrow specialization, in which systems links are also ignored, is
also fruitless all the same, in spite of its looking scientific. For wherever there is no
global link of cause and effect, any degree of detail is doubtful.
Since my imaginary space travelers are clever beings, they obviously drew a similar
conclusion from their observations. They therefore stopped the work of the instruments,
having ignored the Far East of the twelfth century, and landed their scholarly confrere on
Earth in the lower reaches of the Volga, i.e. in the very center of the territory being
studied. They proposed that he should study the history of the observed period, in order
to understand what was what. Otherwise, they threatened him with being converted into a
research worker, and they knew quite clearly the difference between being that and being a
I met this man from another planet on the slope of a big mound, when I was searching
there for Khazar burials and fragments of Khazar pottery. It was frightening for me at
first because he was ghostly, but then we talked, and he told me many interesting things
about the history of the Khazars and their times. Don't be surprised. Thor Heyerdahl also
talked with A'Khu, so there is a precedent. For a long time I was afraid to publish a
Russian translation of our talk because there are orientalists in Leningrad who would have
demanded a record of the text from me, the author's name, and his signature, and I have
none of those. We communicated by telepathy, his name sounded such that there are no
letters to write it down, and I cannot produce proofs, because a flying saucer whirled by
in the middle of our conversation, gathered up my interlocutor, and disappeared. So I kept
quiet, in order not to be accused of mystification or being a mystic. But orientalists can
Later, however, I plucked up courage. I believe there are indeed people among us who
know what a 'literary ploy' is. But orientalists will not read me, because they don't read
books, but translate texts. If they do read my book, however, they will all the same pull
everything to pieces, as they can't help it. So I made up my mind, having recalled not the
other-planetary word, but our own, 'may be', after which I wrote the interpretation of
ethnic history presented below, and its possibilities for clarifying the causes of
Mankind as the species 'Homo sapiens'. We
are accustomed to say 'Man and Earth' or 'Man and Nature', although it is already
explained in secondary school that this is elementary, primitive anthropocentrism,
inherited from the early Middle Ages. Of course man has created technique, which had not
been done either by the dinosaurs of the Mesozoic era or the saber tigers of the
Cainozoic. But, for all the achievements of the twentieth century, each of us has his
inner nature which constitutes the content of life, both individual and species. And no
one, other things being equal, rejects what instincts tell him. Man has remained within
the bounds of the species and within the Emits of the biosphere (one of the envelopes of
planet Earth). Man combines the laws of life inherent in him with specific phenomena of
technique and culture, which, though enriching him, do not deprive him of his involvement
in the element that gave birth to him.
As a biological form mankind is the sole species with a vast number of variations which
have spread over the whole surface of the globe in the post-glacial period. The density of
the species' distribution varies but, with the exception of the polar ice-caps, the whole
of the earth is man's habitat. And it should not be thought that there are 'virgin lands'
anywhere, where man's foot has not trod. Present deserts and jungle are full of traces of
Paleolithic campsites; the forests of the Amazon grow on redeposited soils once disturbed
by the farming of ancient inhabitants; traces of structures we do not understand have been
discovered on the rocks of the Andes and Himalayas. In other words, the species Homo
sapiens has repeatedly and constantly during its existence, modified its distribution
over the earth's surface. And like any other species it has striven to master the greatest
possible space with the greatest possible density of population. 14
But something has prevented it and limited its opportunities. What was it?
Unlike most mammals Homo sapiens cannot be called either a gregarious or an
individual animal. Man lives in collectives that are regarded, depending on the point of
view, sometimes as a socium, sometimes as an ethnos. Or rather each human being is
simultaneously a member of a society and a representative of an ethnic national group, but
these two concepts are incommensurable and lie on different planes, like length and
weight, for example, or a degree of heat and an electrical charge.
Mankind's social development has been well studied, and its regularities formulated, by
historical materialism. A spontaneous development of social forms through socioeconomic
formations is inherent only in man, who lives in a collective, and is not linked in any
way with his biological structure. This point is so clear that there is no need of
labouring it. But the question of ethnic national groups, which I shall call ethnoi so as
to avoid terminological confusion, is full of absurdities and is extremely confused. One
thing is certain: there is no person on earth outside an ethnos. Everybody answers the
question 'Who are you?' by 'a Russian', 'a Frenchman', 'a Persian', 'a Masai', etc., as a
rule, without pausing for a minute to think. Conscious ethnic affiliation is consequently
a universal phenomenon. But it has not always been so.
The definition of the concept 'ethnos'. What
significance, or rather what sense, does any one of the people listed above attach to his
reply? What he calls his people, nation, tribe, and what he sees as his difference from
his neighbors, are still an unresolved problem of ethic diagnostics. For an ordinary
person the problem does not exist, just as he does not need a definition of the difference
between fight and dark, heat and cold, bitter and sweet. In other words, feeling functions
as a criterion. That is sufficient for ordinary life, but not for understanding. There is
a need for a definition. But that is where inconsistency arises. 'An ethnos is a
phenomenon determined by community of origin'; 'an ethnos is the result of culture on the
basis of a common language'; 'an ethnos is a group of people resembling one another'; 'an
ethnos is a gathering of people united by common self-awareness'; 'an ethnos is an
arbitrary, conventional classification grouping people according to some formation or
other' (which means that the category of ethnos is not real); 'an ethnos is a result of
the geographical environment, i.e. of nature'; 'an ethnos is a social category'.
Generalizing the views of Soviet scholars, diverse in details, on the relation of
nature and social man, one can single out three points of view: (1) a 'single' geography
reduces all man's activity to natural patterns; (2) some historians and ethnographers
consider all phenomena connected with mankind to be social, making an exception solely for
anatomy, and sometimes physiology; (3) manifestations of social form of the motion of
matter are distinguished, plus a complex of natural forms (mechanical, physical, chemical
and biological), in the anthropogenic processes. The third conception seems to me to be
the only correct one.
The point of view of M.I. Artamonov, a famous archaeologist and historian of the
Khazars, has a special place. In his view, born of long concern with archaeological, i.e.
dead, cultures and memorials that lack self-development, but are demolished by the course
of time, 'ethnos, like class, is not a social organization but a state or condition' and
'man's dependence on nature is less, the higher his cultural level; that is a copybook
maxim'. It is hard to agree with that.
Let me begin with the last thesis. Man's organism is part of Earth's biosphere and is
involved in conversion of the biocoenosis. No one can prove that a professor breathes
differently than a Bushman or reproduces in an asexual way, or is insensitive to the
effect of sulphuric acid on his skin, that he can not eat or, on the contrary, will make a
dinner of 40 persons, or that gravity affects him differently. And all that is the
dependence on nature of the organism itself, which acts and thinks, is adapted to a
changing environment, and itself alters the environment, adapting it to its needs, and is
united in collectives, and creates states within them. The thinking individual constitutes
a single whole with the organism, and does not therefore go beyond the limits of living
nature, which is one of the envelopes of planet Earth.
But man differs from other animals in that he makes tools, creating a qualitatively
different layer, the technosphere. The works of man's hands, from both inanimate and
animate substances (tools, works of art. domestic animals, cultivated plants), fall out of
the cycle of conversion of the biocoenosis. They may only either be preserved or, being
unconservated, are broken down and destroyed. in the latter case they are returned to the
womb of nature. A sword dropped in a field becomes rusty, converted into iron oxide. A
ruined castle becomes a mound. A feral dog becomes a wild animal, the dingo, and a feral
horse a mustang. This is the death of things (of the technosphere) and nature's recapture
of material stolen from her. The history of ancient civilizations shows that though nature
suffers loss from technique, she ultimately takes her own back, with the exception, of
course. of objects that are so transformed as to become irreversible. Such are the flint
tools of Paleolithic times, the polished slabs at Baalbek, concrete squares and plastic
articles. They are corpses, even mummies, that the biosphere is powerless to take back
into its womb, but processes of inert matter (chemical and thermal) can return them to
their original condition should our planet suffer a cosmic catastrophe. Until that happens
they will be called memorials of civilization because even our technique will one day
become a memorial.
So the concept 'ethnos' is introduced into the problem of the relation of man, as the
bearer of civilization, with the natural environment in the sense of a stable collective
of individuals that opposes itself to all other similar collectives, that has an inner
structure, in each case peculiar and a dynamic stereotype of behavior. It is through
ethnic collectives that mankind's link with the natural environment is realized, since the
ethnos itself is a phenomenon of nature.
Running ahead of my story, let me say that ethnoi are a phenomenon at the boundary of
the biosphere and the sociosphere, that has a very special function in the structure of
Earth's biosphere. Even though this seems a declaration, the reader for whom this book has
been written now knows that the author is not trying simply to present a formulation but
to show the whole way it was achieved and the grounds that convince him that the
conception proposed meets all the demands made of scientific hypotheses at today's level
of science. After that reservation we can now pass on to the system of proofs.
1 V.I.Vernadsky. Khimicheskoe
siroenie biosfery Zemli i ee okruzheniva (The Chemical Structure of Earth's Biosphere
and Its Environment), Nauka, Moscow, 1965, pp. 283-288.
2 Giovanni Gentile. The Transcending of Time
in History. R. Klibansky and HJ. Paton (eds.). Philosophy and History. Essays presented
to Ernst Cassirer. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1936, p 103.
3 Ibid., p 104.
4 Wilhelm Dilthev's Gesammelte Schrifien,
Vol 7. Verlag von B.G. Teubner. Leipzig, Berlin. 1927, p 161.
5 Patrick Gardiner. The Nature of
Historical Explanation. Oxford University Press. London. 1955, p 109.
6 Anatole France. Penguin Island Translated
by A.W. Evans. The Sun Dial Press, Inc., New York, 1908, p VI.
7 Karl Marx. Economic and Philosophic
Manuscripts of 1844. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Collected Works, Vol.- 3.
Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, pp303-304.
8 Karl Jaspers. Vom Ursprung und Ziel der
Geschichte. Artemis-Verlag, Zьrich, 1949.
9 N.Ya. Bichurin.
Sobranie svedenii o narodakh, obitavshikh v SredneiAzii v drevnie vremena (Digest
of Information about the Peoples Inhabiting Central Asia in Ancient Times), Vol. 1. Nauka,
Moscow-Leningrad, 1960, p 175.
10 See: L.N.
Gumilev. Khunny (Hunni), Nauka, Moscow, 1960, pp. 236-241.
11 See: L.N. Gumilev. Khunny v Khitae (The
Hsiung Nu in China), Nauka, Moscow, 1974.
12 Charles Diehl. Les grands problemes de
l'histoire Byzantine. Libraire Armand Colin, Paris, 1947, pp 9-10/X.
13 Ibid., pp 87-88.
14 V.1. Vernadsky. Biosphere. Izbrannye
sochineniya v 5 tomakh. Vol. 5. lzdatelstvo Akademii Nauk SSSR,
Moscow-Leningrad, 1960, pp 24-31.