‘We’ve Suggested Some New Hypotheses on Medieval History’
Writing world histories has become a global trend in recent years. There is a huge demand among readers around the world for books of this kind, and not just in Russia where the previous edition of ‘World History’, published over 10 years - 1956 to 1965 initially in 10 volumes, is still popular.
The new edition of ‘World History’ is a Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) project, and it is planned to run to six volumes, under the general editorship of Alexander Chubarian, Director of the RAS Institute of World History and Member of the RAS. So far, two volumes have been published: the first of them, dedicated to Ancient History, was launched in February this year, and the second, entitled ‘Medieval Civilizations of the East and West’, was presented to the academic community just recently.
This is the first academic publication of ‘World History’ published by the Russian Academy of Sciences since a similarly named Soviet edition. These editions, however, are totally different. Unlike the Soviet publication, which grew out of the general concept of consequential change in socio-historical formations, the new one has no general scenario. The lack of scenario reflects the state of modern academic approaches to history. Today there is no single concept shared by the professional community. That’s why we can’t speak about a general view on history among the authors of ‘World History’.
|World History. Vol. 2. Medieval Civilizations of the East and West|
Speaking about the image of the medieval period, talk of the ‘Dark Ages’ or stagnating feudalism holds no water among professional historians these days. On the contrary, with the establishment of feudal liege economies at the end of the 10th century, the West experienced a boom in demographic, economic and cultural growth, which lasted until the beginning of the 14th century. In my view, all further successes of Western civilization took place not despite, but because of the feudal legacy, which developed, became stronger, overcame its problems and transformed itself. Without it modernization would never have happened.
We don’t lay claim to any major new discoveries but in our book we have suggested some new hypotheses. Particularly, Alexey Ryabinin expressed an interesting thought about the decisive role of neighboring nomads in the creation of Eastern states. It is true that the Middle Ages’ ‘trademark’, besides world religions, is the nomads, who were ‘cruising’ between the Amur River basin and Hungary over several centuries. They were a constantly active factor forcing the neighboring peoples, particularly those living on the Great Steppe, to create certain socio-political structures inside their country – a strong centralized power structure, a standing army, and a vast and expensive bureaucracy.
Against this background, Western Europe was the only place not exposed to the threat from the nomadic hordes roaming the Steppe. Throughout the Middle Ages it developed unhampered by the necessity to create superstates, though since Charlemagne there have been many attempts to unite it and create a universal state. No one has done it yet.
This December, HSE University’s Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities hosted Professor Juliane Fürst, from Leibniz Centre for Contemporary History, who gave a lecture about Soviet hippies and the Soviet Flower Power. In an interview with HSE News Service, Professor Fürst spoke about her interest in Soviet subcultures and her research plans.
On September 30, Stephen Riegg, Assistant Professor of History of the Texas A&M University, presented his book Russia’s Entangled Embrace: The Tsarist Empire and the Armenians, 1801-1914 at the first seminar of this year’s Boundaries of History series.We spoke with Professor Alexander Semyonov, the seminar chair and the Director of the HSE Centre for Historical Research, about the goals of the seminar and to Stephen Riegg about his research.
The English-language course ‘Europe and the World, ca. 1500 to 1914’ has launched on Coursera. Its author, Andrey Iserov, Deputy Dean for International Affairs at the HSE Faculty of Humanities, examines a historical span of four centuries during which European states reached the peak of their economic, military, and political power. Students of the course will learn how the independence of Hispanic America by the mid-1820s influenced China, what caused the religious schism in Western Christianity in the 16th century, and how European colonial policy developed.
This summer, the HSE Centre for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences was reorganized to become the HSE Institute for Advanced Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies. Oleg Budnitskii, Doctor of Historical Sciences, head of the Centre and director of the Institute, talked to the HSE News Service about the new division.
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On March 28-31, 2021, the HSE International Laboratory ‘Russia’s Regions in Historical Perspective’ held an international conference ‘The Russian Far East: Regional and Transnational Perspectives (19th -21st cent.)’. The event was jointly organized by the Laboratory with the German Historical Institute Moscow, Indiana University Bloomington (USA), and the Institute of History, Archeology and Ethnography of the Peoples of the Far East FEB RAS (Vladivostok).
The recently launched Master's Programme in Medieval Studies is the only Master’s degree in Russia fully dedicated to medieval studies. HSE News Service spoke with Juan Sota, a second-year student of the programme, about its unique features, interacting with professors, and his research interests and aspirations.
On February 9, the HSE International Laboratory 'Russia’s Regions in Historical Perspective' hosted Janet Hartley (London School of Economics), who presented her recent monograph The Volga: A History of Russia’s Greatest River. The presentation was part of a joint lecture series between the Laboratory and The Mikhail Prokhorov Foundation. HSE news service spoke with Janet Hartley about her interest in Russia, her experience travelling and doing research in Russia, and the books she has written on Russia.
Aleksey Maslov, Professor at HSE University’s School of Asian Studies and one of its founders, has become a super-media persona this year. This is due to major interest in China amid the pandemic and Beijing’s strained relationship with Washington. In the column ‘HSE University Scientists’, Aleksey Maslov explains how to keep up with everything (spoiler: Shaolin Monastery!), why Russian science has become a ‘fossil’, what scientists should do for self-promotion and why it’s important to look good at the same time.
A Dossier of Deities: HSE University Scholars Create Electronic Database of Chinese Mythological Characters
The Institute for Oriental and Classical Studies (IOCS) at HSE University is developing an electronic database of Chinese mythological characters and motifs. Because nothing like it has ever been compiled, it meets an enormous demand. Project originators Elizaveta Volchkova, Olga Mazo, Aglaya Starostina and Alevtina Solovyova told IQ what they are attempting to accomplish and why Chinese mythology is both complicated and fascinating.