Lev Gumilyov formulated his ethnogenesis theory in Norilsk

Lev Gumilyov formulated his ethnogenesis theory in Norilsk

August 16, 2023

Scientist, historian and philosopher, son of the famous poets Anna Ahmatova and Nikolay Gumilyov, was a prisoner in Norillag in the 1940s.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. In the Arctic, Lev Gumilyov worked as a geotechnician, and then, as part of a geophysical expedition, he conducted exploration in the vicinity of Hantaiskoye lake.

There were many scientists and intellectuals in Norilsk in those years. The astrophysicist Kozyrev, the philosopher and future science fiction writer Snegov, the poet Doroshin, and world-famous geologists gathered in the barracks for intellectual debates.

Famous family portrait: Nikolay Gumilyov and Anna Ahmatova with their son Lev

“Even now it is difficult for me to overestimate the result of this scientific communication in Norilsk for each of us”, Lev Gumilyov later recalled.

It also helped to read books from the scientific and technical library, where highly qualified prisoners were allowed to borrow literature.

“Lev made himself a wooden saddle on his back for the cherished pile of paper (manuscript) and wore it, weaving in endless rows of workers, his head down, his hands in his pockets. It was a pathetic figure – a mixture of physical humiliation and moral stamina, social deprivation and spiritual wealth”, recalled former chekist Dmitry Bystroletov.

Gumilyov himself wrote that after the capture of Berlin, he told a German physicist about Taimyr and he compared the story with the works of Jack London. “I was indignant and shouted: “Alaska ist Kurort!” the scientist recalled.

Of course, Gumilyov had neither the time nor the opportunity to directly work on his dissertation in Norilsk. But, as he later wrote in his memoirs, it was the environment and the opportunity to talk about science that kept many people interested in life. And the story of the astrophysicist Kozyrev about the birth of a star from the collapse caused Gumilyov to associate with an outbreak of ethnogenesis:

“For the first time it was in Norilsk that I came to the idea that the laws of nature are the same for different levels of its organization: from the macrocosm – the Galaxy to the microcosm – the atom”.

In the History Spot’s previous publication, we told that the writer Robert Shtilmark wrote The Heir from Calcutta in the Norillag.

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Text: Svetlana Ferapontova, Photo: Nornickel Polar Branch archive

August 16, 2023

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