George Vernadsky

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George Vernadsky (1887-1973), was a Russian-American historian and an author of numerous books on Russian history.

Born in Saint Petersburg on August 20, 1887, Vernadsky stemmed from a respectable family of the Ukrainian intelligentsia. His father was Vladimir Vernadsky, the first President of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. He entered the Moscow University (where his father was professor) in 1905 but, due to the disturbances of the First Russian Revolution, had to spend the next two years in Germany, at the Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg and the University of Berlin, where he imbibed the doctrines of Heinrich Rickert.

Back in Russia, Vernadsky resumed his course at the Moscow University, graduating with honors in 1910. His instructors included the historians Vasily Klyuchevski and Robert Vipper. The young scholar declined to continue his career in the university after the 1910 Kasso affair and moved to Saint Petersburg University where he taught for the next seven years, during which he was awarded the Master's degree for his dissertation on the effects of Freemasonry on the Russian Enlightenment.

In 1927, Michael Rostovtzeff and Frank Golder offered Vernadsky a position at Yale University in the United States. At Yale, he first served as a research associate in history (1927–1946), and then became a full professor of Russian history in 1946. He served in that position until his retirement in 1956. He died in New Haven on June 20, 1973.

Vernadsky's first book in English was a widely read textbook on Russian history, first published in 1929 and republished six times during his lifetime. It was translated to numerous languages, including Hebrew and Japanese. In 1943, he embarked on his magnum opus, A History of Russia, of which six volumes were eventually published, despite the death of his co-author, Professor Karpovich, in 1959.

The book demonstrated Vernadsky's novel approach to Russian history which is conceived by him as a continuous succession of empires, starting from the Scythian, Sarmatian, Hunnic, and Gothic; Vernadsky attempted to determine the laws of their expansion and collapse. His views emphasised the importance of Eurasian nomadic cultures for the cultural and economic progress of Russia, thus anticipating some of the tenets advanced by Lev Gumilev.

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