Peter Turchin

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Peter Turchin
Born1957 (age 64–65)
Known forContributions to macrohistory and historical dynamics (cliodynamics)
Academic background
Alma materNew York University
ThesisThe effect of host-plant dispersion on movement of Mexican bean beetles (Epilachna varivestis) (1985)
Academic work
DisciplineCliodynamics (historical dynamics), mathematical modeling of long-term social processes, construction and analysis of historical databases
InstitutionsUniversity of Connecticut, Evolution Institute

Peter Valentinovich Turchin[needs IPA] (Russian: Пётр Валенти́нович Турчи́н; born 1957) is a Russian-American complexity scientist, specializing in an area of study he and his colleagues developed called cliodynamicsmathematical modeling and statistical analysis of the dynamics of historical societies.[1] He is currently Editor-in-Chief at Cliodynamics: The Journal of Quantitative History and Cultural Evolution. As of 2020, he is a director of the Evolution Institute.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Peter Turchin was born in 1957 in Obninsk, Russia, and in 1964 he moved with his family to Moscow. In 1975 he enrolled at Moscow State University's Faculty of Biology and studied there until 1977, when his father, Soviet dissident Valentin Turchin, was exiled from the Soviet Union. In 1980, Turchin obtained B.A. (cum laude) from New York University, and in his Ph.D. in from Duke University in 1985.[1]


Throughout his career Turchin has made contributions to various fields, such as economic history and historical dynamics. He is one of the founders of cliodynamics, the scientific discipline at the intersection of historical macrosociology, cliometrics, and mathematical modeling of social processes. Turchin developed an original theory explaining how large historical empires evolve by the mechanism of multilevel selection.[3] His research on secular cycles[4] has contributed to our understanding of the collapse of complex societies as has his re-interpretation of Ibn Khaldun's notion of asabiyya as "collective solidarity".[5][6]

One of Turchin's most prominent fields of research is his study of the hypothesis that population pressure causes increased warfare. Turchin, in collaboration with Korotayev, has shown that negative results do not falsify the population-warfare hypothesis.[4] Population and warfare are dynamical variables. If their interaction causes sustained oscillations, then we do not in general expect to find strong correlation between the two variables measured at the same time (that is, unlagged). Turchin and Korotayev have explored mathematically what the dynamical patterns of interaction between population and warfare (focusing on internal warfare) might be in stateless and state societies. Next, they tested the model predictions in several empirical case studies: early modern England, Han and Tang China, and the Roman Empire. Their empirical results have supported the population-warfare theory: Turchin and Korotayev have found that there is a tendency for population numbers and internal warfare intensity to oscillate with the same period but shifted in phase (with warfare peaks following population peaks). Furthermore, they have demonstrated that the rates of change of the two variables behave precisely as predicted by the theory: population rate of change is negatively affected by warfare intensity, while warfare rate of change is positively affected by population density.[4]

In 2010 Turchin published research using 40 combined social indicators to predict that there would be worldwide social unrest in the 2020s.[7][8] He subsequently cited the success of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign as evidence that "negative trends seem to be accelerating" and that there has been an "unprecedented collapse of social norms governing civilized discourse".[9] In 2020, Turchin and Jack Goldstone predicted that political and civic unrest in the United States would continue regardless of the party in power until a leader took action to reduce inequality and improve the social indicators that are tracked in their research.[10]


Turchin has published over 200 scientific articles (including more than a dozen in Nature, Science, or PNAS) and at least eight books. He is the founder of the journal, Cliodynamics, "...dedicated to 'the search for general principles explaining the functioning and dynamics of historical societies'",[1] and manages a blog, Cliodynamica.[11]


  • Turchin, Peter; Hoyer, Daniel (2020). Figuring Out the Past; The 3,495 Vital Statistics that Explain World History. Profile Books. ISBN 9781541762688. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  • Turchin, Peter (2016), Ages of Discord; A Structural-demographic Analysis of American History, Beresta Books, ISBN 978-0996139540, retrieved 2020-11-22
  • Turchin, P. (2016), Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth, Beresta Books, ISBN 978-0996139519
  • Turchin, P.; Nefedov, S. (2009), Secular Cycles, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0691136967
  • Turchin, P. (2006), War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires, Plume, ISBN 978-0452288195
  • Turchin, P. (2003), Historical Dynamics: Why States Rise and Fall, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0691116693
  • Turchin, P. (2003), Complex Population Dynamics: a Theoretical/Empirical Synthesis, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0691090214
  • Turchin, P. (1998), Quantitative Analysis of Movement: Measuring and Modeling Population Redistribution in Animals and Plants, Sinauer Associates Inc, ISBN 978-0878938476

Selected journal articles[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Wood, Graeme (December 2020). "The Next Decade Could Be Even Worse". The Atlantic. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  2. ^ "Board of Directors". The Evolution Institute. Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  3. ^ Turchin, P (2009). "A Theory for Formation of Large Empires" (PDF). Journal of Global History. 4 (2): 191–207. doi:10.1017/s174002280900312x. S2CID 73597670.
  4. ^ a b c Turchin P. and Korotayev A. 2006. Population Dynamics and Internal Warfare: A Reconsideration. Social Evolution & History 5(2): 112–147; Turchin P. and Nefedov S. 2009. Secular Cycles. Princeton University Press.
  5. ^ Turchin, P. (2003), Historical Dynamics: Why States Rise and Fall, Princeton University Press.
  6. ^ Korotayev A.V., Khaltourina D.A. Introduction to Social Macrodynamics: Secular Cycles and Millennial Trends in Africa. Moscow: URSS, 2006. ISBN 5-484-00560-4.
  7. ^ Turchin, Peter (4 February 2010). "Political instability may be a contributor in the coming decade". Nature. 463 (607): 608. Bibcode:2010Natur.463..608T. doi:10.1038/463608a. PMID 20130632.
  8. ^ "Will the US Really Experience a Violent Upheaval in 2020?". Live Science. 3 August 2012.
  9. ^ "Social Instability Lies Ahead, Researcher Says". UConn Today. 2016-12-27. Retrieved 2019-07-17.
  10. ^ Turchin, Peter; Goldstone, Jack. "Welcome To The 'Turbulent Twenties'". NOEMA. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  11. ^ "Cliodynamica: A Blog about the Evolution of Civilizations". Cliodynamica. 24 October 2016. Retrieved 18 January 2021.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]