Peter Turchin

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Peter Turchin
Born1957 (age 62–63)
Alma materNew York University
Known forContributions to population biology and historical dynamics (cliodynamics)
Scientific career
FieldsCultural evolution, cliodynamics (historical dynamics)
InstitutionsUniversity of Connecticut
Evolution Institute

Peter Valentinovich Turchin (Russian: Пётр Валенти́нович Турчи́н; born 1957) is a Russian-American scientist, specializing in cultural evolution and cliodynamicsmathematical modeling and statistical analysis of the dynamics of historical societies. He is a professor at the University of Connecticut in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology as well as in the Department of Anthropology and in the Department of Mathematics. He is the vice president of the Evolution Institute.

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 Peter Turchin received a B.A. (cum laude) in biology from New York University, and in 1985 a Ph.D. in zoology from Duke University.


Turchin has made contributions to the fields of population ecology, cultural evolution, 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.[1] His research on secular cycles[2] has contributed to our understanding of the collapse of complex societies as has his re-interpretation of Ibn Khaldun's asabiyya notion as "collective solidarity".[3][4]

Of special importance is his study of the hypothesis that population pressure causes increased warfare. This hypothesis has been criticized[by whom?] on empirical grounds. Studies[which?] focusing on specific historical societies and analyses of cross-cultural data have failed to find positive correlation between population density and incidence of warfare.[citation needed] Turchin, in collaboration with Korotayev, has shown that such negative results do not falsify the population-warfare hypothesis.[2] 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.[2]

In 2010 Turchin published research using 40 combined social indicators to predict that there would be worldwide social unrest in the 2020s.[5][6] 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”.[7]


Turchin has published over 200 scientific articles (including more than a dozen in Nature, Science, or PNAS) and at least seven books.


  • Turchin, P. (2016), Ages of Discord, Beresta Books, ISBN 978-0996139540
  • 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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Turchin, P (2009). "A Theory for Formation of Large Empires" (PDF). Journal of Global History. 4 (2): 191–207. doi:10.1017/s174002280900312x.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Turchin, P. (2003), Historical Dynamics: Why States Rise and Fall, Princeton University Press.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ "Will the US Really Experience a Violent Upheaval in 2020?". Live Science. 3 August 2012.
  7. ^ "Social Instability Lies Ahead, Researcher Says". UConn Today. 2016-12-27. Retrieved 2019-07-17.

External links[edit]