Jump to content

Peter Turchin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Peter Turchin
Portrait of Peter Turchin
Born (1957-05-22) 22 May 1957 (age 67)
Known forContributions to macrohistory and historical dynamics (cliodynamics)
Academic background
Alma materNew York University, Duke 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, Complexity Science Hub Vienna

Peter Valentinovich Turchin (/ˈtɜːrɪn/; Russian: Пётр Валенти́нович Турчи́н, IPA: [ˈpʲɵtr vəlʲɪnʲˈtʲinəvʲɪtɕ tʊrˈtɕin]; born 22 May 1957)[1] 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.[2]

Peter Turchin, Emeritus Professor at the University of Connecticut in the departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Anthropology, and Mathematics, is a project leader at the Complexity Science Hub Vienna and a research associate at the School of Anthropology of the University of Oxford. He was Editor-in-Chief and remains member of the editorial board at Cliodynamics: The Journal of Quantitative History and Cultural Evolution. Turchin is a founding director of the Seshat: Global History Databank. He was a director of the Evolution Institute. In 2021 he was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.[3]

Early life and education


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 received a B.A. (cum laude) in biology from New York University, and in 1985 a Ph.D. in zoology from Duke University.[2]


Clio—detail from The Allegory of Painting by Johannes Vermeer

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.[4] His research on secular cycles[5] 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".[6][7]

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.[5] 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 lent support to 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.[5]

In 2010 Turchin published research using 40 combined social indicators to predict that there would be worldwide social unrest in the 2020s.[8][9] 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".[10] 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.[11]



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'",[2] and manages a blog, Cliodynamica.[12]


  • Turchin, Peter (2023). End Times: Elites, Counter-Elites and the Path of Political Disintegration. Allen Lane. ISBN 978-0241553480.
  • Turchin, Peter; Hoyer, Daniel (2020). Figuring Out the Past; The 3,495 Vital Statistics that Explain World History. Economist Books. ISBN 9781541762688.
  • Turchin, Peter (2016). Ages of Discord: A Structural-Demographic Analysis of American History. 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, Peter; Nefedov, Sergey A. (2009). Secular Cycles. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691136967.
  • Turchin, Peter (2007). War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires. Plume. ISBN 978-0452288195.
  • Turchin, Peter (2003). Historical Dynamics: Why States Rise and Fall. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691116693.
  • Turchin, Peter (2003). Complex Population Dynamics: A Theoretical/Empirical Synthesis. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691090214.
  • Turchin, Peter (1998). Quantitative Analysis of Movement: Measuring and Modeling Population Redistribution in Animals and Plants. Sinauer Associates. ISBN 978-0878938476.

Selected journal articles


See also



  1. ^ Lloyd, Will (2023-06-15). "Is Another American Revolution Inevitable?". New Statesman. Retrieved 2023-07-19.
  2. ^ a b c Wood, Graeme (December 2020). "The Next Decade Could Be Even Worse". The Atlantic. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  3. ^ About, peterturchin.com (per 20. January 2024)
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Turchin, P. (2003), Historical Dynamics: Why States Rise and Fall, Princeton University Press.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ "Will the US Really Experience a Violent Upheaval in 2020?". Live Science. 3 August 2012.
  10. ^ "Social Instability Lies Ahead, Researcher Says". UConn Today. 2016-12-27. Retrieved 2019-07-17.
  11. ^ Turchin, Peter; Goldstone, Jack (10 September 2020). "Welcome To The 'Turbulent Twenties'". NOEMA. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  12. ^ "Cliodynamica: A Blog about the Evolution of Civilizations". Cliodynamica. 24 October 2016. Retrieved 18 January 2021.

Further reading