This introductory chapter sets out the book's main purpose, which is to try to make some sense of the mystique surrounding Lev Nikolaevich Gumilev. The motivation for this book came from two broad concerns. One of these is to provide a detailed examination of Gumilev's work itself—the sources, structure, and meaning of the book's principal hypotheses. Most fundamentally, Gumilev devoted himself to two projects: on the one hand a universal and panhistorical “ethnos theory” about the nature of nationality and ethnicity; and on the other a radically revisionist reinterpretation of Russia's historical development. A second objective of this book is to analyze Gumilev's impact and significance across a range of Soviet and post-Soviet contexts. The remainder of the chapter provides a brief biographical sketch of Gumilev followed through an overview of the three parts of the book.
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