The Civilizational and Ethnological Paradigm in Geopolitics

Sources of the civilizational paradigm include two groups of authors. Conventionally, they can be termed as social philosophers and geopoliticians.
The first group includes the works of N.Y. Danilevsky, O. Spengler, and A. Toynbee. The social and philosophical understanding of the phenomenon of civilization mainly represents their work.

The second group – is formed by K. Haushofer and C. Schmitt. The author S. Huntington may also be added to the group. These authors have considered the situation more from the geopolitical angle.

To describe civilization as one of the actors of world politics, the authors refer to such categories as: geo-civilization, state-civilization, and civilization-state.

By civilizationwe understand acomplex of multilevel socio-cultural organizations, founded on the basis of certain values and occupying a particulargeographic territory. Under the state-civilization is understood the phenomenon in which political and socio-cultural borders coincide. These states-civilizations are considered to be India and China, for example. Geo-civilization – isthe subject of global politics. Civilization-state – is an entity, striving to become, along with the Empire, an alternative to the modern nation-state. We prefer to use here the category of «civilization-state», rather than «geo-civilization». This category is more general and focuses on the embryo of a new state, other than the nation-state.

Availability of civilization as such is one of the most important prerequisites for the formation of the civilization-state.

If we take Russian researchers, we have four main approaches in the analysis of civilization in geopolitics.

«Evaluative» (A. Dugin, S. Kiselyov, L. Ivashov). Its representatives adopt the basis of the evaluative system. This approach is the most common. This position is typical for A. Dugin. For himcivilization is a broad and stable geographical and cultural area, united by common spiritual, values, stylistic, psychological attitudes and historical experience. Most of these areas coincide with the boundaries of the spread of the world religions. The structure of civilization may include several states, but there are cases where the boundaries of civilizations pass through individual states, dividing them into parts [1].

«Ethnological» (V. Tsymbursky). For V. Tsymbursky civilization – is a groups of nations controlled by the state with sufficiently highlighted geographical area in the world scenario. On top of that, they consecrate their geopolitics with verticality, religion or ideology. Civilizational geopolitics of V. Tsymbursky firstly considers the relationship between the nucleus and the peoples of the periphery.

«Cultural-geographical» (S. Khatuntsev).The marking of civilizations usually occurs on a territorial criterion. According to S.V. Khatuntsev, religions come and go, while spaces remain. He treats civilization as a geo-cultural community, which emerges and operates among several “geographic individuals” existing on our planet - «spaces of development». With this theory S. Khatuntsev as V. Tsymbursky are not opposed to the role of religion in the life of civilization. It merely criticizes the thesis of her defining role [3].

«Universalist» (A.S. Panarin). The most prominent representative of this approach is A.S. Panarin. In his latest works he tried to bring a different understanding of civilization. It is not a separate cultural-historical type, opposed to other worlds, but something global. Unfortunately, A.S Panarin did not stop in more detail on the treatment of civilization, as he did not have time to develop this theory. Real civilization, by his logic, must have a non local but global character, offering a universal design for other civilization.

The most significant representatives of the civilized approach is often considered to be L Gumilev. His great contribution to the development of this given paradigm is well noted, as well as its role in the development of Russian civilizational strategy. His name is even included in books on geopolitics.

Indeed, there are common elements between the ideas of L.Gumilev and the civilizational paradigm.

Ethnic groups, according to L. Gumilev differ by their group self-identification. Their functioning is associated with a particular landscape, beyond which they try not to go. Gumilev leads the concept of «super-ethnos». He defines it as a union of several nations, based on a common consciousness and spiritual kinship. This design resembles a civilization.

The structures of the ethnos and civilization are somewhat similar. We can highlightensub-ethnos, ethnicityand super-ethnos. Secondly – civilization and their constituent sub-civilizations. Several civilizations constitute the largest unit of civilization – mega-civilization.Characterized by a source of descent.

Ethnic groups, like civilizations, pass certain stages in their development, living around the same period (though not far from all) – about 1,500 years. Description L. Gumilev of ethnic dynamics coincides with the observations of the representatives of civilizational paradigm in geopolitics and social philosophy.

But anyhow, L. Gumilev was the representative of the ethnological approach, and saw history through the prism of the ethnos, and not the interaction between civilizations. I must say that he also criticized the idea of the representatives of civilizational approach – represented by O. Spengler and A. Toynbee.

L.Gumilev understand ethnicity as a stable, naturally formed group of people, opposing itself to all other similar groups, which is determined by a sense of complementarily, and differential kind of stereotypical behavior, which changes regularly in historical time [5].

Thus, we talk about a group, community, rather than a complex socio-cultural organization, which marks a civilization. Analyzing global processes, L. Gumilev prefers to use the category of «ethnic group» instead of «civilization». Ethnicity lives in obedience, as a rule, to the biological rhythms, and civilization – lives obeying the spiritual laws. Ethnicity is the result of passionate impulse associated with the impact of the cosmos. It then fades into due to biological aging.

The factors of civilizational formation are diverse. They can be divided into external and internal. Death of a civilization also occurs for different reasons:
- outside pressure, natural disasters,
- spiritual crisis,
- internal unrest,
- «burnout».

Death of any civilization – is often a consequence of departing from spiritual values. Of course, in the description L. Gumilev – even the ethnos can move astray from its own ideals, or replace them with things more material. However, this is the result of biological aging.

Civilization can be identified with the society, as what concerns the ethnicity, here L. Gumilev divides the concept of «ethnicity» and «society». Above we already dealt with social communities. We may add that contemporary sociologists deal with two main types of social communities – ethnic and territorial. The latter can be attributed to a civilization. Although, as a rule, refer to the territorial community town, village, region, macro-region. But even if a civilization identified as a type, it still remains to be a different system than the ethnos. Ethnic groups as such, are now the actors of international relations as independent subjects, together with different civilizations, remaining more recognized than the later.

Regarding civilizations there are ongoing discussions in the field of scientific research. There is a position, according to which the phenomenon of civilization is more evaluative than real. In our time, there are often talks about the «human civilization». Under this criterion is only understood the Western civilization, which tends to impose upon other cultures its proper system of values. The “rest” should adapt to the Euro-Atlantic area, borrowing everything needed for «progress». Authors in this field include A. Janov. He wrote that Aristotle even in a nightmare could not have dreamed about the fact that the barbaric Persia will be considered a civilization on par with democratic Athens, but still has certain advantages over Greece [6]. He considers only the “free peoples” as civilized (See – West).

It should be added that ethnic groups can come to replace one another, but the civilization, nevertheless will live on. A striking example - is China. Its culture has existed for centuries and millennia, while the ethnic component has changed. The same can be said about the Indian civilization. The loss of certain ethnic groups may lead to the disintegration of super-ethnos, but not the loss of a civilization. Some people can develop onto a civilization, making it diverse. Ethnic groups also act as agents of a civilization, but not those who isolate themselves.

In summary, let us note a few points. It is clear that L.Gumilev has contributed largely to geopolitical studies. He has made a significant impact upon the main representatives of our civilizational paradigm. His conclusions, observations of life of ethnic groups often coincide with the estimates of the supporters of the common civilizational approach.

Representatives of the civilizational approach can build on his ideas of interaction between civilizations. Let’s recall the famous thesis of L. Gumilev. It is necessary to look for friends - this is the main value in life, and not search for enemies, whom we’ve already acquired. . This approach is acceptable for a civilizational paradigm, as well as for supporters of the idea of dialogue among civilizations. One important warning was raised by L. Gumilev regarding the civilizational approach and of adoption of an alien culture. The scientist, as well as representatives of the civilized approach, warned of the danger of separation from the cultural roots. The people in this case will lose its identity, without gaining another. In connection with the latter case we have Gumilev approaching on the spiritual degradation of society, forming a layer of consumers, calling them “sub-passionaries”.

Concepts termed by Gumilev present a large interest - as those «anti-systema», «chimera» (a combination of something incompatible), «super-ethnos» and others. Ethnic approach helps explain some of the factors of formation and decay of civilizations. Also, with the help of this paradigm we can better assimilate the structure of a civilization.

However, L. Gumilev is a representative of the ethnological paradigm in geopolitics who’s approach is closer to to civilizational approach, but still completely different, using its own the technique of analysis.

In general, the ideas of L. Gumilev, as well as of the representatives of the civilizational approach, helps to better understand the essence of the geopolitical processes.


1. Dugin A.G. The theory of a multipolar world.M., 2012. P. 464-465.
2. Tsymbursky V.L. Conjuncture of the Earth and Time.Geopolitical and hronopoliticheskie intellectual inquiry.M., 2011.P. 56.
3. Khatuntsev S.V. On the question of Huntington. URL: (the date of circulation: 28. 05.2015).
4. Panarin A.S. Orthodox civilization in a global world. M., 2003. S. 210.
5. Gumilyov L.N. Ethnosphere: history of people and the history of nature, M., 1993. URL: (the date of circulation: 28.05.2015).
6. Yanov A.L. How on earth civilizations? // Russia in Global Affairs. 2006. № 5. URL: (the date of circulation: 13.08.2013).