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Peter Valentinovich Turchin (Russian: Пётр Валенти́нович Турчи́н; born 1957) is a Russian-American scientist, specializing in cultural evolution and "cliodynamics"—mathematical modeling and statistical analysis of the dynamics of historical societies.

Peter Turchin
Born1957 (age 61–62)
ResidenceUnited States
Alma materNew York University
Known forcontributions to population biology and historical dynamics
Scientific career
FieldsCultural evolution, cliodynamics (historical dynamics)
InstitutionsUniversity of Connecticut, Evolution Institute



Turchin was born in Obninsk, Russia, in 1957 and in 1964 moved to Moscow. In 1975 he entered the Faculty of Biology of the Moscow State University and studied there until 1977, when his father, the Soviet dissident Valentin Turchin, was exiled from the USSR. He got his B.A. in biology from the New York University (cum laude) in 1980 and Ph.D. in zoology in 1985 from Duke University.

Peter Turchin 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.


Peter Turchin has made contributions to population ecology, cultural evolution, and historical dynamics. He is one of the founders of cliodynamics, the new 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 recently criticized on empirical grounds. Studies focusing on specific historical societies and analyses of cross-cultural data have failed to find positive correlation between population density and incidence of warfare. 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]


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 alsoEdit


  1. ^ Turchin, P (2009). "A Theory for Formation of Large Empires" (PDF). Journal of Global History. 4: 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.

External linksEdit