The Idea of History in Yu. M. Lotman’s Later Research




Lotman, theories of the historical process, culture, text, Annales School


This article has a twofold goal, i. e. to identify the origins of late Yu. M. Lotman’s later ideas about history and to determine their peculiarities. The author focuses on two of Lotman’s fundamental ideas: the unpredictability of history and the juxtaposition of explosive and evolutionary processes. He understands the unpredictability of the historical process both in terms of the impossibility of predictions and in terms of turning to the past, which always depends on the present. To a large extent, Lotman developed the idea polemizing with the Annales School, which regarded the historical process as a slow time-reversible development. While appreciating the works of this school, Lotman contrasted the idea of longue durée with the idea of an explosion and the position of the researcher who is above the historical process and takes a position within it. On the one hand, the unpredictability of history is a source of the constant growth of new information, which makes history related to the artistic text. On the other hand, it increases the responsibility of any person who is able not only to study history but also to influence its course. It gives the historical process a moral character. The opposition of explosive and evolutionary processes corresponds to the opposition of binary and ternary models in historical evolution. In this regard, Lotman develops the ideas of C. Lévi-Strauss and J. Le Goff. However, unlike them, who deemed the separate existence of ternary and binary structures possible, Lotman shows their inseparable unity, which exists not only in the historical process but also in national literature and the work of individual writers. Lotman not only likens history to art but contrasts it to art as a look into the past is opposed to a look into the future. In Lotman’s appeal to the historical past, one can notice the synthesis of scholarly thinking and artistic imagination, which gives his later works a freer style and depth.

Author Biography

Vadim Parsamov

Dr. Hab. (History), Chief Researcher, Professor, HSE University.

20, Myasnitskaya Str., 101000, Moscow, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-2976-2194


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How to Cite

Parsamov, V. (2022). The Idea of History in Yu. M. Lotman’s Later Research. Quaestio Rossica, 10(3), 1175–1188.



Conceptus et conceptio