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James R. Russell
Scholar and professor in Ancient Near Eastern, Iranian and Armenian Studies

James R. Russell

James R. Russell
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Scholar and professor in Ancient Near Eastern, Iranian and Armenian Studies
Is Historian
From United States of America
Field Social science
Gender male
Birth 1953, New York City, USA
Age 69 years
Residence Fresno, USA
University of Oxford
Columbia University
School of Oriental and African Studies
The details (from wikipedia)


James Robert Russell (born October 1953) is a scholar and professor in Ancient Near Eastern, Iranian and Armenian Studies. He has published extensively in journals, and has written several books.

He is the Mashtots Professor of Armenian Studies at Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University, and sits on the executive committee of Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.

In July, 2016, Russell became semi-retired and moved his residence to Fresno, California.

Early life and education

Russell was born in New York City and grew up in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. His parents are Jewish: his mother's ancestry was Sephardic and his father's ancestry was Ashkenazic. He was educated at The Bronx High School of Science in New York City, Columbia University [B.A. summa cum laude 1974], and the University of Oxford [B.Litt. 1977], under the noted Armenologists Nina Garsoïan and Charles Dowsett. He attended Oxford as the recipient of a Kellett Fellowship awarded on graduation from Columbia.

He earned his Ph.D. at the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), under the direction of Dr. Mary Boyce. His 1982 Ph.D. thesis was on the topic of "Zoroastrianism in Armenia" and later published by Harvard University Press.


Soon after finishing his Ph.D. he taught at Columbia University in the Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures (MELAC). He then became a Lady Davis Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Soon after he was appointed to the Mashtots Chair in Armenian Studies in the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department at Harvard University, which he has occupied since 1993. He also teaches a wide range of subjects, including freshman seminars on literature and comparative religions, literature and cultures.

Dr. Russell serves on the executive committees of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University. He has taught and lectured in Armenia, India, and Iran and at the Oriental Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Saint Petersburg State University. He was Government Fellowship Lecturer at the Cama Institute in Bombay, India.

Russell has been called, "A complex figure... (who) resists easy classification and is no stranger to controversy: reviled by Turks and Armenians alike."

He has been interviewed as an expert and scholar on The History Channel's documentary programs including Angels: Good or Evil.

Russell has been one of the three faculty advisers for the conservative fortnightly The Harvard Salient.

He lectured on Soteriology on the Silk Road for the Buddhist Lecture Series of the University of Toronto in October 2005, and organized and chaired an international symposium in the same month to commemorate the 1600th anniversary of Saint Mesrop Mashtots, inventor of the Armenian alphabet. He has written on, translated, and analyzed the esoteric, mystical, and spiritual aspects of the writings of Gregory of Narek, and has written numerous articles for the Encyclopædia Iranica. He contributed to the New Leader magazine.

Ninety one of his selected published scholarly journal articles, are gathered in his book, Armenian and Iranian Studies.


Russell's writings were criticised by Armenian historians Armen Ayvazyan and Armen Petrosyan, who conclude that Russell is making gross factual mistakes together with unsubstantiated and tendentious claims on Armenian history and culture. Ayvazyan considers Russell, along with a number of other leading American armenologists, to be one of the representatives of the "false Western school of Armenian studies". Bert Vaux, an Associate Professor of Linguistics in the Department of Linguistics at Harvard University, claims that Russell's "chair [of Armenian Studies] is actually hurting the [Armenian] community at this point. When you call the Armenians neo-Nazis, that isn't helping the community and it's not leaving it alone - it's hurting it. You are providing fodder for people that want to attack the Armenians."

In his speech at the conference "Rethinking Armenian Studies: Past, Present, and Future" on October 4, 2002 at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, Russell cautioned the audience against the "conspiracy theories, xenophobia, and ultra-nationalist pseudo-science [which] have come increasingly into the mainstream of Armenology in the Armenian Republic" and which have found sympathetic outlets in some of the diasporic press, where paranoia and anti-Semitism have been notably present. "It is a task of the community to set its house in order because these trends are in the end suicidal," he warned. Although Prof. Russell declines to debate such issues, he stated that "I will help with my pen what I still believe to be the great majority of Armenians to expose and destroy the sort of people who are not only dragging our field, but possibly the community itself into dangerous territory".

Personal life

Professor Russell is the son of Dr. Charlotte Sananes Russell, a Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the City College of New York, and Joseph Brooke Russell, an attorney and arbitrator in New York. His grandfather, Sidney A. Russell, was a founder and president of Russell & Russell, publisher of out-of-print scholarly books.

Partial Russell Bibliography


  • Zoroastrianism in Armenia (Harvard Iranian Series, 1987), ISBN 0-674-96850-6 [1]
  • Hovhannes Tlkurantsi and the Mediaeval Armenian Lyric Tradition (University of Pennsylvania Armenian Series, 1987), ISBN 0-89130-930-6
  • The Heroes of Kasht (Kasti K'Ajer): An Armenian Epic (Ann Arbor: Caravan, 2000), ISBN 0-88206-099-6
  • The Book of Flowers (Belmont, Massachusetts: Armenian Heritage Press, 2003), ISBN 0-935411-17-8, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved May 3, 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  • Armenian and Iranian Studies (selected articles, in Harvard Armenian Texts and Studies, 2004), ISBN 0-935411-19-4, [2], Table of Contents
  • Bosphorus Nights: The Complete Lyric Poems of Bedros Tourian (Harvard Armenian Texts and Studies, 2006), ISBN 0-935411-22-4, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved March 1, 2006.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link) "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 6, 2007. Retrieved March 1, 2006.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

Scholarly articles

  • "Problematic Snake Children of Armenia", REArm 25, 1994–1995, pp. 77–96
  • "On Mysticism and Esotericism amongst the Zoroastrians", Iranian Studies 26.1-2, 1993, pp. 73–94
  • "The Mother of All Heresies: A Late Mediaeval Armenian Text on the Yushkaparik, REArm 24, 1993, pp. 273-293
  • "The Armenian Shrines of the Black Youth (t'ux manuk)", Le Muséon 111.3-4, 1998, pp. 319-343
  • "Polyphemos Armenios", REArm 26, 1996-1997, pp. 25-38
  • "An Epic for the Borderlands: Zariadris of Sophene, Aslan the Rebel, Digenes Akrites, and the Mythologem of Alcestis in Armenia", Armenian Tsopk/Kharpert, R. Hovannisian, ed., Costa Mesa, California: Mazda, 1998, pp. 147-183
  • "Ezekiel and Iran", Irano-Judaica V, Shaul Shaked and Amnon Netzer, eds., Jerusalem: Ben-Zri Institute, 2003, pp. 1-15
  • "Scythians and Avesta in an Armenian Vernacular Paternoster", Le Muséon 110.1-2, 1997, pp. 91-114.
  • "The Name of Zoroaster in Armenian", Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies 2, 1985-1986, pp. 3-10
  • "Zoroastrianism as the State Religion of Ancient Iran", Journal of the K. R. Cama Oriental Institute 53, Bombay, 1986, pp. 74-142
  • "A Parthian Bhagavad Gîtâ and its Echoes", From Byzantium to Iran: Armenian Studies in Honour of Nina Garsoian, J.-P. Mahé, R. Thomson, eds., Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1996, pp. 17-35
  • "A Manichaean Apostolic Mission to Armenia?", Proceedings of the Third European Conference of Iranian Studies, 1, N. Sims-Williams, ed., Wiesbaden: L. Reichert, 1998, pp. 21-26
  • "A Scholium on Coleridge and an Armenian Demon", JSAS 10, 1998-99, 2000, pp. 63-71
  • "God is Good: On Tobit and Iran", Iran and the Caucasus 5, Tehran, 2001, pp. 1-6
  • "The Magi in the Derveni Papyrus", Nâme-ye Irân-e Bâstân 1.1, Tehran, 2001, pp. 49-59
  • "Zoroastrianism and the Northern Qi Panels", Zoroastrian Studies Newsletter, Bombay, 1994
  • "Truth Is What the Eye Can See: Armenian Manuscripts and Armenian Spirituality", Treasures in Heaven: Armenian Art, Religion, and Society, T. Mathews, R. Wieck, eds., New York: Pierpont Morgan Library, 1998, pp. 147-162
  • "Sages and Scribes at the Courts of Ancient Iran", The Sage in Israel and the Ancient Near East, J. Gammie, L. Perdue, eds., Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1990, pp. 141-146
  • "Kartîr and Mânî: a Shamanistic Model of Their Conflict", Iranica Varia: Papers in Honor of Professor Ehsan Yarshater, Acta Iranica 30, Leiden: Brill, 1990, pp. 180-193
  • "Zoroastrian Elements in the Book of Esther", Irano-Judaica II, S. Shaked, A. Netzer, eds., Jerusalem, 1990, pp. 33-40
  • "A Poem of Grigor Narekac'i", REArm 19, 1985, pp. 435-439
  • "On St. Grigor Narekatsi, His Sources and His Contemporaries", Armenian Review 41, 2-162, 1988, pp. 59-65
  • "Two Notes on Biblical Tradition and Native Epic in the 'Book of Lamentation' of St. Grigor Narekac'i", REArm 22, 1990-1991, pp. 135-145
  • "Virtue and Its Own Reward: The 38th Meditation of the Book of Lamentations of St. Grigor Narekatsi", Raft 1991, pp. 25-30
  • "Armenian Spirituality: Liturgical Mysticism and Chapter 33 of the Book of Lamentation of St. Grigor Narekac'i", REArm 26, 1996–1997, pp. 427–439
  • Representative articles in the Encyclopædia Iranica:
    • Religion of Armenia
    • BEHDEN, Zoroastrianism or its adherents
    • BOZPAYIT, Body of Zoroastrian teachings in Sasanian period
    • BURIAL iii., Zoroastrian burial practices
    • CAMA Kharshedji Rustamji, Parsi Zoroastrian scholar and community leader, India, 19th
    • CEDRENUS Georgius, Byzentine historian dealing with Zoroaster, 12th
    • Christianity in pre-Islamic Persia, literary sources
    • AÙAR˜EAN, Linguist, Armenian, 19th 20th
    • ATRUˆAN, Fire temple, a Parthian loanword in Armenian
    • ÙAÚDOR ii., Veil, among Zoroastrians and Parsis
    • AÚL, Child-stealing demon
    • ANUˆAWAN, Legendary king of Armenia
    • ARA the Beautiful, Mythical king of Armenia
    • ARLEZ, Armenian term for a supernatural creature
    • ARTAXIAS I, Founder of Artaxiad dynasty in Armenia, 2nd BC
    • AÛDAHAÚ iv., Dragon in Armenia
    • BAAT ii., Family head of ˆ[email protected]^, Armenian dynasty, 4th
    • BÈNAMAÚZÈ i., Menstruant woman, Zoroastrian concept for ritual
    • BURDAR, Armenian proper name for a Persian nobleman, 4th
    • CUPBEARER, Ancient Armenian function of a courtier

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The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 27 May 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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