Lev Samuilovich Klejn (born 1927), better known as Leo Klejn, is a Russian archaeologist, anthropologist and philologist.
Klejn was born on 1 July 1927 in Vitebsk, Belarus, to two Jewish physicians, Polish-born Stanislav Semenovich (originally Samuil Simkhovich) and Asya Moysseevna. Both of Klejn's grandparents were wealthy: one a factory owner, the other a highly ranked merchant. Stanislav Semenovich served as a medical officer in the anti-Bolshevik Volunteer Army during the Russian Civil War. By the end of the war he had joined the Red Army, but was never a member of the Communist Party.
In 1941 both of Klejn's parents were drafted to serve in the Great Patriotic War, while the rest of the family were evacuated, first to Volokolamsk and then Egoryevsk near Moscow, and then to Yoshkar-Ola in the Mari ASSR. There Klejn worked on a collective farm before leaving school at the age of 16 and being attached to the 3rd Belorussian Front as a civilian. After the war the family settled in Grodno and Klejn studied for a year at a Railway Technical School.
While still in high school Klejn created an underground liberal organisation called 'Prometheus'. This drew the attention of the KGB, but owing to the age of those involved there were no serious consequences.
Upon graduating high school Klejn entered the Grodno Pedagogical Institute in the Faculty of Language and History. In 1947, after a year there, he spoke against the First Secretary of Grodno's Party Committee at a conference and was forced to leave. He transferred to Leningrad State University, first as a corresponding student, and then full-time. At Leningrad he studied both archaeology under Mikhail Artamonov and Russian philology under Vladimir Propp. While there he continued to act contrary to Party dogma by reading a paper criticising the work of Nicholas Marr. Klejn escaped expulsion for this, however, as shortly thereafter Marr's theories were denounced by Stalin himself. Graduating with honours from the Faculty of History in 1951, Klejn worked as a librarian and high school teacher for six years before returning to Leningrad for postgraduate studies in archaeology. He began working in the Department of Archaeology in 1960 and became an Assistant Professor there in 1962. This was unusual as Klejn was a Jew and not a member of the Party, but he was appointed to the position by a special session of the faculty's Party Bureau on the strength of his academic qualifications. He was awarded a Candidate of Sciences degree (equivalent to a PhD) in 1968, defending a thesis on the origins of the Donets Catacomb culture. In 1976 he was made Docent (Associate Professor).
Klejn's first printed work was published in 1955; his first monograph in 1978. He participated in a series of archaeological fieldwork expeditions in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, the last 5 seasons as head of the expedition. These included excavations of early Rus' towns and Bronze Age and Scytho-Sarmatian barrows.
Klejn continued to chafe against the Party-backed academic establishment as a teacher. In the 1960s, he organised a series of seminars on the Varangian theory of the origins of the Kievan Rus' where he contradicted the anti-Normanist position. Then in the seventies he began working on theoretical problems in history and archaeology—a subject that had been completely neglected since Stalin's purges of academia in the 1930s—and found himself contradicting the orthodox Marxist theory of historical materialism. His frequent publication in foreign journals also caused alarm.
In the early 1970s Klejn's brother Boris, then teaching in a Grodno institute, was dismissed and stripped of his degree and title for speaking against the introduction of Soviet troops into Czechoslovakia. His friendship with the disgraced Belarusian writer Vasil Bykov also played a part in this. Then in 1981 Klejn himself was arrested for homosexuality on the orders of the KGB. During a search pornography was planted on him, but too crudely, and the court could not accept the evidence. Nevertheless, Klejn was convicted and imprisoned. The scholarly community, however, interpreted this as an attempt to get rid of a troublemaker rather than a genuine accusation and came to his defence. Klejn neither affirmed nor denied the charge, even after homosexuality was decriminalised, on the basis that an individual's sexual orientation is not the concern of society or the state. But in his account he relates a parallel "investigation" conducted by his fellow inmates (to determine his treatment) which concluded he was not a homosexual. Eventually the initial sentence was overturned by a higher court and commuted to eighteen months detention, which by this time Klejn had almost served. After his release Klejn, like his brother, was stripped of his degree and title. He recorded his prison experiences under the pen name Lev Samoylov in the journal Neva and in his own name in the book The World Turned Upside Down
Klejn remained without an academic position for ten years following his release. Following perestroika he began publishing again and, in 1994, defended a new thesis and was awarded a Doctor of Sciences degree by unanimous vote. He co-founded the European University at St. Petersburg and taught there until his retirement in 1997 at the age of 70. Since then he has been a visiting scholar at a number of institutions, including the Universities of West Berlin, Vienna, Durham, Copenhagen, Lubljana, Turku, Tromse, Washington in Seattle and the Higher Anthropological School of Moldova. In 2001 he stopped teaching following treatment for cancer; but continues to research and publish. He is currently a columnist in the Troitsky Variant.
A whole series of Klejn’s books and articles on this subject are terminated by his Metaarchaeology of 2001 (in Russian Introduction to theoretical archaeology of 2004).
Klejn has been one of the world's leading writers on theoretical archaeology, a term he coined, since the 1970s. According to Klejn, archaeological theories are programs of information processing based on a particular explanatory idea. Additionally, theories become methodology by stipulating a set of standard techniques.
Klejn's elaboration of a special theory for archaeology went against the Soviet view that historical materialism was the only theoretical basis of the humanities. It also was in conflict with the traditional Soviet understanding of historical studies, which saw history as embracing all other humanistic and social scientific disciplines studying the past. According to Klejn, archaeology is not a sub-field of history nor "history armed with a spade", as an influential school of Russian archaeology maintained, but a source-studying discipline similar to forensic science in its methodology. It processes archaeological sources, and translates them into the language of history, and finally transfers them to the historian for their incorporation into a historical synthesis. Archaeology's typical questions are what, when, where, whence and how, whereas the historian's question is why – or from what cause.
Klejn places particular emphasis upon rigorous methods of interpretation, in order to guard against the manipulation of antiquities in the service of political aims. His 'echeloned archaeology' outlined three research procedures: empirical, deductive and problem-setting, each with a clear succession of stages of investigation, adjusted to different aims of research. His work on classification and typology in archaeology attempted to outline a strategy for producing classifications that are both useful and objectively valid. This 'systemic' approach, which has been influential in Russian archaeology, stressed that some initial knowledge about the material to be classified as a whole is necessary to construct a reliable system of classification, and therefore that the process must work 'backwards' (relative to the received procedure) from cultures to attributes.
- From a study of the principles underlying the interpretation of archaeological material Klejn came to a dialectical inference that they are grouped in two rows, with every principle in each row directly facing its opposite in the other row. Both rows are active in archaeology, and both are valid. One either has to choose one of them or to find balance between two. This discovery has implications for the project of working out the artificial intelligence of an archaeologist. This position is detailed in The Principles of Archaeology (2001).
- Klejn’s interest in ethnogenesis forced him to deal with the problem of how to synthesise different kinds of sources and with the place of archaeological sources in this synthesis. In Klejn’s opinion ethnos is a category of in social psychology. This implies that the notion of a common origin is the uniting idea of ethnos, and any real attributes (the community of language, race, religion, culture and so on) are attached in various combinations to this notion. Practically the problems of ethnogenesis are reduced to discovering the origins and history of language communities. So the question of peoples’ origins is first of all a linguistic problem. However, there is no inevitable coincidence of language with archaeological culture, and even less is there a coincidence of the lines of succession of language and culture. Usually archaeological culture has many roots and there is no inevitability that the language will be transmitted together with the most intensive cultural contribution. This is why lingual continuity does not correspond with cultural. Cultural genesis is not ethnogenesis. In tracing lines of lingual continuity from a synthesis of different sources the lingual sources must be given priority. Archaeological sources can only check and support in these investigations.
- Klejn criticised the idea of omnipresent local origins, an idea that was inherited from Marr’s teaching and was established by ideological considerations (as allegedly patriotic). Klejn elaborated criteria of migrations that allowed more freedom in the reconstruction of migrations than the previous overcautious criteria. In his struggle against illusions of local origins he introduced the concept of “sequentions” (sequences of cultures), with a distinction between column and track sequentions (the latter are unconfined to a single territory). Archaeological material is given us in column sequentions and has to be transferred to track sequentions.
- Historiography. Having exposed and evaluated various trends and having checked the general theories of archaeology with regard to their realisation, for Klejn the history of archaeological discipline naturally became a branch of theoretical archaeology. He had much to do with this branch. His A Panorama of Theoretical Archaeology (1977) caused a discussion in the world literature. Bruce Trigger greeted the emergence of such work from the Soviet side with the words: “No longer from another planet”. Klejn was the first who acquainted Russian archaeology with new trends in the world archaeology. His book The New Archaeology (2009) was published thirty year after it was written but was previously read in manuscript. His two-volume History of Archaeological Thought (2011) appeared as the first history of world archaeology in Russia – no such book had previously existed in Russia. The two-volume History of Russian Archaeology Personified provides for the first time a new approach to the history of a discipline: presenting, separately, the history of events, the history of ideas and the history of persons (biographies). His book The Phenomenon of Soviet Archaeology (1993) gives the first full and frank analysis of Soviet archaeology and covers the period up to just after the end of the Soviet era (it had begun to be written before this time). The book has been translated into Spanish, German and English.
Klejn’s particular archaeological studies
- In regard to particular archaeological studies, Klejn has mainly studied the Catacomb culture of the Bronze Age (III Mill. B.C.) in the Ukraine and on the Volga-Don steppes. He excavated barrows on the steppes of the Ukraine and in southern Russia, and the subject of his Candidate dissertation was catacomb burials. At first he completely denied the local origin of this people and instead proposed migration from Jutland via the Danube plain. Later (in 1970) he argued that this is not a single culture but several cultures (this is now accepted by all). Finally, on the basis of comparison with cultures of India and the Rig-Veda, he came to the inference that these were ancestors of Indo-Aryans. He therefore conceded that the local population of the Pit-grave culture played a role in the formation of Catacomb cultures: the Pit-grave culture had long ago been connected to that of the Aryans (Indo-Iranian, i. e. Indo-Aryans and Iranians). Such an early separation of Indo-Aryans from Iranians leads to a revision of the time when the split of Indo-European community occurred – this must also have happened earlier than had previously been thought.
- Ethnogenesis. From the very beginning Klejn had a keen interest in problems of ethnogenesis – his first printed work (1955) was devoted to the origin of Slavs. Later Klejn delved deeply into problems of the origins of Indo-Europeans, especially their south-eastern branch – Aryans, Greeks, Armenians, Phrygians and Tocharians. He postulated the existence of Indo-European sub-group in the past – Greco-Aryans including ancestors of Aruans, Greeks, Arnebians and Phrygians. His books Ancient Migrations and The time of Centaurs: the steppe Urheimat of the Aryans and Greeks were devoted to these problems.
- The Norman problem. It is said that as an historian and archaeologist L. S. Klejn contributed to resurrection of the so-called Normanist theory, assigning to the Vikings a significant role in the establishment of the Ancient Russian state and seeing the Ryurikovichs (the first Russian dynasty) as having Scandinavian origins. Yet this is an over-simplification. Klejn played a part in the controversy of anti-Normanism versus alleged Normanism, and was even the main disputant in the third public dispute on this question (each dispute being separated from the last by the space of a century). In the first Miller argued fiercely against Lomonosov, in the second Pogodin against Kostomarov, in the third Klejn against Shaskolsky. In the Soviet time the acceptance of the participation of Normans in the building of Russian state was held to be antipatriotic, dangerous and harmful. At first Klejn tried to play down the scope of Normanism in order that this concept – this accusation - could not be put on him (and other objective investigators). Over the years Klejn began to advance more frankly. In his opinion, there is in fact no Norman theory: Normanism does not exist and never did as an academic doctrine. By contrast, anti-Normanism does exist - but only as an ideological platform, based on a Russian inferiority complex. It is very characteristic that, although Normans captured large parts of Britain and France and conducted raids into Germany, Spain and Byzantium, anti-Normanism exists only in Russia. Neither the French nor British deny these facts. The struggle of anti-Normanism against Normanism is not a criticism of some theory but simply an argument about the facts. There are now many eminent Russian scholars who take the same position (A. N. Kirpichnikov, E. A. Melnikova, E. N. Nosov, V. Ya. Petrukhin a. o.). Klejn’s contribution is that in his work The Varangian Controversy he exposes in detail the arguments of both sides, weighs these arguments and shows their worth. It is significant that he has structured the discussion by placing the arguments on the steps of a ladder leading to the most odious positions. So now the chaotic multiplicity of facts and ideas relating to the subject has received a structure and an order. It has become easier to evaluate the meaning of every reason when one has in mind its place in the whole discussion.
- Klejn is also responsible for certain other original archaeological studies and hypotheses: the identification of the so-called zoomorphic sceptres of Eneolithic; the study of dice in steppe barrows; the detailed study of Karbuna hoard of Early Tripolyean culture; the identification of pre-Hittites with Baden culture; the reconstruction of Phrygian migration to India a thousand years before Alexander the Great; etc..
Klejn’s Homeric studies are remarkable in Russian philology – the books Anatomy of Iliad, Incorporeal Heroes and other works (they are nearly unknown to the West since they have not yet been translated). Klejn’s studies of Homer in the ’80s issued from his study of the Bronze Age of Europe (for many years he gave a course of lectures on the Bronze Age of Europe at Leningrad University). He paid heed to the fact that the city excavated in Hissarlyk (Turkey) is radically different from Troy as described in the Iliad. Aside from the inconsistencies between text and reality, it might be wondered why the main heroes and other phenomena have double names. In the epic: Troy is Ilios, the river Scamandre is also Xanthos, the Trojan prince is called sometimes Paris, sometimes Alexander; the main heroes of Greeks, Achilles and Diomedes, perceive the same deeds and even are wounded in the same spot (in the ankle) and in the poem they don’t meet each other - when one emerges the other disappears. Klejn reached the conclusion that Germans of the 19th and early 20th centuries (H. Düntzer, Th. Bergk, A. Fick, P. Kauer, E. Bethe a. o.) were right: the epic was put together from different songs having their own (and parallel) heroes. By means of a statistical analysis Klejn showed that this parallelism is matched by distribution of epithets as well as by the distribution of words (in the original Greek of course). In this manner it appeared possible to discern in the text 6 independent sources united in the epic as scattered parts interspersed with each other.
Further studies showed that the main heroes of Iliad – Achilles, Ajax, Nestor and others were not historical personalities as they are presented in the epic but rather half-mythical cult heroes almost akin to Christian saints, each responsible for a special sphere of life: Achilles was a warden of ships, Nestor a healer, Odysseus a magician and fortune-teller and so on, and in the poem, however they are addressed, they are essentially occupied with their initial business.
Klejn (in common with some scholars before him) came to the inference that there was no historical Trojan war and no capture of Troy by Greeks. We possess not the slightest of archaeological proofs for these things, while, on the contrary, there are plenty of refutations. In general, epic is a genre in which bad events (for the people) are transformed into just the reverse: defeats turn out to be victories. The city excavated by Schliemann is not Troy at all, although it is Ilios. In the Hittite written sources two different towns are mentioned in the West of Asia Minor: Truya – this is Troy, and Wilusa – this is Greek (W)ilios.
In Klejn’s books there are many maps, comparative tables and statistical charts. The most eminent Russian historian of the ancient world Igor M. Dyakonov declared in print that Klejn’s inferences are impossible to disprove and that possibly from these books a new epoch in Homeric studies begins.
Klejn’s anthropologic studies
Klejn himself holds that his communication theory of cultural evolution is his most interesting contribution to anthropology, although he could not succeed in working out this theory in detail (it is presented only in some minor articles). Many modern students imagine culture as a certain amount of information. But if so, then the transmission of culture from one generation to the next can be presented as a net of communication spread over time rather than in space alone. In that case, the flow of information will be exposed to the impact of the same factors as influence any chain of communication (radio, telephone etc.). In order that the information get through, we need repetition, a quantity of channels with a good transmission capacity etc.. It remains to be worked out what cultural phenomena - promoting or hindering the transmission of information - correspond to these physical factors. For instance, channels of communication might include family, school, court, club, etc.. The repetition of the cultural information might be daily (washing yourself, table customs etc.), or weekly (division on weekdays and holydays), etc..
It may be possible to include mathematical formulas of cultural evolution within this theory; and it may be possible to use this theory in the present day for the, so to say, indirect direction of culture. There are explanatory uses for this theory in archaeology. For instance, with respect to the explanation of migration: if only a fraction of the population moved – say, young warriors – they simply could not learn from their homeland those forms of culture that were only seldom repeated, for example, burial customs. In such a case although a migration might have occurred we would not necessarily expect to find the wholesale transference of all forms of culture.
In a number of works Klejn discusses the idea of the contradiction between modern culture and the nature of man. This treatment is far from the Rousseau’s mood and is built on the basis of socio-biology. Developing the ideas of Lorenz and Desmond Morris, Klejn’s idea is built upon the fact that in every stage of man’s biological evolution man has been formed by adaptation to conditions not only of the natural environment but also of the socio-cultural milieu. However tempos of socio-cultural evolution are much faster than those of biological evolution: socio-cultural evolution has no need to wait for generations to change. While biological evolution has not terminated even a single stage of homo sapiens, socio-cultural evolution has gone through the Upper Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Eneolithic, Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages, and all epochs of civilization, and has now entered the Atomic and Computer Age. Yet our psycho-physiological characteristics remain the same as in the Stone Age – they were, and are, adapted to those conditions. This accords with Freud’s observation: we are discontent with modern culture because we are not by our nature adapted to it. Hence there are a number of specific deceases and psychic problems that are developing into social ones. Yet in culture a number of compensatory mechanisms exist to diminish this tension. However, when in some milieus there is a lack of culture, from man’s inside there bursts a savage, and thus society, when left to self-organization (as in Lord of the Flies), restores (mutatis mutandis) primordial forms of life. This can be seen in the example of hard labour camps, bullying (by age) among army troops, etc..
This idea is worked out by Klejn in the book The World Turned Upside Down (in journal form 1988–1991 and in the book form 1993, several editions and translations, the last 2010).
A study of East Slavic pagan religion is another theme of Klejn’s anthropological studies. Having found traces of Perun’s cult in Vaynakh (Chechen and Ingush) folklore, Klejn first looked for historical remnants of an ancient intrusion of Slavic paganism into the Caucasus. He connected the traces of Perun’s cult not only with those sparse relics of this cult that were kept in Russian culture but also with the wide circle of ethnographic phenomena of that culture. Perun’s cult appeared to be connected with images of Rusalka, Yarilo, Kostroma and others. Klejn interpreted Perun himself to be a dying and resurrecting god (many such gods are found in the mythologies of various countries). Many other problems were also solved. So, Maslenitsa appeared to be, according to Klejn, not an ancient festival, but pagan solstice rites that were moved aside to make way for Christian fasts. Klejn considers Veles to be a late deity imitating the Christian St. Vlasius. These positions are mainly expounded in the book Resurrection of Perun: an approach to the reconstruction of East-Slavic pagan religion.
Klejn’s book on music, Harmony through the Ages, was published in 2010. Having also a musical education (piano), in his student years Klejn was the leader of a popular music group, in his teaching years he was responsible for amateur musical performances at the University. In the ’70s he wrote a book on music where he established connections between rock and classical music, but the manuscript, having slipped into Samizdat, had to be brought before the KGB and was not published at that time. It has not become obsolete. Klejn’s reflections on music are of an anthropological character. He considers various systems of harmony and establishes their correspondence to the social psychology of different epochs. Many systems of classical music influence, and have their equivalents, in popular music. The book is not written exclusively for professional musicians: it is in accessible language.
After Klejn was accused of homosexual relations, he became interested in the question of homosexuality in general and began to study it. Approaching it as an anthropologist, he classifies the question as falling under the rubric of the anthropology of deviant behaviour. Klejn comes to the conclusion that homosexuality is not in any way contagious and is not inherited through the male line, that in different societies and in different epochs its distribution is approximately equal, only the degree of reticence varies. Klejn consistently advocates its decriminalisation and de-medicalisation but at the same time, as distinct of other liberal figures, he a) considers homosexuality in its biological respect a pathology (while, in cultural respects, norms of behaviour are conventional and culturally dependent); b) he does not consider gay-pride actions (mistakenly called in Russia gay-parades) to be reasonable and appropriate (actions in defence of the civil rights of gays are another issue); c) he is sharply critical of the homosexual sub-culture.
His book The Other Love considers various theories and views on homosexuality from ancient times to the present, theories about the origins of homosexuality, and the evolution of homosexuality in various societies and in various historical periods. The book Another Side of the Luminary considers the unusual love of outstanding personalities. Specifically it is devoted to homosexuality in the life stories of well-known Russian figures, from Ivan the Terrible to Rudolf Nureev. Still in manuscript there is a third book devoted to non-Russian figures, from Socrates and Plato to Leonardo and President Lincoln. The aim of the book is not to justify homosexuality by referencing famous homosexuals but rather to consider how outstanding personalities coped with this difficult psychological problem – not all of them are regarded as positive figures.
Among Klejn’s entire works this topic occupies a relatively small space, but it is reasonable to provide brief expositions of these books because on the internet these books have been frequently reproduced, but in a misleading way – usually without the inclusion of critical chapters - and so give a false impression.
One may sometimes meet the expression “Klejn’s school”. However, Klejn himself withholds judgement as to whether such a school exists is a matter of convention: it is dependent upon what is taken as a ‘school’. Yet his impact on archaeology (and not only archaeology) is undoubted and is underlined by the calling of a discussion of his work at an international conference in December 2011 in England. This will be devoted to Klejn’s contribution to Russian, European and world archaeology. A number of known scholars had the experience of Klejn’s seminar: V. S. Bochkarev, V. A. Safronov, M. B. Shchukin, G. S. Lebedev, V. A. Bulkin, B. A. Raev, Yu.Yu. Piotrovsky, I. V. Dubov, E. N. Nosov, Yu. M. Lesman, L. B. Vishnyatsky, E. M. Kolpakov, O. A. Shcheglova, A. D. Rezepkin, V. Ya. Stegantseva, V. A. Dergachev, A. A. Kovalev, A. M. Smirnov, S. Zh. Pustovalov, and many others. V. A. Lynsha and other students who came to Leningrad from other universities, in order to supplement their training, also established themselves as Klejn’s pupils. Those who studied under Klejn’s guidance or experienced his influence were not only archaeologists; there were, among others, also the philosopher-logician B. I. Fedorov, the anthropologist A. G. Kozintsev, the linguist N. N. Kazansky, the orientalist M. A. Rodionov, the art historian V. V. Esipov.
In some measure the influence of Klejn’s ideas affected the whole of Leningrad-Petersburg archaeology as well as many archaeologists in northwest Russia, Siberia, Ukraine and Moldavia; archaeologists in Moscow were also affected by Klejn’s work to the extent that it was through him that ideas from outside of Russia became known.
As concerns relations with Western archaeology, in the most difficult years for international cooperation it was Klejn who showed to world archaeologists that Soviet archaeology was nevertheless “no longer from another planet” (Trigger’s expression). He supported the virtues of Russian archaeology in that he demonstrated that it contained erudition, the urge toward objectivity and creative potentials.
L. S. Klejn is a convinced adherent of liberal values, and an adversary of xenophobia and nationalism. He is a whole-hearted supporter of civil rights, but his democratic ideal is qualified: he does not idealise egalitarianism and anarchy. His humanitarianism is also qualified: in his view charity should not stimulate parasitism and so do harm to society. He is unsatisfied with the oversimplified polar contraposition between patriotism and rusophobia.
He rejects patriotism reduced to xenophobia, fright and hate. To him, such sort of patriotism is “the last refuge of a scoundrel”. Proper patriotism is love of one’s own country and people, and does not exclude esteem for other peoples. It is based on love and not hate. A sincere love is conjugated with the desire for one’s people and country to reach towards perfection, and to correct the faults - and therefore to reveal them. And so criticism of a beloved people and country is not rusophobia but a proper patriotism, whereas the desire to hide defects reveals indifference to the people and the country, characteristic of populism and a slavish longing to serve those in power. In his article `Diagnosis', Klejn details the ongoing process of Nazification of Russia both from above and below.
For a full bibliography (over 500 titles) see Archaeology.ru and to 2000 Arkheolog: Detectiv i myslitel’ (Archaeologist: detective and thinker). Collection of studies devoted to 77th year of Lev Samuilovich Klejn (ed. by L. B. Vishniatsky, A. A. Kovalev, O. A. Schcheglova). S.Pb., publ. St.Petersburg University, 2004, 502 p. ISBN 5-288-03491-5.