From the Time of Tsar Peter the Great to Modern Russia: The Development of Physical Anthropology and Bioarchaeology

  • Vyacheslav Moiseyev
  • Alexandra Buzhilova
  • Eileen M. MurphyEmail author


The study of human skeletal remains in Russia had its genesis in the late seventeenth century during the reign of Tsar Peter the Great who was instrumental in the foundation of the Kunstkamera Museum and the Russian Academy of Sciences in Saint Petersburg. Physical anthropology was recognised as a discipline in its own right during the nineteenth century, because of the efforts of scientists working in both Saint Petersburg and Moscow; this development paved the way for the modern structures within which it still operates today. The paper reviews the birth of physical anthropology in Russia and examines the concept of ‘race’ within the Russian context. Physical anthropology flourished during the Soviet era and the reasons for this are explored, while the major developments are outlined. The paper ends by examining the changes in the field that have occurred since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.


Russia Empire, race Soviet Physical anthropology Bioarchaeology 



We are grateful to Maria V. Khartanovich, Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) and Russian Academy of Science, for arranging the necessary copyright permissions for Fig. 9.2a. Thanks are also due to Libby Mulqueeny, School of Natural and Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast, for her assistance with Fig. 9.2.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Vyacheslav Moiseyev
    • 1
  • Alexandra Buzhilova
    • 2
  • Eileen M. Murphy
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Physical Anthropology, Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera)Russian Academy of SciencesSaint PetersburgRussia
  2. 2.Research Institute and Museum of Anthropology, Moscow State University/Institute of ArchaeologyRussian Academy of SciencesMoscowRussia
  3. 3.Archaeology and Palaeoecology, School of Natural and Built EnvironmentQueen’s University BelfastBelfastNorthern Ireland

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