World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Alexander Kazhdan

Alexander Petrovich Kazhdan
Born (1922-09-03)September 3, 1922
Moscow, Soviet Union
Died May 29, 1997(1997-05-29) (aged 74)
Washington, D.C.
Fields Byzantine studies
Institutions Soviet Academy of Sciences
Dumbarton Oaks
Alma mater University of Moscow
Known for Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium
Influences Evgenii A. Kosminskii

Alexander Petrovich Kazhdan (Russian: Алекса́ндр Петро́вич Кажда́н; 3 September 1922 – 29 May 1997) was a Soviet-American Byzantinist.


  • Biography 1
    • Soviet 1.1
    • United States 1.2
  • Notes 2
  • Further reading 3



Born in Moscow, Kazhdan was educated at the Pedagogical Institute of Ufa and the University of Moscow, where he studied with the historian of medieval England, Evgenii Kosminskii.[1] A post-war Soviet initiative to revive Russian-language Byzantine studies led Kazhdan to write a dissertation on the agrarian history of the late Byzantine empire (published in 1952 as Agrarnye otnosheniya v Vizantii XIII-XIV vv.) Despite a growing reputation in his field, anti-Semitic prejudice in the Joseph Stalin-era Soviet academy forced Kazhdan to accept a series of positions as a provincial teacher (in Ivanovo, 1947–49, and Tula, 1949–52).[1] Following the death of Stalin in 1953, however, Kazhdan's situation improved, and he was hired by a college in Velikie Luki. In 1956 he finally secured a position in the Institute for History of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, where he remained until leaving the Soviet Union in 1978.

Kazhdan was an immensely prolific scholar throughout his Soviet career, publishing well over 500 books, articles, and reviews, and his publications contributed to the growing international prestige of Soviet Byzantine studies.[2] His 1954 article, "Vizantiyskie goroda v VII-XI vv.," published in the journal Sovetskaya Arkheologiya, argued on the basis of archaeological and numismatic evidence that the seventh century constituted a major rupture in the urban society of Byzantium. This thesis has since been widely accepted and has led to intensive research on discontinuity in Byzantine history and the subsequent rejection of the earlier conception of the medieval Byzantine empire as a frozen relic of late antiquity. Other major studies dating from this first half of Kazhdan's career include Derevnya i gorod v Vizantii IX-X vv. (1960), a study of the relationship between city and countryside in the 9th and 10th centuries; Vizantiyskaya kul'tura (X-XII vv.) (1968), a study of Middle Byzantine culture; and Sotsial'ny sostav gospodstvujushchego klassa Vizantii XI-XII vv. (1974), an influential prosopographical and statistical study of the structure of the Byzantine ruling class in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Kazhdan also contributed heavily to the field of Armenian studies, notably writing about the Armenians who formed the elite ruling classes that governed the Byzantine Empire during the Middle Byzantine Era in his Armiane v sostave gospodstvuyushchego klassa Vizantiyskoy imperii v XI-XII vv. (1975).[3]

United States

In 1975, Kazhdan's son, the mathematician David Kazhdan, emigrated to the United States, where he accepted a position at Harvard University. This produced an immediate change in Kazhdan's situation in the Soviet Union;[1] his wife, Musja, was fired from her position at a Moscow publishing house and censorship of his work by his superiors in the Soviet academic establishment increased. In October 1978 Alexander and Musja left the Soviet Union, having received a visa for immigration to Israel, coming to the United States three years afterward. In February 1979 they arrived at Dumbarton Oaks, a center for Byzantine studies in Washington, D.C., where Kazhdan held the position of senior research associate until his death.[2]

Kazhdan's first major publications in English were collaborative: People and Power in Byzantium (1982), a broad ranging study of Byzantine society, was written with Giles Constable; Studies in Byzantine literature (1984) with Simon Franklin; and Change in Byzantine Culture in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries (1985) with Ann Wharton Epstein. His greatest English-language project was likewise a massive collaborative effort: the three-volume Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium (1991), edited by Kazhdan, was the first reference work of the sort ever to be published, and remains an indispensable point of departure for all areas of Byzantine studies. He wrote approximately 20%, or about 1,000, of the entries in the Dictionary, which are signed with his initials A.K.[2]

As Kazhdan became more comfortable with English, his pace of publication once again matched that of his Russian years. His later scholarship is above all marked with a growing concern with Byzantine literature, particularly hagiography.

Kazhdan died in Washington, D.C. in 1997. His death cut short his work on a monumental History of Byzantine Literature; however, the first volume of this work, covering the period from 650 to 850, was published in 1999.


  1. ^ a b c Bryer, Anthony. "Obituary: Alexander Kazhdan." The Independent. 5 June 1997. Retrieved August 28, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Laiou, Angeliki E.; Alice-Mary Talbot (1997). "Alexander Petrovich Kazhdan, 1922-1997." Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 51, (1997), pp. xii-xvii.
  3. ^ (Russian) Аpмянe в cocтaвe гocпoдcтвующeгo клacca Визaнтийcкoй импepии в XI-XII вв. Yerevan: Armenian Academy of Sciences, 1975.

Further reading

  • Cutler, Anthony (1992). "Some talk of Alexander". Dumbarton Oaks Papers 46: 1–4.  
  • Franklin, Simon (1992). "Bibliography of works by Alexander Kazhdan". Dumbarton Oaks Papers 46: 5–26.  
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.