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Hélène Carrère d'Encausse

Princess of Asturias Award for Social Sciences 2023

Hélène Zourabichvili (Paris, 6th July 1929 - 5th August 2023) , Carrère d’Encausse is her married surname, to a Georgian father and a mother of Russian-German origin, she grew up in an emigrant family with aristocratic ancestors from whom she learned Russian history, language and literature. She later opted for French nationality. She graduated in Political Science in 1952 from the Paris Institute of Political Studies (SciencePo) and earned a PhD in History in 1963 with a thesis on the revolution in Central Asia, and a PhD in Letters and Humanities in 1976 with a thesis on the Bolsheviks and the nation. Professor of History at the Paris 1 University, in 1969 she became a lecturer and researcher at SciencePo, where she spent a major part of her career and headed the Department of Soviet Studies at the Centre for International Research. She taught at the College of Europe in Bruges and as a visiting lecturer at various universities outside of France.

In the political sphere, she belonged to the French conservative party Rally for the Republic and, in 1994, was elected to the European Parliament, where she formed part of the delegations for relations with Russia (until 1997) and the EU-Russian Parliamentary Cooperation Committee (1997-1999), among other duties. Member of the European Parliament until 1999, a period during which she served as vice-president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Security and Defence Policy. She chaired the Commission of Diplomatic Archives of the French Government, was an elected member of the French Academy (1990 - 2023) and served as perpetual secretary of this institution since 1999 until 2023, the first woman to do so.

As a historian, Carrère d’Encausse is an international reference in Slavic studies, a specialist in the extinct Soviet Union (USSR) and Russia. She was also an expert on Central Asia. The publication of L’Empire éclaté (1978) constituted a milestone in her career, as in this book she predicted the dissolution of the USSR more than a decade in advance. This work is considered by experts her most innovative contribution to the history of the Soviet Union, for which she received the Prix Aujourd’hui (France, 1978). Author of Des siècles d'immortalité: L’Académie française, 1635– … (2011), at the head of the French Academy, she has spoken out against so-called inclusive writing and a gender quota for admission to the institution. She has published more than thirty works, including La Russie inachevée (2000), Prix Nouveau Cercle Interallié (France, 2000), and Six années qui ont changé le monde 1985-1991 (2015), described as the first great historical work on the subject. She is the author of numerous historical biographies: Nicolas II (1996), Prix des Ambassadeurs (France, 1997); Lénine (1998); Catherine II (2002); Alexandre II (2008); Les Romanov (2013) and Le General de Gaulle et la Russia (2017). Alexandra Kollontaï (2021) and the diplomatic history La Russie et la France (2019) figure among her latest works.

Holder of honorary degrees from the University of Bucharest, the Catholic University of Leuven and the Universities of Laval and Montreal, among others, Carrère d’Encausse was a foreign member of the Russian Academies of Arts (honorary) and of Sciences, which awarded her the Lomonosov Gold Medal (2008). She belonged to the Romanian Academy and Academy of Athens, was an Emeritus Associate Member of the Royal Belgian Academy and a Foreign Honorary Member of the Georgian National Academy of Science. Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters and Grand Cross of the French Legion of Honour, she also received the Russian Orders of Honour and Friendship of Peoples, the Faith and Loyalty Award of the St Andrew Foundation (Russia, 2000) and the Great Gold Medal of the Society for the Promotion of Progress (France, 2020), among other distinctions.

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