French expert in Russian history wins Spanish award

MADRID (AP) — Ninety-three-year-old French historian Hélène Carrère d’Encausse, an eminence in Russian and Central Asian history, has won Spain’s Princess of Asturias Award for Social Sciences, prize organizers said Wednesday.

The awards foundation said Carrère d’Encausse was “one of the most brilliant, original and distinguished personalities of French historiography and contemporary European thought.”

In a note, the panel of judges added that her work “probably constitutes the greatest substantive contribution that has been made in recent decades to the knowledge of the Soviet Union and Russia, one of the essential issues for understanding the contemporary world.”

Born Hélène Zourabichvili in Paris on July 6, 1929, of a Georgian father and a mother of Russian-German origin, Carrère d’Encausse grew up in an emigrant family with aristocratic ancestors from which she learned the Russian history, literature and language. She later opted for French nationality and became Carrère d’Encausse after marriage.

In a biographical note, the foundation said that one of the highlights of Carrère d’Encausse’s some 30 written works was “The Decline of an Empire” (“L’Empire éclaté,” in 1978), in which she predicted the dissolution of the USSR more than a decade in advance.

The study represented “a milestone in her career” and is considered by experts “her most innovative contribution to the history of the Soviet Union,” the foundation said.

She has also written several biographies, including ones on Lenin, Catherine II, and the Romanovs.

Besides her publishing and academic work, Carrère d’Encausse has been active in politics and was elected as a conservative in 1994 to the European Parliament, where she formed part of the delegations for relations with Russia.

She is an elected member of the Académie française, the official guardian of the French language.

She has three children, among them author Emmanuel Carrère. Among her cousins is the current president of Georgia, Salome Zourabichvili.

The 50,000-euro award ($52,600) is one of eight prizes covering areas including the arts, communication, science and sports that handed out annually by the foundation.

The prizes are among the most prestigious in the Spanish-speaking world. The award ceremony takes place each fall in the northern Spanish city of Oviedo.

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