Political historian Hélène Carrère d’Encausse, an expert on the former Soviet Union and many of its successor states, received the 2023 Princess of Asturias Award for Social Science last month. The international award recognizes creative or research work in the fields of history, sociology, psychology, economics and more.
Born in Paris in 1929 of a Georgian father and a Russian-German mother, Carrère d’Encausse’s first brush with Russian history and culture came from her family. She built on that to become an expert in Slavic studies, the Soviet Union, Russia and Central Asia, publishing more than 30 works, including her 2000 book La Russie inachevée and her 2010 book Victorieuse Russie and the 1992 historical biography Nicolas II. Her most prominent book was 1978’s L’Empire éclaté, which predicted the dissolution of the USSR.
“Including research monographs, biographies and major essays on historical interpretation, the work of Hélène Carrère d’Encausse probably constitutes the most substantive contribution made in recent decades to our knowledge of the Soviet Union and Russia, an essential subject matter for understanding the contemporary world,” noted the minutes of the Princess of Asturias Awards jury. “Hélène Carrère d’Encausse is one of the most brilliant, original and distinguished figures of French historiography and contemporary European thought.”
The Princess of Asturias Awards are granted by the Princess of Asturias Foundation in eight categories: the arts, communication and humanities, social sciences, sports, literature, international cooperation, technical and scientific research and concord. Laureates receive €50,000, which is equal to about US$52,000, a diploma, an insignia and a Joan Miró sculpture.
Throughout her career, Carrère d’Encausse has worked as an educator, political figure and historian. A member of the French conservative party, Rally for the Republic, she served on the European Parliament as a vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Security and Defense Policy from 1994 until 1999. She is also a chair on the Commission of Diplomatic Archives of the French Government.
She has been an elected member of the French Academy since 1990 and has served as the organization’s first female perpetual secretary since 1999. The French Academy has a maximum of 40 members and is the primary council for maintaining the French language.
As an academic, Carrère d’Encausse worked as a history professor at the Paris 1 University, a Science Po lecturer and head of the department of Soviet studies at the Center for International Research, a teacher at the College of Bruges and a visiting lecturer at numerous other universities. She holds honorary degrees from the University of Bucharest, the Catholic University of Leuven and the Universities of Laval and Montreal. She is also a member of the Romanian Academy and the Academy of Athens, is a foreign honorary member of the Georgian National Academy of Science and is an Emeritus Associate Member of the Royal Belgian Academy. She is a foreign honorary member of the Russian Academy of Arts and Sciences, which awarded her the 2008 Lomonosov Gold Medal. She is also Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters and Grand Cross of the French Legion of Honor.
Carrère d’Encausse has received many awards over her lifetime, including the Russian Orders of Honor and Friendship of Peoples, the 2000 Faith and Loyalty Award of the St. Andrew Foundation and the 2020 Great Gold Medal of the Society for the Promotion of Progress.
Other 2023 winners of the Princess of Asturias Awards are:
- Meryl Streep, Princess of Asturias Award for the Arts
- Nuccio Ordine, Princess of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities
- Eliud Kipchoge, Princess of Asturias Award for Sports
- Haruki Murakami, Princess of Asturias Award for Literature
- Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, Princess of Asturias Award for International Cooperation
- Jeffrey I. Gordon, Peter Greenberg and Bonnie L. Bassler, Princess of Asturias Award for Technical & Scientific Research
Recent recipients of the Princess of Asturias Award for Social Science include: