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How Does Russian Literature Impact Science?

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How Does Russian Literature Impact Science?

16.12.2015

According to Thomson Reuters, a company that compiles citation rankings in various scientific and art fields, the most cited Russian authors in the world are Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy and Alexander Pushkin. Experts have also assessed the impact Russian classical writers have had on the world’s scientists.

Research conducted by Thomson Reuters analysts has shown that Fyodor Dostoyevsky is the most cited Russian author in the worlds scientific community; his works are most frequently cited by psychologists, psychiatrists and neurologists. Leo Tolstoy is a close second, with Alexander Pushkin ranking third. The Brothers Karamazov, War and Peace and Anna Karenina are the most popular works of Russian literature among scientists. Experts note that William Shakespeare, Goethe and Dante Alighieri are much more popular in the scientific article database, although it could be attributed to the language barrier.


The international corporations analytical department is one of the most authoritative organizations involved in scientometrics. Analysts use their own Web of Science database to determine the most cited scientific publications and compile rankings of scientists, universities and research areas on a regular basis. To celebrate the Year of Literature, the companys Russian division conducted an unusual study: it compared citation data for Russian and foreign authors in the Web of Science database.

“The research would show whether classical literature makes an impact on science and whether we can measure that impact,” Thomson Reuters experts say. As a result, we determined the most cited authors in Russian classical literature and assessed the impact their masterpieces have made on the worldsscientists.

Analysts looked for references to authors and literary works from the Russian school curricula (as well as Vladimir Nabokov, Victor Pelevin and Vladimir Sorokin—the authors not listed on most of the curricula, but often discussed during additional lessons). Researchers had to manually filter out the writers namesakes with the same initials and search for references in a large number of foreign languages, like Karamazov No Kyodai (The Brothers Karamazov in Japanese) or Guerra e Paz (War and Peace in Portuguese). Experts claim that, thanks to their meticulous work, the survey had a margin of error of less than 5 percent. However, there was a problem with poetry: in most cases, scientists refer to authors complete works instead of specific poems.

The top 3 most cited Russian authors in the scientific community are Fyodor Dostoyevsky (7,800 mentions), Leo Tolstoy (6,400) and Alexander Pushkin (5,200). Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn ranks fourth (3,500 references), followed by Anton Chekhov (3,100), Nikolai Gogol (2,350), Ivan Turgenev (2,250) and Maxim Gorky (2,100).

The list of the most popular Russian books includes works written by ‘the big three classical writers. The top 3 consists of The Brothers Karamazov (1,319 mentions), War and Peace (942) and Anna Karenina (743). They are followed by Crime and Punishment (663), Eugene Onegin (620), Notes from the Underground (496) and The Idiot (496). Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (The Gulag Archipelago, 399 mentions) and Boris Pasternak (Doctor Zhivago, 374 mentions) only show up by the end of the top 10.

Russian classical literature, like most literary works, is primarily cited in sociology and humanitiesby art experts, historians and linguists, researchers say. But those books largely influence natural sciences as well. For instance, The Brothers Karamazov was cited by chemical researchers. Phrases from the novel were used in an article entitled Protein Chains as Literary Text with the purpose of proving the efficiency of the methods for analyzing repeating segments in proteins. Interestingly, two out of three mathematical works citing Leo Tolstoy are dedicated to his mathematical metaphors in the fourth volume of War and Peace.

According to Thomson Reuters experts, Fyodor Dostoyevskys domination of the list can be explained by the fact that psychologists, psychiatrists and neurologists are interested in his works. Quotes from his books are used in the context of analyzing epilepsy symptoms his characters showed, diseases that affected the author and the connections between the authors medical condition and that of his characters, researchers note. Over 100 well-known scientific publications explore those topics, with other scientists citing them thousands of times.

The opening sentence from Anna Karenina is the most popular quote in all of Russian literature: All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. It has been referenced by scientists in a wide variety of fields. Sometimes authors offer their own variations of the phrase: All ordered structures are alike; each non-perfect class is non-perfect in its own way. Moreover, the quote was once used in a publication as an official term: the Anna Karenina principle.

Researchers note that Russian authors are not cited as often as foreign classical writersShakespeare (34,000 mentions), Goethe (18,000) or Dante (11,500). Analysts believe it should be attributed to the language barrier, as most scientific magazines, books and conference materials indexed by the Web of Science database were published in English.

Russian authors citation ranking in the Web of Science database:
  1. Fyodor Dostoyevsky (7,800)
  2. Leo Tolstoy (6,400)
  3. Alexander Pushkin (5,200)
  4. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (3,500)
  5. Anton Chekhov (3,100)
  6. Nikolai Gogol (2,350)
  7. Ivan Turgenev (2,250)
  8. Maxim Gorky (2,100)

Russian books citation ranking in the Web of Science database:
  1. The Brothers Karamazov (1,319 citations)
  2. War and Peace (942)
  3. Anna Karenina (743)
  4. Crime and Punishment (663)
  5. Eugene Onegin (620)
  6. Notes from the Underground (496)
  7. The Idiot (496)
  8. The Gulag Archipelago (399)
  9. Doctor Zhivago (374)
  10. The Death of Ivan Ilyich (373)
  11. Demons (360)
  12. History of the Russian State (352)
  13. The Master and Margarita (302)
  14. Dead Souls (299)
  15. The Cherry Orchard (213)
  16. The Seagull (211)
  17. Fathers and Sons (203)
  18. The Government Inspector (186)
  19. Uncle Vanya (160)
  20. A Hero of Our Time (152)
Source: Kommersant

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