Pritsak, Omeljan

Pritsak, Omeljan [Пріцак, Омелян; Pricak], b 7 April 1919 in Luka (now Ozerne), Sambir county, Galicia, d 29 May 2006 in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Historian; member of the Shevchenko Scientific Society from 1951, the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences, and foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine from 1990. He studied at Lviv University (1940), the Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR (under Ahatanhel Krymsky), and the universities of Berlin (1943) and Göttingen (PH D, 1948). He taught at the University of Hamburg (as a professor from 1957) before moving to the United States in 1961. In 1964 he became a professor at Harvard University and in 1973 the first holder of the Hrushevsky Chair of Ukrainian History. In 1967 he proposed the establishment of a center for Ukrainian studies in the United States, which proposal led to the formation of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute (HURI) in 1973. Pritsak served as its first director until 1989 and he was a founding editor of the institute’s journal Harvard Ukrainian Studies. He then became the founder and first director (served in 1991–2001) of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in Kyiv.

Pritsak’s interest in incorporating Arabic, Turkish, and Persian sources into Ukrainian historiography led him to specialize in Oriental studies. His scholarly work focused on a reinterpretation of the origins of Kyivan Rus’ using Oriental, Scandinavian, and other source materials. To that end he worked on the compilation of a six-part magnum opus, The Origin of Rus’, the first volume (Old Scandinavian Sources Other Than the Sagas) of which was published in 1981. Pritsak was also the author of The Origins of the Old of Rus' Weights and Monetary Systems: Two Studies in Western Eurasian Metrology and Numismatics in the Seventh to Eleventh Centuries (1998) and a monograph about the epic poem Slovo o polku Ihorevi: Koly i kym bulo napysano ‘Slovo o polku Ihorevim’ (When and by Whom Was the ‘Tale of Ihor’s Campaign’ Written, 2007). Two festschrifts in his honor, Eucharisterion and Adelphotes, were published by the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute in 1979–80 (2 vols) and 1990 respectively.

[This article was updated in 2020.]

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