He took his chair in 2008 together with seven other renowned intellectuals
Tzvetan Todorov, philosopher, historian, sociologist, and philologist, and member of the European Academy of Yuste, died in Paris aged 77. Todorov was a member of the European Academy of Yuste from 2008, when he took the Rousseau Chair during a Carlos V European Award ceremony for the French politician Simone Veil, the European Parliament’s first female president.
On the day of the ceremony in which Tzvetan Todorov was awarded his medal for being appointed a member of the European Academy of Yuste, he was also told that he had been awarded the Príncipe de Asturias Social Sciences Award for representing “the spirit of European unity of the east and the west, and a commitment to the ideals of equality, integration, and justice”. Todorov gave a speech at Yuste on behalf of the academics appointed that year. He talked about European unity and identity, arguing that European unity “lies in the way it manages the different regional, national, religious and cultural identities that make it up, giving them new status, and making the most of that very pluralism”. Of identity, the philosopher said he saw it as “based on the renunciation of violence”, adding that “the proximity of ‘the others’ becomes a source of positives”. In his speech he said that although all countries do not carry the same weight within the Union “all yield to the same law”, which means the more powerful states “are obliged to help the weaker states, because rights are not dependent on force”. Todorov closed his speech, which is still relevant eight years later, by recalling how “pluralism of origins and openness to others has become the hallmark of Europe”. To this effect he remembered the Greek historian Herodotus’ account of the birth of Europa: a woman marginal twice over. She was not only a foreigner, but an involuntary immigrant, living on an island far from the mainland: the Cretans made her queen, and the Europeans, their symbol.
The sociologist also took part in a European Academy of Yuste meeting held this year in Cáceres, where he approved a declaration entitled “What all school children should know about Europe: towards an interactive curriculum on European civilisation for secondary school students”:
Todorov, like other Yuste academics, was also on the Advisory Board of the ‘Pliegos de Yuste’ journal, published by the European Academy of Yuste Foundation.
The Bulgarian philosopher was appointed as an academic together with Finnish politician Martti Ahtisaari, President of Finland from 1994 to 2000 and this year’s Nobel Peace Prize Winner, who took the Nicolaus Copernicus Chair; and historian María del Carmen Iglesias Cano, an academic member of the Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy) who took the Montesquieu Chair. Other appointees were Portuguese historian Manuela Mendonça, President of the Academia Portuguesa de la Historia (Portuguese Academy of History) who took the Joan of Arc Chair; Monica Luisa Macovei, Romanian politician and current member of the European Parliament who took the Eugène Ionesco Chair; Juan Carlos Rodríguez Ibarra, Extremaduran politician and President of Extremadura Regional Government from 1983 to 2007, who took the Manuel Godoy Chair; Inge Schoenthal Feltrinelli, German editor and board member of the Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Foundation and member of the Comité Promotor de la Escuela de Libreros “Umberto y Elisabetta Mauri” who took the Clara Zetkin Chair; and the scientist and politician Federico Mayor Zaragoza, Director General of Unesco from 1987 to 1999, who took the Leonardo Da Vinci Chair.
The Board of Trustees, Academy members, and all of the team at the European Academy of Yuste Foundation feel an enormous sense of loss for European culture at the passing of this great person and intellectual, a thinker and determined Europeanist. This is added to the pain that not only his family, but all those who knew him and read him, will be experiencing at this time.