Sergei Zotov
Russian-British historian and popular science communicator

2018 Russian Enlightener prize for the best non-fictional book in Humanities for Suffering in the Middle Ages and 2022 Russian Alexander Belyaev Prize for Iconographical Mayhem

The author of History of Alchemy‎, coauthor of Medieval Magic and History of Votives
Published books
Votive Practices from the Middle Ages to the Present

A new book by Sergei Zotov, Mikhail Maizuls, and Dmitry Antonov. In this book, we discuss the exchange of gifts between people and higher powers in the West and Russia. Since the Middle Ages, many Christian churches have been filled with wax legs and arms, silver eyes, iron cows, baby figurines, old shackles, and armor. Such items were called ex-voto, or votives. These were gifts to God and the saints that Christian people brought and still bring to churches in order to ask the heavens for help or thank saints for a miracle.

Thousands of years passed, religions, names of deities, and other supernatural patrons changed, but people still bring votives to them — sometimes in the form of body parts or internal organs. These items materialize human pain, fear, hope, and joy, allowing people to build relationships with higher powers, giving us hope that they could be negotiated with, and a miracle could be accelerated or even bought. And then the pain will pass, and any trouble will recede.

Medieval Magic. Visual history of Witches and Sorcerers
A new book by Sergei Zotov and Dilshat Kharman!

A woman flying through the night sky on a broomstick. A gray-bearded old man with a staff, wrapped in a long cloak. These images of witches and wizards appeared in modern culture under the influence of medieval images - and mostly our fantasy universes are based on ideas about magic that developed in Western Europe in the 14th-17th centuries.

This book will focus on the visual origins of an imaginary magical world. How did the artists portray the famous sorcerers and witches of the past? What role did iconography play in the witch hunt? And why did thousands of magicians all over Europe follow the directions of illustrated grimoires, witchcraft books? This study will lead us to images that are easily recognizable today from films, music, and computer games: the magic wand and witche's broom from fantasy novels, the satanic pentagram from horror films, and the black goat from black metal music. A thousand years of medieval magic has not sunk into oblivion but left a deep mark on modern culture.

Iconographical Mayhem. The Unusual in the Orthodox Icon

«Iconographical Mayhem» is a book about how the most unusual motifs of Orthodox icons appeared and what they really mean. The book will explain the natures of the six-armed Christ, the Orthodox centaur, and the dove with four heads. You will immerse yourself in mystical images, where human life is presented as a labyrinth, mysterious hands sprout from the crucifixion, and many eyes look at the viewer. You will see violent scenes in which saints and even Jesus himself take up weapons. You will understand how laptops, soccer balls, and nuclear reactors appeared on modern sacred images.

Together with the author, you will unravel the meaning of mysterious allegories, take excursions into theology and world history, learn about the most incredible Russian spells and beliefs, see the rarest icons previously available only to scholars. But the main thing is that after reading this book, the familiar culture and history will unfold before you from a completely new and unknown side.

History of Alchemy. The Journey of the Philosopher's Stone from the Bronze Age to the Atomic one
Alchemy is commonly associated with images of flasks, ovens, laboratories, or mandrake roots. But the universe of gold-making iconography is much broader: it is rich in symbols and allegories associated with the customs and religions of different cultures. In order to see the real world of the past in mysterious miniatures, we will take a fascinating journey through ancient China, mysterious India, to the land of the pharaohs, Greek sages, Arab caliphs, and European heretics. We will also not ignore the present. From this book, you will learn how yoga is connected with Opus magnum, when the Arabs ate mummies, how Shakespeare, Newton, or Goethe were interested in alchemy, and why the philosopher's stone was made in the USSR. By deciphering the mystical images symbolizing the acquisition of superpowers by alchemists, we will discover a new dimension of world history.
Suffering in the Middle Ages. Paradoxes of Christian iconography
The book, which got the 2018 Russian Enlightener prize for the best non-fictional book in Humanities and attracted over 60,000 readers.

Where the monsters were in monastic robes on the pages of the Psalms and Books of Hours? Why were lovers depicted on the walls of churches in indecent poses? Why are Satan and the Antichrist sometimes presented with halos, like saints? How did Christ become an allegory for the philosopher's stone in alchemical treatises?

It is generally accepted that the medieval artist acted within the strict framework set by the church canon, the will of the customer, and ancient samples. But in reality, medieval masters had space for a visual experiment with sacred subjects. Together we will find out where lay the border between legal laughter and sacrilege in medieval art.
Lecture on Jesus's Jobs in English - NY, Morbid Anatomy
Lecture on Russian iconography in English - NY, Morbid Anatomy

About me
2020-2024: Ph.D. at the Warwick University («Renaissance Studies»)
2020: research assistant at the Herzog August Bibliothek (Wolfenbüttel) in a project by Dr. Gia Toussaint «Private Gebetbücher aus niedersächsischen Frauenklöstern: Instrument und Interaktion»‎
2019 – 2020: the fellowship of Fritz-Thyssen-Foundation in Gotha and fellowship of Foundation of the Berlin House of Representatives in the Humboldt University (Berlin)
2018: Russian Enlightener prize for the best non-fictional book in Humanities
2018 – 2020: Russian RFBR grant «Russian Paracelsus»‎ started by Prof. Dr. Witalij Morosow
2017 – 2019: research assistant at the Herzog August Bibliothek (Wolfenbüttel) in a project by Dr. Stefan Laube «Bilder aus der Phiole. Untersuchungen zur Bildsprache der Alchemie»‎
2017: fellowships of DHI Moskau and DAAD at the Herzog August Bibliothek (Wolfenbüttel)
2016: fellowship of Erasmus+ in the Centre d'Història de la Ciència (Barcelona)
2013 – 2015: MA in Cultural Studies (RSUH, Moscow)
2008 – 2013: BA and MA in German Philology (Saratov State University)

Wikipedia link
New projects
Iconography of Alchemy


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