Mikhail Borisovich Piotrovsky was born in Yerevan in 1944. His father, Boris Borisovich Piotrovsky, an eminent archaeologist, was Director of The State Hermitage Museum from 1964 till 1990.
In 1967 graduated with honors from the Oriental Faculty of Leningrad State University, specializing in Arabic Studies. Underwent a study course at the Cairo University in 1965—1966. From 1967 to 1991 Mikhail Borisovich worked in the Leningrad branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies, where he obtained his doctorate in history. In 1991 was invited to join the Hermitage staff as the First Deputy Director. In July 1992 he was appointed Director of the Museum by a decree of the Prime Minister.
Dr. Piotrovsky has taken part in archaeological excavations in the Caucasus, Central Asia and Yemen. He is an author of more than 250 works including catalogues of Arabic manuscripts, publications of Medieval monuments and ancient inscriptions, works on Islamic political history and Arabic culture, archeology of Arabia. Among them: series of articles devoted to the Muslim mythology in The Encyclopedia of World Mythology, series of articles about the prophet Muhammad and the monographs: The Legend of the Himyarite King As'ad al-Kamil (1977), Fundamentals of Arab-Islamic Art (1984), Southern Arabia in the Early Middle Ages (1985), Yemen before Islam and in the First Centuries of the Hijra (1987), Tales of the Koran (1991), Islam: An Encyclopaedia (a co-author, 1991). The Hermitage: Essays on the History of the Collection (a co-author, 1997); Earthy Art — Heavenly Beauty. Art of Islam (an editor, 2000); On Islamic Art (2001), The Great Collections of the Great Museum. The Hermitage (2003); The Hermitage in the Great Museums of the World series (2003); The Historical Legends of the Koran (2005), The Islamic Art. Between China and Europe (2008), The View from the Hermitage (2009, 2014), The Two Holy Sites Regained. Futuh al-Haramayn (2011), My Hermitage in Russian and English (2014, 2015), For Museums There Are No Taboos (2016).
Dr. Piotrovsky is an author and a presenter of a TV series My Hermitage shown on the State Russian TV channel (250 series), My Hermitage – 250 (30 series), an author of the regular column The View from the Hermitage in the Sankt-Peterburgskie Vedomosti newspaper (two books of these articles have been issued).
Professor Piotrovsky is a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, member of the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and member of the Russian Academy of Arts. He is also a member of the Russian Presidential Councilfor Culture and Art (in 2001 – 2011 Deputy Chairman of the Council) and the Russian Presidential Council for Science and Education.
He is a Professor of the St. Petersburg State University where he chairs two departments: Museology and History of the Ancient Orient, he is also the Dean of Oriental faculty. He is a Doctor Honoris Causa of the Kazan State University and the Saratov State University, and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the European University in St. Petersburg.
Professor Piotrovsky is a Foreign member of the Armenian Academy of Sciences, an honourary member of the Academy of Sciences of Tatarstan, as well as a corresponding member of the German Archaeological Institute and the Institut de France (Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres), and a foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
He is the President of the Union of Museums of Russia, editor-in-chief of The Christian Orient magazine, the chairman of the St. Petersburg branch of the Imperial Russian Orthodox Palestine Society, and the President of the Worldwide St. Petersburg Club, and was the chairman of the board of the 1st State TV channel (2001 – 2005).