Polnoe sobranie zakonov

In her inaugural post on the Russian History Blog, historian Alison Smith discusses her recent work with the Polnoe sobranie zakonov (Complete collection of the laws), “a process made much more pleasant because of the utterly fantastic fact that the Russian National Library has scanned the whole thing and put it up online.”  The site quite easy to navigate, the indexes are available, but there is no search function as far as I could tell.  But as the rest of Dr. Smith’s post reveals, there is some beauty in not skipping straight to what you’re looking for.  (This reminds me of the time my first meaningful history teacher, Lee Nichol, introduced his class to the word ‘ruminate’ by describing the process of finding books in a library before the card catalogue was computerized.)  Smith writes,

Even when I’m looking for something specific, though, I find myself randomly reading other laws in large part because they tell me things I didn’t know.  I learn that Peter the Great made a law to restrict the sale of wax candles for use in churches to the churches themselves, and forbade the practice of random other people selling such candles on the street outside churches. Or I learn that Anna was so upset to hear that people were being trampled by people galloping through the streets of St. Petersburg (on horses, of course) that she banned galloping in the city–and furthermore announced that anyone caught galloping would be punished by being beaten with the cat-o-nine-tails “mercilessly.”

And then there’s Catherine the Great. Now, obviously, she was a woman who liked laws, what with her famous “legislomania” and all that. But she also had a thing for commemorating major events (military victories, putting up the Bronze Horseman [yes, really]) by releasing Manifestos to All Her People, granting them all sorts of things.  One in particular shows up in a number of discussions of her reign.  On March 17, 1775, in honor of making peace with the Ottoman Empire, she released a Manifesto giving “mercies to various sosloviia” in recognition of God’s mercy in granting her and her state victory, peace, and the respect of other nations. She wondered (she wrote) how best to honor that divine intervention, and decided that according to the Lord’s words, He preferred mercy to sacrifice, and so mercy she would give.  Forty seven “mercies” then follow…  (see the original post for citations).



May 19, 2011. 18th Century, Full-text, Late Imperial, Primary Sources. Leave a comment.

Reading Stalin

If you’re thinking of spending an afternoon reading (or skimming through) the works of Stalin in Russian, I would recommend taking a look at Библиотека Михаила Грачева, an on-line library since 2001.  Although I cannot guarantee that his collectionof Stalin’s published works is comprehensive, it is very impressive.  My specific search led me to three separate editions of his collected works: one from 1951, the second from 1997 and the third from 2006.  Professor Grachev’s library also includes related books like Сто сорок бесед с Молотовым.  As far as I can tell, there is no built in search engine.  But with Google’s advanced search function you can limit your searches to his site.  Or just add “site:http://grachev62.narod.ru/” to your search.

October 24, 2010. Biography, Full-text, Primary Sources, Research, Stalin Era, Web tools. Leave a comment.

illustrated history

I was recently faced with writing a lecture on the Russian Revolution, and so knowing that I would have the opportunity to use powerpoint, I spent some time reviewing the online troves of historical photographs that I’ve come across in recent years.

Google images is of course a natural place to start searching for pictures.  One useful feature is a setting on its Advanced Search page that lets you specify whether you want to find materials that is free to use or share, free to modify, or even free for commercial use.


February 5, 2010. Exhibits, Images, Primary Sources, Teaching. Leave a comment.

Terry Martin’s primary source guide

Prof. Terry Martin has put together a collection of bibliographies of Russia/USSR related English-language primary sources , and he has generously made them available online on his web space at Harvard University.

Topics include: Document collections, writings of party leaders, biographies, foreign diplomatic sources, travelers’ accounts, and soviet publications.  When appropriate, the lists are divided between materials available at Harvard and those available elsewhere.  There is a link to a couple other general bibliographies, and it seems as if more bibliographies and links may be added in the future.  One thing that might be added to the site is a list of English subtitled Russian/Soviet films.

The site is intended specifically for serious students, but it should be useful for researchers as well.

July 3, 2009. Biography, Indexes, Journals, library catalogues, Primary Sources, Research, Students, Teaching. Leave a comment.

Seth Bernstein on the Sakharov Memoir Database

The Sakharov Memoir Database  was created by the Muzei i Obshchestvennyi Tsentr “Mir, Progress, Prava Cheloveka” imeni Andreia Sakharova.

Seth Bernstein, a doctoral student in history at the University of Toronto, interned with the Sakharov Center in 2004 as a transcriber, and then used their database for his senior thesis.  I interviewed him about his experience using it.


Seth: alright, what would you like to know?

me: What is the center’s web address?

Seth: http://www.sakharov-center.ru/asfcd/auth/.  For some reason it’s been having problems and trying to go to the search engine doesn’t get you anywhere. [March 2010 – Now it seems that the search function has been removed-AB].

me: It’s a shame that the site isn’t working!  … I’m curious, how representative is the online part of their overall holdings? Do you know if there were many memoirs still unprocessed in their archives? (I see from their site that they now have 827 memoirs).  Do they have a mission to provide 100% of their memoirs online?

Seth: Of course they would like to provide access to 100% of the memoirs but my guess from their selection and my experience with them, is that they take memoirs that were easy to digitize, very famous or unique.  So they have, for example, Anna Larina’s memoir as well as unpublished materials… just based on my searches I found that they have some pretty obscure memoirs. (more…)

June 8, 2009. Archives, Full-text, Interviews, Primary Sources, Stalin Era, Students. 2 comments.

Harvard University Refugee Interview Project

I learned today that this famous project has been fully digitized and most of the interviews as well as reference guides to the collection are available online.   Carried out from 1950-1951, it consists of “329 general ‘sociological’ interviews on the subjects’ life histories, which were known as Schedule A, and 435 topical ‘anthropological’ interviews with more focused lines of questioning, known as Schedule B,” as well as thousands of written questionnaires.   Although I could not find precise information, it seems as if most of the interview materials were included in the project.  More about the project can be found in the Summer 2008 issue of the Davis Center newsletter.

April 13, 2009. Archives, Primary Sources, Research, Stalin Era, Students, Teaching. 2 comments.

Marina Sorokina’s talk on Russian Archives

Today Dr. Marina Sorokina,  an historian and specialist on the Russian archives, gave a presentation to U of T graduate students.  She argues that Russia has made huge strides in the last five years towards making archival resources accessible online. This work is supported especially by the Russian Foundation for the Humanities.

She discussed the official portal of the Russian archives and websites for the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Democracy, Sakharov and Solzhenytsin Foundations, the new online portals of RGASPI’s comintern archive and RGALI, as well as a site called Hronos.


The Hronos site has an excellent biograficheskii ukazatel’, the best I’ve seen.  I only looked the Soviet period.    It also seems that they take suggestions.


Guides to the Russian Academy of Science’s archives are available here.  I asked Dr. Sorokina about finding sources from the Institute of the History of Art, and she also pointed me towards its current manifestation, the Institute Iskusstvoznanie.  They have an division of visual art and architecture.


The Alexander Yakovlev archive has a database of published archival documents that came to light during the failed attempt to try the Communist Party in the late 1990s.  The materials are divided into thematic categories, and there is a search function.  I searched for укрупнение and агрогород without any hits.  I searched for Хрущев between 1950 and 1953 and came up with a few documents:

Докладная записка агитпропа ЦК Г.М. Маленкову о роли сектора художественной литературы агитпропа ЦК в кампании против космополитизма

Информация В.С. Абакумова1 о «засоренности» кадров в клинике лечебного питания Института питания АМН СССР 04.07.1950

Докладная записка агитпропа ЦК Г.М. Маленкову о предложении М.С. Гуса написать книгу об американской разведке 25.03.1952

Докладная записка агитпропа ЦК Г.М. Маленкову по вопросам юридической науки 12.05.1952

These are all reports to First Secretary Malenkov; he had them forwarded “v круглую” to other secretaries, including Ponomarenko and Khrushchev.  I’ve noted that a search for “хрущев” will not catch “хрущеву,” worth being aware of.

Searching for хрущеву brought up many more files, mostly dokladnye zapiski to Stalin.  The majority of them relate to Foreign Affairs.   I searched for колхоз 1949-1953 and all the materials related to either literature or to Jewish Autonomous Republic.  Also interesting that in this case the search terms колхоз, колхоза, и колхозов all give the same results.


The Sakharov Center has a database of Gulag Memoirs.  I searched their memoirs for the term “Arkhangel’sk” and came up with 133 memoirs.  Архангельск and Крестьян came up with only 1.


RGALI‘s search function works well, and draws on their apparently very extensive catalogs.  Only one item came up for Arkhangel’sk oblast’, however:

Шифр: ф. 3102 оп. 1 ед. хр. 1287
Раздел систематизации: 1. Рукописи.
К.И.Коничев. “Документы рассказывают. Александр Грин в Пинеге и Кегострове”. Статья. С дарственной надписью В.Г.Лидину.
Крайние даты: 1964
Количество листов: 1
Коничев Константин Иванович
Лидин Владимир Германович, адресат
Грин (Гриневский) Александр Степанович, упоминаемое лицо
Способ воспроизведения
Вырезка из газеты
Литература/Публицистика/Публицистика в России и СССР/Статьи
Литература/Публицистика/Публицистика в России и СССР/Переписка личная

Архангельская обл./Кегостров о., упоминаемое место
Архангельская обл./Пинега пос., упоминаемое место


Thanks Marina!

October 22, 2008. Archives, Primary Sources, Research. Leave a comment.