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:” to your search.


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

Ben’s Index (saddly, no longer available)

Developed in 2004-2005 by Benjamin Zajicek , then a graduate student at the University of Chicago, Ben’s Index of Russian History Resources is a straightforward, well organized and uncluttered index of resources for the Russian historian. Though the site has not been maintained and is now somewhat dated, it still contains many valuable links.

There are a number of sections for history graduate students, which cover the profession in general,  funding, useful software, filing taxes, ethics, reading, writing, style & citation, oral history and online resources and forums.  Topics specifically for Russianists include archives, libraries, & catalogs, online dictionaries & encyclopedias, guides to the soviet archives, laws & regulations of the Russia, bibliographies, academic journals, professional organizations, museums, exhibits and memorials as well as a list of many prominent people in the field.

May 3, 2009. Indexes, Research. Leave a comment.

DiRT and Archives Wiki

One of my considerations as I begin keeping this blog, a forum for exploring online resources for Russian scholarship, is whether or not a blog is in fact the best medium for my project. An alternative- the wiki, the content of which would be shaped by a much larger group of editors, potentially anyone.

One such site is the Digital Research Tools Wiki, affectionately known as DiRT. The site promises to collect

information about tools and resources that can help scholars (particularly in the humanities and social sciences) conduct research more efficiently or creatively. Whether you need software to help you manage citations, author a multimedia work, or analyze texts, Digital Research Tools will help you find what you’re looking for. We provide a directory of tools organized by research activity, as well as reviews of select tools in which we not only describe the tool’s features, but also explore how it might be employed most effectively by researchers.

Despite the fact that the site is very new (there was a sneak preview in May, 2008), it is packed with information, especially lists of software. For those seeking to move way beyond microsoft word, mozilla, google mail and excel, this is a very useful site.

This wiki is a very effective “directory of tools.” It provides immediate access to comprehensive lists of the many resources out there to accomplish whatever task you might be interested in (выполнить и перевыполнить!). But the site, at least at its current level, is not such a convincing “reviewer.” The reviews come last: that is, you first choose a category of interest, then a resource, and only then do you find out if it has been discussed in a useful way. Clicking on a number of the items simply took me to their websites, which I could just have easily have found by searching.

Another wiki with a lot of potential is the American History Association’s Archives Wiki, “intended to be a clearinghouse of information about archival resources throughout the world.” I think it was created in 2007, and at least judging from the section on Russia, the wiki is just getting started. Only RGASPI has been included. Success will depend on more of us getting involved. As for me, there’s something a little too impersonal about the wiki format when it takes on such grand tasks. We have yet to see if, as a brief article from the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus blog suggests, the Wiki has run out of steam.

In any case, I’m happy with the blog format for now.

April 30, 2009. Archives, Research, Software, Web tools. Leave a comment.

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.

Russian language dissertations

While in Russia, I worked in the dissertation department of the Russian National Library (at Khimki) – and I learned that they have developed a program to provide digital versions of most new Russian dissertations in so-called “virtual libraries.”   Khimki has one such “virtual reading room,” which is made up of computers that have access to their database of dissertations with links to full-text versions (They also have hard copies available there).

Is it possible to access the dissertation database from other sites or via the web?  According to their website, called the Electronnaia Biblioteka Dissertatsii, there are designated libraries throughout Russia and in a number of former Soviet republics region that also have similar virtual libraries.   I’m hoping to find out whether any large western institutions have sought access.   Their website does provide a search option for dissertations submitted since 2004.  I experimented with it a little and did not come up with as many dissertations as I found using the electronic system at Khimki in Moscow, which included dissertations since 2000, I think.  There was only one hit for Архангельск, for instance, while in Moscow I found many more.  According to the dissertation resources page on the Robarts Library website, the full text of these dissertations used to be available.

The Robarts page also suggests a second site, the electronic catalogue of dissertations.  It has a very basic search function, but comes up with far more hits.  I searched for архангельск and came up with 90 hits, and added the word России just as a test and came up with 6.  Very little information is provided though up front about the hits.  In order to get the complete results, the website requires you to submit an online request.  The results though seem to come  immediately, by email.

April 13, 2009. Dissertations, Research. 2 comments.

Google Books

I was pleased to discover today that Google Books can be searched in Cyrillic.   In other words, the service enables researchers to do keyword searches of their massive and expanding database, including tens of thousands published in the Soviet Union collected over the decades by North American research libraries and recently scanned.  Although the complete text is usually not available for viewing because of copyright restrictions,  each reference provides some useful information, including the number of times these terms appear in the book (up to thirty, it seems) and up to three page numbers where the term is mentioned.

My initial attempts to use this function to perform a keyword search of a Russian-language text were a little frustrating.  I decided to test the keyword search using the multi-volume collection Tragediia Sovetskoi Derevni. An advanced search for a keyword along with a word from the title: трагедия, and author:  Данилов came up with a couple hits in volume II of the series.  But at first I was unable to find my term on the pages where Goggle said it should be.  To double check, I searched the online text for a word that I found on p. 339 in the hard copy.  Google Books did find that word, but only one time, and only on p. 905.   In the end–after some persistence–I determined that Google’s entry for volume II is incorrect: the online text that was actually searching was volume III.  Once I had correctly matched the mislabeled Google text with the correct volume, I was able to make successful keyword searches.

Moreover, by searching the various volumes directly rather than returning to the general advanced search I was able to get hits for my keyword in the other volumes.  Once I matched the mislabeled online texts with its respective hard copy, I was then able to carry out pretty effective searches.  It’s important to note, however, that the keyword searches are limited in significant ways.  First, the search did not catch my keyword in all instances.  This is not surprising, I guess, given the problems inherent in converting digital images into text (OCR).  Also, what is most frustrating is that the keyword search only provides the page number for the first three hits.  It is thus useful for terms that show up very infrequently, but frustrating to use effectively when the keyword shows up more often.

There is a helpful discussion of some of the quality control issues in 2007 article by Robert Townsend, “Google Books: What’s Not to Like” on the AHA Today blog.  Overall, despite it’s problems, Google Books is still a powerful tool given its scope.

Ben Zajicek Says:
April 27, 2009 at 12:15 pm edit

I’ve found some fabulous stuff on google print. Anything written before 1923 is available in Google books as a full-text downloadable pdf file. Suggestion: perhaps we could create a site with links to the permanent URLs for public domain books in Russian/related to Russia, find a way to post them as we discover them.

On the downside, I’ve tried to use this in my dissertation research and run into a lot of disappointment. The entire run of the Soviet psychiatry journal “nevropatologiia i psikhiatriia” is available on google print. The problem is that they are all post 1923, and thus deemed to be in copyright. I could still search them for key words and then go look them up in the print version, but the identifying information (year, volume, number) is almost all wrong… Sigh.

A useful resource that I’ve found for public domain sources to use in Western Civ courses:

James Harvey Robinson, Readings in European History: A Collection of Extracts from the Sources Chosen with the Purpose of Illustrating the Progress of Culture in Western Europe Since the German Invasions, v. 1 (1904) :

and v. 2 (1906):>

April 12, 2009. Full-text, Research. 3 comments.

Finding Tables of Contents for Russian Journals

While reviewing Russian historical journals, I came across a website that provides the table of contents for quite a few of them in text format.


It has Voprosy Istorii, Izvestiia RAN, Istoricheskii Arkhiv, Отечественная История and others.  It covers the journals from about 1998 to at least 2008.  I don’t recall finding online table of contents for Istochnik.

Some western journals have tables of contents on their own websites, including Cahiers du monde Russe, Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas, etc.

April 11, 2009. Journals, Research. Leave a comment.

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.

language online – Ukrainian

In spring 08  I spent two weeks carrying out research in Kiev.  Fortunately, most of the documents I needed were in Russian.  But not all of them.  Moreover, the chief of the reading room at the central Party archive of Ukraine only spoke to me in Ukrainian.  Each time I would answer haltingly in Russian – and without batting an eye she would continue on in Ukrainian, despite knowing Russian. Charming?

As a way to get started learning Ukrainian, I found an online course hosted at UCL in England called Read Ukrainian.

October 16, 2008. Language, Research, Students, Teaching, Ukraine. Leave a comment.