Guide to the Research Collections



This chapter is concerned with the library's collections on the history of Imperial Russia and the Baltic States, the USSR, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. The 1899 Billings Classification Schedule is still used for Russia and the USSR; as a consequence, certain anachronisms will be found in the sections dealing with the history of Eastern Europe, to which the twentieth century has brought continuing political change. An approximate total of 20,000 volumes documents the history of Imperial Russia, the USSR, Poland, and Czechoslovakia; materials in the Cyrillic alphabet are administered by the Slavonic Division, those in the Roman alphabet by the General Research

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and Humanities Division. The following presents the approximate number of volumes held by the library:

Roman alphabet5,100 volumes8,000 volumes
Cyrillic alphabet4,30012,000

The Public Catalog records only materials in the Roman alphabet; the Slavonic Division dictionary catalog holds a complete record of historical materials in both the Cyrillic and Roman alphabets. Both catalogs should be consulted, however, since index entries for periodical articles are not duplicated in all cases.

The holdings in this area are of exceptional strength, with a splendid group of public documents from the pre-Revolutionary period. Soviet materials are characterized by a breadth of coverage in the many languages, including non-Indo-European, of the USSR.


The holdings of standard and popular histories and books of travel and description published in the last century form an important group. Royal biographies are numerous; important collections relate to Peter the Great (including the collected edition of his letters and documents, Pis'ma i bumagi imperatora Petra Velikago ), and to Catherine II.1 The library has made an extensive collection of materials concerning the various rebellions in Russia; the conspiracy of 1825 and the revolution of 1905 are exceptionally well covered, as is the great Revolution of 1917.

Important holdings of periodical and society publications relating to Russia are available. Representative of the older, conventionally historical type is Beiträge zur Kenntnis der russischen Reiches (1839-1900). Of related interest is Archiv für wissenschaftliche Kunde von Russland which, while essentially scientific, contains some papers on historical, topographical, and geographical subjects. The Slavonic Division holds Sbornik Russkago Istoricheskago Obshchestva (collections of the Russian Historical Society) for 1867-1916. Trudy and other publications of the Akademiya Nauk Institut Istorii provide additional sources. Free Russia (1890-94) published in London, relates to other revolutionary material in the division.

While not large, the collections relating to the Baltic States contain important general histories and popular works, books of description and travel, and the like. Periodical and society publications, held in strength, include sets such as the Sitzungsberichte (1873-1914) of the Gesellschaft für Geschichte und Altertumskunde of Riga, and others. There are also collections such as Monumenta Livoniae Antiquae. Acta et Commentationes (1921-44) of Tartu University forms part of the growing collection of literature from Esthonia.

Significant Collections

A number of major acquisitions, both gifts and purchases, lend unusual breadth to certain parts of the collections. The George Kennan collection was presented to the library in 1919 and 1920; it consists of books, pamphlets, manuscripts, magazines, newspapers, and approximately 500, photographs and other pictures. The collection has information on political prison systems in Siberia, and documents the early phases of the revolutionary movement. Letters from political convicts and other people connected with the emancipatory movement include 40 from Catherine Breshkovskaya, known as the "Grandmother" (Babushka) of the Russian Revolution.2

The library holds 2,200 volumes once owned by Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich.3 It is most valuable for the dynastic, administrative, and military history of the empire, and contains many important government publications, including confidential reports. Court life for the years 1695 to 1815 is chronicled in the 143 volumes of the Kamer fur'yerski tzeremonial'nyi zhurnal (Journal of court functions). In addition, there are more than 250 manifestos issued during the nineteenth century to mark occasions such as births, baptisms, weddings, and deaths in the imperial family. The Svod vysochaishikh otmetok (Compilation of His Majesty's notations) is an annual publication of the notes written by Czars Alexander III and Nicholas II on the reports of provincial governors. Annual reports of the various government agencies and departments, some of them secret, are included in the collection. A large portion of the books and documents concern military affairs, including Russia's wars of the nineteenth century and the Russo-Japanese War. There are also regimental histories and materials on military schools and military costumes. A wealth of geographic, topographic, and statistical information on Russia's Asiatic possessions may be found in the publications of the General Staff entitled Sbornik geograficheskikh, topograficheskikh i statisticheskikh materialov po Azii (1883-1914) and the Materialy (Proceedings) of the Imperial Commission for the Study of Land Ownership in the Trans-Baikal region (1898).

An acquisition of 9,000 pieces of Slavonic literature, mainly from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, resulted from a purchasing trip made by Avrahm Yarmolinsky and H.M. Lydenberg in Europe during 1923 and 1924. Some 1,000 volumes of history formed a prominent feature of these purchases, and included such source material as Novikov's Drevnyaya Rossiiskaya vivliofika (1788-91) and the Polnoye sobraniye Russkikh letopisei (1853-1922) published under the auspices of the Russian Archaeographic Commission. There were also family records in the archives of Prince Kurakin (1890-1912) and of the Counts Mordvinov (1901-03). Other materials included Skrebitzki's Documents Relating to the Emancipation of the Serfs (1867-68), special studies, local and municipal history, and substantial additions to the library's holdings on Peter the Great and the invasion of Russia by Napoleon.4

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Public Documents

Strong holdings in this area include a complete set of the thirteen sessions of the Imperial Duma, Stenograficheskie otchety (1906-17). There are complete collections of the laws of the Empire in the three series of the Polnoye sobraniye zakonov Rossiiskoi imperii, and in the Svod zakonov Rossiiskoi imperii (1857-1916) and its continuation (1906-14). Other significant items include a substantial file of the official gazette Pravitel' stvennyi vestnik (1869-1917) and of the official journals of the ministries of Education and the Interior. Other public documents were acquired with the library of the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, described above in the section on significant collections.


In addition to the manuscripts in the Kennan collection are approximately 100 letters from eminent Russians, including Tolstoi, Gorki, and Alla Nazimova, written to Isabel F. Hapgood and presented by her to the library. The Russian Historical Archives is a small collection of material principally related to Aleksandr V. Adiassewich, a petroleum engineer and writer on historical subjects, specifically in Armenia, Turkestan, and the Ukraine. Several travel diaries of the mid-nineteenth century describe regions of Russia; the unpublished Polish manuscript, completed about 1908, of Baron Gustav Manteuffel's "History of Livonia" is also included.


The history of revolutionary movements, the Revolution of 1917, and the rise and progress of the Soviet Union are thoroughly covered in the library's holdings in materials in the Cyrillic and Roman alphabets. Every effort has been made to secure the important works of Russian émigrés and representative periodicals. Documentation is not restricted to books, but includes pamphlets, periodicals, clippings, and other ephemeral material. Such "n.c." (not separately cataloged) material is represented only by subject cards in the Public Catalog and division catalogs. The hundreds of uncataloged titles relating to the Soviet, such as leaflets and pamphlets in various languages, volumes of newspaper clippings, and an extensive though incomplete file of Rosta, the mimeographed bulletin of the Ryska Socialistika Federativa Soviet-republikens Telegrambyrĺ of Stockholm, are of interest to the specialist. Works relating to the political theory of the USSR form a very rich collection. Complete holdings of the important Krasnyi archiv: istoricheski zhurnal (1922-41) exemplifies the periodical and society materials available in the collections.

The John Reed collection presented in 1935 consists of material published chiefly in 1917-18. Supplementing the letters of Catherine Breshkovskaya in the Kennan collection (described in the section on significant collections--above--in Imperial Russian history) are 174 letters from her to a Brooklyn resident (1923-34), discussing aid to Russian refugees. The papers of the social reformer and Positivist William Frey include correspondence with Russian liberals and revolutionaries. American communists, and others. The Emma Goldman collection (1917-28) and the Norman Thomas papers (1916-68) include material of interest to students of Soviet history.

Public Documents

Holdings of public documents from the Soviet Union represent an accumulation of all materials available through normal channels of purchase, gift, and exchange. The library receives the Stenograficheski otchet (1939-) of the Supreme Soviet and the official gazette Verkhovnyi sovet vedomosti (1938-), among other materials. Statutes form a considerable if scattered group, consisting mostly of bound volumes of laws in specific fields such as labor accidents or criminal law.

Holdings of public documents for the member republics of the Soviet Union parallel those for the central government. The library receives the proceedings of the Verkhovna Rada of the Ukraine, for example, and also has a large number of individual statutes ranging in time from those published by the Ukrainian Revolutionary Committee in 1919 and 1920, through the laws of the German-occupied Ukraine during World War II, to those of the present. Materials relating to Armenia, Georgia, and the Altaic-speaking peoples of the USSR represent a particular collecting interest of the library. The library receives the official publications of the Communist Party and the local governments of most of the republics of the Soviet Union. Except for the Baltic countries, Belorussia, and the Ukraine, where these publications are in the vernacular, these gazettes are received in Russian-language versions. Particular strengths are noted below.


The file of the Estonian official gazette, Riigi Teataja, is complete from its beginning in 1918 until 1940. The library has received the party and government publication Rahva Hääl since 1959. The proceedings of the Constitutional Assembly, 1919-20, are complete; parliamentary proceedings commence with the second parliament, 1923, and run through 1940.


The collection of Latvian public documents is very extensive until 1940. It includes the parliamentary proceedings from 1918; the legislative journal Likumu un Ministru Kabineta Noteikumu from the beginning (July, 1919), and the official gazette, Valdibas Vestnesis (1922-40, complete). Since 1957 the library has received the Latvian Communist Party and Council of Ministers publication Cina.


The official gazette, Vyriausybes &Zbreve;inios, is complete from 1918 to 1940. The proceedings of Parliament (meeting as the Constitutional Assembly, 1920/22) are complete until 1927, when that body was dissolved. The library currently receives Tiesa, the Communist party publication.


The collection relating to the history of Poland includes more than 3,000 volumes. Accompanying the collections of works of the outstanding Polish historians of the nineteenth century (Lelewel, Kalinka, Szajnocha, Szujski among them), is a great number of the most important works of such modern historians as Korzon, Askenazy,

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Halecki, Konopczynski, Limanowski, Kutrzeba, and Haiman. There is also a considerable number of memoirs, genealogies, and works of political leaders. Specimens of literature that appeared during the German occupation of the country during World War II, as well as selections of books and pamphlets produced by Polish émigrés and displaced persons, are also included in the collections. In 1952 the library received as a gift from the Polish Research and Information Service in New York City a collection of more than 2,000 post-World War II books, pamphlets, and periodicals which document recent trends in life in Poland. There are documentary recordings of interest to the student of twentieth-century Polish history in the Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound (described in chapter 31 of this Guide ).

The small group of old Polish imprints in the library was considerably augmented by the acquisition in 1968 of some 300 pamphlets printed in 0Poland between 1590 and 1802, many of them at the Jesuit press at Wilno. Most of the pamphlets are panegyrics issued to commemorate such state events as royal weddings, declarations of war, or investitures of cardinals, and they contain a wealth of historical and genealogical information. Other early imprints include a rare first edition of Starowolski's Reformacya obyczaiow Polskich (1650?), Szymon Okólski's Orbis Polonus (1641), and Rudawski's Historiarum Poloniae (1755).

Important Polish periodicals and series are well represented. Among other titles are the Monumenta Poloniae Historica (1864-), Akta grodzkie i ziemskie (1868-1931), and the Roczniki dziejów spoecznychi gospodarczych (1931-).

Public Documents

Documents for Poland include the Sprawozdania stenograficzne of the Sejm (1919-) and of the Senat (1922-38). The library currently receives the official gazette, Monitor polski. Statutes include early seventeenth-century and later examples continuing with the Dziennik ustaw (1939-); a separate set published by the government in London during the period from 1939 to 1945 is also available. Other documentary material is largely statistical in nature, although there is much from the Instytut Geologiczny. A few municipal documents, primarily statistical, come from Warsaw, Lodz, and other cities.


The Hardwicke collection in the Manuscripts and Archives Division includes three volumes of official printed and manuscript documents relating to King Augustus II and other Polish matters during the years 1729 to 1731; two additional volumes in the Hardwicke collection contain letters and miscellaneous papers of Count Hoym, minister and diplomat during the same period. Other manuscript items include the official papers of domain councillor von Brause at Peterkau and Posen during the period from 1793 to 1800.


Some 1,400 books and pamphlets document the history of Czechoslovakia. Periodical resources are extensive and are represented by publications such as the Tschechoslovakische Quellen und Dokumente (1931-) and Slovakia (1951-) published by the Slovak League of America.

Among standard histories are titles such as Josef Pekar's Z duchovních d[ecaron]jin [ccaron]eských (1941), Kamil Krofta's Malé D[ecaron]jiny[ccaron]eskoslovenské (1947), and Zden[ecaron]k Václav Tobolka's Politické d[ecaron]jiny [ccaron][ecaron]skoslovenské (1932-37). Dealing specifically with Slovakia are Franti[scaron]ek Bokes's D[ecaron]jiny Slovákov a Slovenska (1946), Slovenské d[ecaron]jiny (1947), Joseph Mirkus's Slovakia: A Political History 1918-1950 (1963), etc. Resources for the study of Bohemia, represented by more than 400 entries in the Public Catalog, include such titles as the Acta Bohemicorum (1621-22), Archiv [ccaron]eský (1872-1921), and the Fontes Rerum Bohemicarum (1873-), in addition to such collections as the Codex Diplomaticus et Epistolaris Regni Bohemiae (1904-65) and Monumenta Cartographica Bohemiae (1930-36). Also present is a first edition (1552) of Bishop Jan Dubravius's history of Bohemia, and a collection of 188 original statutes published in Prague from 1567 to 1823.

Public documents include the T[ecaron]snopisecké zprávy o sch&udot;zích of both the Senate (1920-35) and the Chamber of Deputies (1925-38). The proceedings of the Národní Shromá[zcaron]d[ecaron]ní are available as the Exposé from 1918/20 to 1932/33, and as the T[ecaron]snopisecké zprávy (1948/52-). The library receives the Czechoslovakian official gazette Sbírka Zákon&udot;, which from 1962 has merged with the official statutes.