Guide to the Research Collections



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.