Russian Archives Online
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Within Hoover's extensive collections on twentieth century Russia and other former Soviet republics, certain areas are particularly well documented. The late pre-revolutionary Russian Empire (ca. 1870-1917) is represented by a large collection of publications, many rare and even unique in the United States. There are especially strong holdings on
Nearly complete documentation is available in the library on Russian legislation, the dumas, and the first general census of 1897. Files of prerevolutionary periodicals and newspapers are abundant.
In addition, Russian and Soviet materials are among the most significant of the Hoover Institution's archival holdings, comprised of approximately 1000 individual collections. They document the tsarist regime between 1880 and 1917 (especially diplomacy), revolution and counterrevolution, war relief, civil war, emigre' movements, and the USSR.
The Hoover collection on the 1917 revolutions, the provisional government, and the civil war is probably the best collection in the West. Documentation on the provisional government, including official gazettes, legislation, and ministerial publications, is extensive, as is research material on the civil war, including activities in Ukraine, Byelorussia, Siberia, the Caucasus, Central Asia and Mongolia.
The largest part of the library collection deals with the Soviet period. Subject areas particularly well covered are
Outstanding coverage is found for
For the postcommunist period strengths are found in
The Institution's archives possesses over 250 individual archives on Imperial Russia and the Provisional Government period, constituting the most significant accumulation of documentation on pre-1917 Russia anywhere outside of that country. The Nicolas de Basily Room is the centerpiece of the collection. It is the result of the generosity of Mrs.Lascelle de Basily, who created this memorial to her husband, Nicolas de Basily, a Russian diplomat and statesman who left Russia after the revolution of 1917. The room contains his extraordinary collection of portraits of Russian emperors, courtiers, diplomats, and statesmen; landscape paintings; miniatures; and other works of art. Most remarkable are the portraits of reigning sovereigns: Empress Elizabeth, Empress Catherine II (Catherine the Great), her husband Peter III, their son Emperor Paul I, and Paul's son Emperor Alexander I.
Original manuscript materials on the Imperial Russian family are especially noteworthy. There are fifteen manuscript boxes of letters written by Mariia Feodorovna (empress-consort of Alexander III, emperor of Russia) to Alexandra (queen-consort of Edward VII, king of Great Britain), letters of Georgii Mikhailovich (grand duke of Russia), and letters of Kseniia Aleksandrovna (grand duchess of Russia and sister of Nicholas II, emperor of Russia). Other nobility represented in the collection include Princess Barbara Dolgorouky, Baroness Maria F. Meiendorf, the Cherkasskii family, and the Obolenskii family.
Diplomatic and political papers on pre-1917 Russia are extensive. They include among others the records of the Russian embassies in Paris (1917-1924) and Washington, D.C. (1900-1933); records of the Russian consulates and legations in various German cities (1828-1914); the Paris files of the Imperial Russian secret police (Okhrana); and papers of numerous Imperial Russian and Provisional Government officials, such as Nicolas Alexandrovich de Basily (deputy director of the Chancellery of Foreign Affairs, 1917), Sergei Dmitrievich Sazonov (minister of foreign affairs, 1910-1916), Vasilii Alekseevich Maklakov (ambassador of the Provisional Government to France, 1917-1924), Dimitrii Nikolaevich Liubimov (chief of staff of the Ministry of Interior, 1902-1906), Mikhail Vasil'evich Alekseev (chief of staff of the Russian Imperial Army), and Dimitrii Grigorevich Shcherbachev (general, Imperial Russian Army).
The tsarist secret police, known as the Okhrana, maintained an office at the Imperial Russian Embassy in Paris to monitor the activities of revolutionaries who were trying to topple the tsar. The files of this organization are a unique source on the internal operations of the revolution. Covering the period 1883 to 1917, the files include transcripts of intercepted letters from suspected revolutionaries, police photographs, code books, over 40,000 reports from 450 agents and informers operating in twelve countries, and dossiers on all of the major revolutionary figures.
Another extremely valuable collection on revolutionary Russia consists of rare materials assembled by Boris I. Nicolaevsky, who was a prominent Menshevik during the Russian Revolution. Following the revolution, he emigrated to Paris and was later described by Lenin's biographer Louis Fischer as "undoubtedly the greatest expert in the Western world on Soviet politics and Marx." His collection contains rich documentation about the party and prerevolutionary Russia, including letters and papers from Trotsky, Lenin, Bakunin, Herzen, Lavrov, Plekhanov, Akselrod, Martov, Tseretelli, and Chernov. In the Trotsky file are approximately three hundred letters exchanged between Leon Trotsky and Leon Sedov, Trotsky's son and closest political collaborator. The letters, which were recently added to the collection following the death of Nicolaevsky's widow, cover the period 1931-1938 and reflect Trotsky's thoughts and recollections during a crucial period of political upheaval in the Soviet Union, when Stalin purged the communist system of Trotsky's influence.
The Herman Axelbank Film Collection on Russia (1890-1970) contains 250,000 feet of film documenting activities of the tsar, his family, and his associates; the two Russian revolutions of 1917 and their leaders; the Provisional and Soviet governments; Soviet military forces in World War II; and Russian culture and economy. It includes film of the March 1921 Kronstadt mutiny, the first purge trials of Social Revolutionaries in June 1922, and many political figures of the time (Kerensky, Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Stalin). According to one film expert, it is "undoubtedly the largest and most valuable film collection devoted to the subject of revolutionary and prerevolutionary Russia in the Western hemisphere, and probably in the Western world."
The Russian Civil War period is well represented in the archives by the papers of Mikhail Nikolaevich de Giers (chief diplomatic representative of the Vrangel' Government), Petr Nikolaevich Vrangel' (commander of the White Russian Volunteer Army, 1920), Nikolai Nikolaevich Iudenich (commander of the White Russian Northwest Expedition, 1918-1920), Boris Vladimirovich Heroys (chief of the White Russian Military Mission to London), and Evgenii Karlovich Miller (chief military representative of General Vrangel' in Paris).
Apart from the unique tsarist secret police files and the Axelbank film collection, the archives holds extensive documentation on the communist seizure of power in the countries of East Central Europe and the Baltic states after World War II. These materials include, for example, some 43,000 certificates issued to prisoners released from forced labor camps in the Gulag Archipelago.
At the present time the Institution continues to build the collection on Russia, the Soviet Union and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Of special interest are several areas of recent acquisitions.
The first is the Russian Archives Preservation Project. Between 1992 and 1996 the Hoover Institution and the State Archival service of the Russian Federation carried out a cooperative project to microfilm selected documents of the Soviet Communist Party and the Soviet State. The project produced more than 7,000 reels of microfilm, or more than 8.5 million frames.
The second is the Russian/Soviet Oral History Collection. This consists of audio taped interviews of political figures of the former Soviet Union (such as old Bolsheviks and former members of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party) and prominent players in today's Russia (for example personages from the "Perestroika" period and leaders of current political parties and movements). More than one hundred such interviews have been completed and the work continues.
The third area is the Russian/Soviet Opposition Press Collection. From 1987 to the present the Russian/CIS Collection has been amassing the political opposition press from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and other parts of the former Soviet Union. From 1987 to 1991 the opposition consisted of the "democrats"; since 1991 it has consisted of the communists and others on the left as well as the national patriotic groups and fascists on the right. Today the political opposition press collection is comprised of nearly 3,000 serial titles (some 20,000 individual issues) and is probably the largest such collection in North America, filling approximately 300 manuscript boxes. Bibliographic data on the holdings is available online at Hoover Institution's Web site.
For several years Hoover has been building an archival collection of political party documents from postcommunist Russia and other former Soviet republics. More than one hundred political parties and social action groups are represented in the collection by such materials as programs, platforms, by-laws, constitutions, minutes of meetings and congresses, leaflets and posters. The most outstanding part of this collection is a copy of the archives of the Democratic Russia Movement, an umbrella political organization of Russian democratic parties and groups. The Democratic Russia Movement was a moving force behind Boris N. Yeltsin's campaign for the Russian presidency in 1991.
Since 1989 Hoover has made a major effort to collect all possible materials (official publications, books, pamphlets, brochures, photos, leaflets, posters, candidates' ephemera, buttons,and artifacts) dealing with national elections in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, as well as selected local elections, such as Crimea, Vologda Oblast, Komi Republic and Altai Krai. Hoover is a prime location for anyone wishing to study such elections.
Finally, Hoover is collecting documentary materials on the so-called "hot spots" in the former Soviet Union: Transdnestria, Crimea, Abkhazia, Southern Ossetia, Chechnia and Karabakh. For example, for Transdnestria there are materials from Igor Mikhailov, the former representative of Transdnestria to Moscow; for Abkhazia, materials from Taras Shamba, president of the World Congress of Abkhaz and Abaza Peoples; and for Karabakh, the Vahan Emin Collection on Armenians in Azerbaijan.