‘Krokodil’ and ‘Literaturnaia gazeta’ electronic backfiles

Front cover of the 1/1946 issue of 'Krokodil', showing the eponymous crocodile.

Front cover of the 1/1946 issue of ‘Krokodil’, showing the eponymous crocodile.

Thanks to vocal support from researchers across the University following trial access earlier this year, the Library has now purchased permanent access to the electronic backfiles of Krokodil and Literaturnaia gazeta.  These purchases provide our readers with full accessibility to these very important titles for the first time.

First published in 1929, Literaturnaia gazeta (Literary paper) provided a remarkably open forum for intellectual debate throughout the Soviet period.  Despite its title, the paper covered a whole range of cultural subjects, such as film and music.  Publication was halted during part of the Second World War but resumed in 1944.  The first issue that year came out on the 1st of November, by which point the Soviet army had pushed the front almost beyond the borders of the Soviet Union.  This context explains why much of the issue treats the war as something past.  The first two of its four pages are given over to political reports about the successes of the Soviet army and celebration of the recent anniversary of the October Revolution.  Page 3 starts with a call to the intelligentsia to help inspire workers and collective farmers to further the national economy.  The call (shown in the illustration below) is followed by pieces by writers such as Il’ia Erenburg about literature and the war.  The final page includes a feature called ‘What I read in the war’, but also talks about events unrelated to the war such as the unveiling of a memorial to the Russian polymath Lomonosov in Moscow.

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The chance to browse through Literaturnaia gazeta so effortlessly is a particular strength here. Few libraries hold anything close to complete runs (even the electronic version lacks a few issues), and the physical quality of the title – each issue printed on a few now fragile sheets – has always been problematic for those using it. The electronic backfile allows easy browsing and, as is standard in East View digital archives, full text searchability. The archive will be added to annually, with each previous calendar year’s issues added.

Creating the digital archive of the satirical magazine Krokodil, which ran from 1922 to 2008 (including a brief period as Novyi krokodil), posed a new challenge for East View, who have previously digitised only text-heavy titles.  Krokodil is extraordinary not only for the often surprisingly wide range of targets of its satire, with few elements of Soviet life spared, but also for its rich illustrative content.  The image below shows the pages contained in four issues published in the 1950s.  As the snapshots show, Krokodil‘s visual side was a major part of the publication, sometimes serving as illustrations to accompany text, sometimes as the main piece itself (Krokodil was famous for its cartoons).

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East View have scanned the backfile to preserve the colour of the original.  Furthermore, they have added searchable word tags to images so that readers can run a text search to find both text and images relating to a particular person or organisation.  At the time of writing, the search facility appears to be a little reluctant to work fully, to which we will alert the company.  In the meantime, readers can enjoy the ability to browse through images of the full run of Krokodil; a remarkable resource which we are very glad to have been able to add to our electronic collections.

Both resources can be accessed on campus or with a Raven password through the main East View database site, linked to from the Library’s eresources pages here.

Mel Bach

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