Russia abroad : the May 2019 Slavonic items of the month

Earlier this week, Vera Tsareva-Brauner gave a talk at the University Library about Ivan Bunin and other Russian émigré literary figures, and this blog post looks at a couple of recent arrivals to the UL about the émigré Russian world.

The Russian Revolutions of 1917 and the ensuing Civil War saw the departure from Russia of many hundreds of thousands of people, many significant intellectual figures among them.  The Revolution-related exodus is commonly named the First (or White) Wave.  The Second Wave followed World War 2 and the Third Wave took place in the later decades of the Soviet period.

In 1995, the Dom russkogo zarubezhʹia imeni Aleksandra Solzhenitsyna (the Alexander Solzhenitsyn House of Russia Abroad) opened in Moscow.  One of the House’s activities is the publication of various research titles and source material about the various Soviet emigration waves.  An advanced search in iDiscover for the keywords Dom russkogo zarubezhʹia Solzhenitsyna in the publisher field brings up, at the time of writing, 14 results.  Among these, the newest arrival is 1917 god v istorii i sudʹbe rossiĭskogo zarubezhʹi︠a︡ (1917 in the history and fate of Russian émigrés; C215.c.2825), a set of papers from a conference held in 2017.  The book’s cover, featuring a detail from Konstantin Iuon’s stunning Novaia planeta painting (which also provided the cover image for the Royal Academy’s Revolution exhibition catalogue), is shown here.  The conference papers are divided into three sections:

  • 1916 and Russian émigrés : politics, ideology, culture : historical significance and everyday practices
  • The intellectual contribution of Russian émigrés to cultural progress (“развитие цивилизационного процесса”)
  • The genealogy of memory : family histories, museums, archives, cemeteries of Russian émigrés

Many of the First Wave émigrés wrote accounts of their lives in Russia and abroad, and another recent arrival from another publisher is the 2-volume set of memoirs of Emmanuil Bennigsen (C215.c.2826-2827).  Bennigsen held various political positions in Imperial Russia and was closely involved in humanitarian efforts to help Russian soldiers and prisoners of war in World War 1.  He fought in the White Army during the Civil War and then emigrated to France for some years before finally settling in Brazil.  The memoirs are divided into the separate volumes by the fateful year of 1917.

How might one find similar memoirs in the catalogue?  Where a significant emphasis is on the émigré aspect of someone’s life, cataloguers would often add a subject heading along the lines of: Russians–Foreign countries–Biography.  (This will appear in the Bennigsen record when the overnight update of iDiscover replaces the poor current record with our improved version.)  The Foreign countries section can be replaced by a more specific place name (eg France) where appropriate.

Often the emphasis of the autobiography is on the person’s experience of the October Revolution or Civil War, in which case a heading like Soviet Union–History–Revolution, 1917-1921–Personal narratives, Russian would be used.  For non-biographical books, the same subject headings should be applied but without the Biography and Personal narratives subdivisions.

Mel Bach

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