Forms of modernism and samizdat : bibliographical notes on recent CamCREES seminars

The CamCREES bibliographical notes have lapsed of late, with many of the 2016 seminars missed due to trips away, but it is a pleasure to resurrect them to discuss the three seminars which the Lent Term provided – a talk on early Russian modernism and two on Soviet underground literature.

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The live bibliographical notes.

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Gete = Goethe in Russian : the April 2017 Slavonic item(s) of the month

In the last couple of weeks, we have taken delivery of a wonderful new addition to our collections: the earliest published Russian translation of Goethe’s Faust (1838).  This joins two similar relative newcomers – the first full(ish) Russian Faust (1844) and the first Russian translation of another Goethe work, Götz von Berlichingen (1828).

The title page of the 1844 translation of Faust.

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The European University at St. Petersburg : the March 2017 Slavonic item(s) of the month

The last few weeks have seen the European University at St. Petersburg (EUSP) pushed ever closer to closing its doors since the university’s controversial investigation by the education ministry’s inspectorate began last summer, with its future now hanging in the balance in the Russian courts.  This blog post looks at recent books produced by EUSP’s excellent publishing arm.

EUSP, a private graduate university, has gained admiration since its foundation in 1994 for its work in the social sciences and humanities, as witnessed by the letters of support it has received in recent months within Russia and across the world (English versions can be seen  here: https://eu.spb.ru/en/news?filter_40=support_letters).  For the librarian, their izdatel’stvo (publishing house) is a great boon.  Their contributions to the fields of art and philology are important acquisitions, but their social science output is particularly valuable, filling gaps in the Russian academic market.  Three EUSP titles have been added to the catalogue this week, and they are our March 2017 items of the month.

L-R ‘Natsiia’, ‘Krest’ianskaia ssora’, ‘Vasilii Kamenskii’

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The 1917 Russian Revolution, version 1.0

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Postcard showing a funeral procession for the February Revolution dead, on Nevsky Prospect. From the Catherine Cooke Collection.

One hundred years ago, Russia was in the grip of the February Revolution.  By the Revolution’s end, the Tsar and his government had been overthrown.  1917 had now seen the unthinkable happen, as hundreds of years of tsarist rule were overturned.  Yet this was just the beginning of a world-changing year.

First, a pedant’s note about months.  Many readers will know that the February and October Revolutions refer to the Julian calendar, and are what we usually refer to as dates in the “Old Style”.  In the Gregorian calendar (whose dates are “New Style”), the February Revolution took place in March and the October Revolution in November.  The names have, however, always stuck.  The Soviets formally adopted the Gregorian calendar in early 1918 but the Fevral’skaia revoliutsiia and Oktiabr’skaia revoliutsiia remained untouched.

While we normally write in this blog about books held by Cambridge, and while 1917-related UL material will certainly be studied in future posts, today’s post celebrates instead a freely available online initiative set up to mark the Russian centenary, the fascinating site 1917: svobodnaia istoriia (1917: free history): https://project1917.ru/  Designed specifically for a modern audience accustomed to real-time updates, the site covers the events of one hundred years ago, “as described by those involved … [using] only diaries, letters, memoirs, newspapers and other documents.”  Illustrated with photos, art, and newsreel footage from the time, 1917: svobodnaia istoriia is absolutely captivating and terrifyingly good at bringing extremely turbulent times to life.

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In with the old : the January 2017 Slavonic item(s) of the month

Russian rules allow the export of modern books that are a maximum of 50 years old.  Towards the end of each calendar year, I therefore have a look at the books soon to turn 51 which are available for purchase from Ozon, a Russian online shop in the mould of Amazon.  These are almost always incredibly cheap and in impressively good condition, and it is impossible to resist buying rather a lot.

Last month, then, I bought 55 books published in 1966.  While the emphasis of Russian modern book selection would clearly be on Russian and East European culture and history, the table below (and the illustrations above it) show that my eye was drawn to less standard subjects for this older material.  Technology, for example, came second overall – seeing how mid-century Soviets developed and wrote about computers, for example, could quite conceivably spark someone’s interest in the future.

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Left to right: books on nuclear submarines, where to spend a day out in and near Leningrad, computer programming, choosing an amateur film camera, food preservation, space exploration, and calculators.

Fine arts (includes architecture) 7
Geography 6
History 12
Language and literature 2
Law 1
Medicine 2
Performing arts (cinema etc) 7
Political sciences 2
Religion 1
Sciences 3
Social sciences 2
Technology 9

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