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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Trial access to Russian and Ukrainian e-resources : ‘Niva’, ‘Vestnik Evropy’, ‘Za vozvrashchenie na Rodinu’, and the Donetsk/Luhansk newspaper collection

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Niva, Jan. 1900

The University Library has arranged trial access to four new electronic resources on offer from East View.  Please send feedback to slavonic@lib.cam.ac.uk by the end of Tuesday 7 February to meet Accessions Committee deadlines.  Resources with clear academic and student support will then be recommended to the Committee for purchase.

Access (available through Raven or within the cam domain) will last until 21 February.  Details about each backfile/database follow, with individual links.  All resources on trial can also be accessed through the general East View entry on this page. Continue reading

Illustrations for Soviet children (and postcards for Christmas!) : the December 2016 Slavonic item of the month

‘Kniga dlia detei 1881-1939’ (Books for children, 1881-1939; S950.a.200.4173-4174) is a huge two-volume set which contains reproductions of excerpts from beautifully illustrated Russian children’s books.  It was produced in 2009 but is a only a recent arrival in the University Library.

The two volumes (right) and a winter scene (left).

The set is based on the collection of a New York Russian emigre.  Aleksandr Lur’e (or Sasha Lurye) has collected hundreds upon hundreds of late imperial and early Soviet children’s books, a great many of which researchers would struggle to track down in libraries today.  The two volumes follow a roughly chronological order in terms of the books their sections study. Continue reading

Curious indeed : Slavonic material in the new Library exhibition

The second major exhibition celebrating the University Library’s 600th anniversary opens to the public today.  Curious Objects presents “a cabinet of curiosities that opens a window onto the nature of collecting, private and institutional”.  The most modern collection featured is that of Russian and Soviet items left to us by Dr Catherine Cooke, with one of the larger cases in the exhibitions given over to an eye-catching selection of material from the extraordinary collection.

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Some of the Cooke items in ‘Curious Objects’.

One of the items used in the exhibition, a St Petersburg postcard, has already been described in detail in an earlier blog post.  This is displayed next to the wall text introducing the Cooke case, alongside a reproduction of a box of Sputnik cigarettes from the collection.  The case itself contains a total of 45 late imperial and Soviet items.  Among these are 19 postcards (including a pop-up postcard of St Basil’s Cathedral), 5 bookmarks, 4 badges, 2 packets of tea, and 1 paper bag.  Together, the exhibits give some idea of the rich variety of the Cooke collection.  Dr Cooke built up a wonderful research library of books and journals on Soviet architecture and design and also collected postcards, posters, and mixed ephemera.

The exhibition will run until 21 March 2017.  Online images of the Cooke exhibition material, accompanied by extended captions, are available here: https://exhibitions.lib.cam.ac.uk/curiousobjects/case/cooke/

Mel Bach