369 plans of St Petersburg : the July 2018 Slavonic item of the month

UL staff hand provided to show scale.

The University Library has recently acquired a huge facsimile set of architectural plans of St Petersburg dating from the 1730s and 1740s.  Arkhtekturnye chertezhi i plany Sankt-Peterburga (2017) consists of two 52 x 37 centimetre cases of loose-leaf pages showing plans made for Friedrich Wilhelm von Bergholz, and a smaller commentary book.  The publication is Russian but the plans and drawings come from the Nationalmuseum in Sweden, so the new purchase was made with money from the Slavonic and Scandinavian accessions budgets.

St Petersburg was founded by Peter the Great in 1703.  Bergholz spent several years in the 1720s visiting Russia from the Duchy of Holstein, and the drawings of the new city he later commissioned and which are reprinted in this new set will be of particular interest to those looking at the early history of St Petersburg.  The commentary volume gives the following English summary on its cover:

Drawings and blueprints of buildings, panoramas of streets and embankments of St. Petersburg and its suburbs from 1730s -1740s come from the collection of F.W. Bergholtz that was kept in the Swedish National Museum of Fine Arts, Stockholm. The blueprints (253 originals on 369 tablets) are mostly reproduced to scale, faithfully representing the color as well as notes made by Bergholtz himself. Almost all of them were not previously published.

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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

The Empire’s iron road : the October 2016 Slavonic item of the month

This post examines one of the exhibits in the online Crime and Punishment at 150′ exhibition, a 19th-century map of the railway lines in Asian Russia.  Location plays a major part in the novel and was a major focus of the exhibition in turn.  Crime and Punishment is set chiefly in St Petersburg and is full of local detail about the imperial capital.   The Siberian setting of the epilogue is anonymised, in obvious contrast.  This vast map gives a good idea both of the scale of the Asiatic part of the Russian Empire but also of the work involved in laying down in iron the Romanovs’ reach to the East.

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The map was produced in 1899 by the Ministry of Railways (the formal term for railways here, and in the name of the map, is “lines of communication”).  The online image cannot quite convey the extraordinary size of the map.  As its record on iDiscover shows, it is a vast 180 cm wide and 80 cm high.  Our copy is cut into sections to allow the whole to be folded up; one of the internal seams can be seen towards the right in the close-up above.  Dostoevsky served his own sentence in Omsk (shown centre-right here), and this is the location often imagined by readers of Crime and Punishment as Raskolnikov’s place of imprisonment.

As explained in a previous blog post on the exhibition, the captions were written largely by University of British Columbia undergraduates taking a Dostoevsky course.  The caption for this item was written by Olivia Chorny.  “As a convict (for his membership in the Petrashevsky Circle) in Siberia,” she wrote, “Dostoevsky suffered myriad health problems, frostbite, abuse from other prisoners, unimaginable filth, and starvation … Yet his Siberian experience also helped Dostoevsky develop his personal philosophy and ideas about inequality, the nature of freedom, and the importance of hope.” Continue reading

Crimea two years on : the March 2016 Slavonic item(s) of the month

In March 2014, a referendum was held in Crimea which saw its accession to the Russian Federation formalised a couple of days later, while Ukraine and most other countries continue to consider the vote (and annexation) illegal.  Two years on, we look at the latest books to arrive from Ukraine and Russia on the topic.

Books on other aspects of recent Ukrainian political history have also, of course, been continuing to arrive.  Among the most recent is the autobiography of Nadiia Savchenko, the Ukrainian military pilot recently given a long prison sentence for her alleged role in the murder of two Russian journalists (Sil’ne im’ia Nadiia (The strong name of Nadiia [note that “nadiia” is also the word for “hope”];  C210.c.9409)) and a couple of chronologies of the Euromaidan protests (Volodymyr Shcherbak’s Mii Maidan (My Maidan;  C204.d.4618) and Sonia Koshkina’s Maidan (C210.c.9408) – the latter also contains interviews with politicians and political activists).

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Savchenko’s book (left) and Koshkina’s (right)

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The Serov exhibition catalogue : the January 2016 Slavonic item of the month

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Popular demand for the Valentin Serov exhibition at the State Tret’iakov Gallery in Moscow saw its original closing date extended to 24 January.   When visitor numbers even in its re-scheduled final week were so high that 4-hour queues formed outside in sub-zero temperatures,  the gallery extended the opening again, to this Sunday, the 31st.

Visitor sentiment peaked on 22 January, when a door was broken in to gain entrance.  Runet (the unofficial name for the Russian-language internet) promptly filled up with related humour, with the contrast of such high demand at the close of the exhibition’s run with the low visitor numbers seen when it first opened in the autumn a particular target for humour.  A spin on one of Serov’s most famous portraits, ‘Girl with peaches’, for example, had the girl now lifting her hand to her head and wearily saying “that feeling when you’ve been sitting here with peaches since October, and they break the doors down in January” (here).

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