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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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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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

Gorbachev’s collected works : the August 2016 Slavonic item of the month

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The portraits from v. 1 and 26 of the newly acquired set

This month, we look at a recent political addition to the collections – the works of Mikhail Gorbachev – and examine the publications of his Soviet leader predecessors.

The University Library already holds dozens of titles by Gorbachev, chiefly from his 1985-1991 time in office.  The earliest is the 383-page ‘Izbrannye rechi i stat’i’ (Selected speeches and articles; 231.c.98.626) which is followed by a mixture of very short printings of speeches and much longer books.  The majority of our Gorbachev material is in English.  Russian comes a fairly distant second, and Chinese, German, and Belarusian account for the remainder.  Among our stock are biographies (Russian at 586:95.c.95.297-298; English at 586:95.c.95.315) as well as Soviet and post-Soviet political writings.

By the time Gorbachev’s works started to be published as a collected corpus, Politizdat (short for Izdatel’stvo politicheskoi literatury) – the official Soviet political publishing house – had long ceased to exist.  The set is instead being published by the private Ves’ Mir publishers in Moscow in conjunction with the Gorbachev Foundation.  Between 2008 and 2015, 26 volumes were published, covering the period of November 1961 (starting with a speech by the 22-year-old Gorbachev to the Stavropol’ Komsomol committee) to July 1991, with the Foundation’s preface to volume 1 stating clearly the intention for the set to cover the post-1991 period too.  The Library has managed to pick up 24 of the 26 volumes this summer, with volumes 22 and 25 lacking at the time of writing.  We intend to fill these gaps and order future volumes as and when they are published.  The volumes we have already can be ordered through the Reading Room from C211.c.5890- .

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Three Soviet anthologies : the July 2016 Slavonic item(s) of the month

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From cover of Shkol’nyi teatr

This month, we look at three old and new books.  Old to the Cambridge system but new to the University Library, the three anthologies offer interesting glimpses into the publishing world of the post-WW2 Stalinist period.

Hundreds of Slavonic books have recently started to be transferred to the University Library from the Modern and Medieval Languages Faculty Library (MML) as the MML makes space for new books coming in to support courses taught by the Department of Slavonic Studies.  The history of the MML and UL’s Slavonic collections – a subject for a separate blog post – means that the former holds many early and Soviet literary editions which the latter lacks. As a result, we are taking close to 100% of the books they have withdrawn which are not already in the UL, and it is a pleasure to be able to add these books to our collections.  Listed below are three examples from the Soviet period.  In all three, the parental guiding hand of the state is very clearly seen, and a paternalistic Stalin features in many of the anthologised works. Continue reading