Slavic and Eurasian Studies: A Research Guide

1. Introduction

This guide provides a starting point for research for students, faculty, and visiting researchers in Slavic and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University. It includes selective lists of reference resources, both online and in print, which will lead you to books, articles, reviews, media, and websites. Harvard has one of the largest Slavic collections outside of Russia and Eastern Europe and we invite you to read more About Harvard's Slavic Collection and Its History below.

The content of this web guide has been compiled by the librarians and staff of the Slavic Division and the research contacts listed below.

Research Contacts

For Languages and Literatures: Email Hugh Truslow, Librarian for the Davis Center Collection, Library Liaison for Slavic Languages and Literature or contact by phone at 617-495-4030.

For requests for new materials and inquiries about the cataloging of the Slavic collection: Email Bradley L. Schaffner, Head, Slavic Division in Widener Library.

About Harvard's Slavic Collection and Its History

Harvard University holds one of the largest Slavic collections outside the Former Soviet Union and East Central Europe. The main collection of over 850,000 volumes in the areas of the humanities and social sciences is housed in the Widener Libraries and supported by the Slavic Division of the Harvard College Library. Manuscripts, rare books, and materials in the areas of fine arts, music, anthropology, ethnology, law, and science are found in other libraries of the Harvard College Library (such as the Fine Arts Library, Houghton Library, the Loeb Music Library, and Tozzer Library); as well as in libraries of other faculties, such as the Law School Library.

The Slavic Division has as its mission the documentation of the Slavic and Baltic countries throughout history in order to support the teaching and research at Harvard and to serve as a resource for the scholarly community. To carry out this mission, the staff of the Slavic Division collects in great depth materials from Russia, Eastern and Central Europe, Central Asia, and the Caucasus in all Slavic, Baltic and Western languages, and from various émigré communities from these areas scattered throughout the world. In addition to books, serials and microforms, the Division collects non-book materials, such as videos, CD-ROM's, posters and ephemera, and electronic databases with Slavic content.

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The Harvard College Library began to expand its acquisitions into areas concerning Eastern and Central Europe, Russia, and Eurasia towards the end of the nineteenth century with the introduction at Harvard University of courses in Old Church Slavonic, Polish, and Russian. Many of the earliest Slavic acquisitions came to Harvard through gifts and contributions from Archibald Cary Coolidge (Harvard Class of 1887), Professor of History and Director of the University Library (1910-1928), who anticipated teaching and research needs of future generations of Slavists and built major collections in the area at a time when only a handful of American scholars were prepared to use them. Thanks to his pioneering leadership, the Harvard Slavic collection grew from about 3,500 volumes in the mid-1890s to 30,000 volumes by the mid-1930s. By then, this sizeable collection also came to support teaching in the areas of Czech, Slovak, Serbo-Croatian, and Ukrainian. Despite this growth, however, in the years following World War I, the regular acquisition of well-rounded collections of publications in all Slavic languages remained out of reach; and it became nearly impossible during World War II. Nonetheless, the Library maintained its commitment to this area in the hopes that the Library would be reasonably prepared to cope with the influx of material after the war.

A systematic plan for the development of Harvard's Slavic library collections began in the mid-1950s following the creation of the Russian Research Center in 1948, and the official establishment of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures in 1949. After years when it had been difficult to obtain material from behind the Iron Curtain, the Library suddenly faced a flood of Slavic publications and made more Slavic acquisitions than during any previous decade, including the significant contributions to Harvard's collection of Slavic early printing, history, and literature made by Bayard L. Kilgour, Jr. (Harvard Class of 1927). The 1960s and 1970s brought a concerted effort to fill in gaps in Harvard's Slavic collections and the Library set out to complete sets of Slavic periodicals and to search out originals, copies and microfilms of out-of-print research materials, particularly from the Russian revolutionary period through the first half of the 20th century. With the formation of the Committee on Ukrainian Studies in 1968 and the establishment of the Ukrainian Research Institute in 1973, the Library also began to acquire unparalleled collections of Ukrainian material from private collectors. During the 1980s, the focus turned towards preserving Harvard’s Slavic holdings and towards raising endowed book funds to ensure future research needs and acquisitions. At the same time, the Slavic Division developed an elaborate network of exchange relationships throughout the Slavic world by which it acquired works in nearly all disciplines of the social sciences and humanities. As a result of these strategic decisions, Harvard’s Slavic collection grew from about 124,000 titles in 1950 to nearly 800,000 by 1998. Proceeding from an acquisition rate of approximately 500 volumes per year in the late 1940s to 1,000 volumes per month in the 1960s, the Harvard College Library’s Slavic collection has grown to an acquisition rate of approximately 1,700 volumes per month at the turn of the twenty-first century. Thus, even before the deluge of publications that attended the break-up of the Soviet empire in the Baltics, Eurasia, and East-Central Europe, Harvard University managed to acquire the single largest academic collection of Slavic materials in the world.

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Page Last Reviewed: April 29, 2010