Introducing the Digital Handbook for Research on Soviet History

New database connects students and scholars of Soviet history to online primary sources.

The COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine have impeded travel to Eurasia, significantly hitting research on and in the region. A new guide to digital resources—itself an open-access information space—aims to support scholars and students regardless of where they are located. 

The Digital Handbook for Research on Soviet History, developed by the Davis Center with support from the Harvard History Department, is a digital bibliographic resource that helps scholars and students identify and locate online primary source materials for the study of Soviet history. 

The Digital Handbook focuses on three types of digital resources:

  1. Open-access primary sources — digital archives, libraries, collections, exhibits, and digital scholarship projects that provide free online access to unpublished and published primary source materials;
  2. Primary sources in English translation or originally created in English — document collections, diaries, periodicals, fiction, and other materials useful to students and scholars who do not read Russian; and
  3. Digital finding aids for major archives in the post-Soviet space.

Users can find links to these resources and tips on how to use them on the Digital Handbook website. The Handbook also contains information on other bibliographic resources created by Harvard or other institutions. 

All three databases are searchable and browseable by various parameters such as subject, time period, and geographic coverage. 

Digital Handbook for Research on Soviet History screenshot

The Open Access Primary Sources database can be browsed by resource type, geographic location, time period, and subject.

The project aims to expand its reach beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries by featuring regional and local-history resources in non-Russian languages of the former Soviet republics. The Handbook databases have also included resources held or created in Eastern and Central Europe, Asia, and North America, for the benefit of  scholars with a broader spectrum of interests or with access to libraries in those parts of the world.

Terry Martin, the George F. Baker III Professor of Russian Studies at Harvard, first conceived of the project. The “English-Language Primary Sources” section of the website is a reproduction of Martin's earlier bibliographic project, with contributions from David Brandenberger, Katia Dianina, and Mark Baker. Subsequent additions to the database represent a collaboration between graduate students and librarians, including Ph.D. candidate Sophia Horowitz, REECA alum Olga Kuzmina, Svetlana Rukhelman, Librarian for the Davis Center Collection at Fung Library, and Anna Rakityanskaya, Librarian for Russian and Belarusian Collections at Widener Library. REECA alum Yipeng Zhou implemented the digital project, finalizing, augmenting, and/or creating all resource databases and designing the website. Funding was provided by the Davis Center and the Harvard Department of History.

The project team welcomes any suggestions for improving the site. 

A.M. in Regional Studies–REECA

Yipeng Zhou is a graduate of the REECA master's program.

Librarian for the Davis Center Collection

Svetlana Rukhelman is the Librarian for the Davis Center Collection.