Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System

(Harvard Emigre Interview Project)

These are the materials of Harvard's huge 1951-1953 project to do in-depth sociological interviews with Soviet emigres resident in Germany and the United States. The project was funded to the tune of $1,000,00.00 by the U.S. Air Force and ultimately contacted over 2,000 Soviet emigrants. Scholars did in-depth personal interviews with something over 1,000 of these. Among the organizers and interviewers in the project there were a number of scholars who were, or became, prominent in the field of Soviet studies, including Alex Inkeles, Merle Fainsod, Alexander Dallin, Raymond Bauer, Mark Field, and Paul Friedrich.

The best place to begin your work with the projects materials is on this new website where you can find the digitized finding aids and the documents themselves: http://hcl.harvard.edu/collections/hpsss/index.html

I would advise the researcher to go through Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer's August 1980 guide to the HPSSS documents, "Materials for the Project on the Soviet Social System," and also John Witherspoon's 2002 Harvard B.A. thesis, "Questioning a Source: A Critical Analysis of the Refugee Interview Project from the Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System," both of which are available at the Davis Center Library. These will acquaint the reader with the origin and organization of the materials. Another important background source on the project is Alex Inkeles and Raymond A. Bauer, The Soviet Citizen: Daily Life in a Totalitarian Society (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, Russian Research Center Series no. 35, 1959), written based on the interviews.

There were three sets of interviews conducted: Merle Fainsod's and Paul Friedrich's preliminary interviews in Munich in 1949, done to test the viability of the project, hundreds of standardized "A-Schedule" interviews that covered a range of topics such as labor relations, family relations, business and industry, etc, and dozens of "B-Schedule" interviews that each pinpointed a particular topic, such as labor relations. At the Davis Center library the transcripts (these are actually summaries of answers, rather than literal transcripts) of A-Schedule interviews are bound in 37 volumes. The summary transcripts of B-Schedule interviews are in two file boxes (ask Erik Zitser where they are), as are the preliminary interviews. Widener Library also has bound copies of the A-Schedule interview transcripts (call number should be Slav 1711.10), and there is are multiple microfilm copies at the Harvard Depository. Documents on the planning and execution of the project are now in the Russian Research Center collection of the Harvard University Archive.

Finding Aids -- Fainsod, Inkeles, et al attempted to categorize the raw data (summary transcripts of interviews) by developing a number code identifying different topics and then creating an index identifying where in a given interview specific topics were discussed. Thus, to use the project finding aids effectively, the researcher first needs a knowledge of the topic coding, which s/he can get by looking through the "Manual for Use with A-Schedule Materials of the Qualitative File." This is a bound volume shelved in the reference section of the Davis Center library. Learning the code numbers can be a bit confusing unless the researcher understands that the first two numbers of a code stand for a general topic (10 = "Labor") and subsequent numbers narrow the topic (1010 = respondent's work history; 105 = forced labor, and so on).

Once the researcher has some familiarity with the topic coding system s/he can turn to the "Qualitative File: 'A' Schedule Category Listings," also a bound volume shelved with the Davis Center library reference materials. This guide is organized by interview number and shows where in a given interview specific topics are discussed. There appears to be no index that shows all of the interviews in which discussion of a given topic occurs. The best way to use the "'A' Schedule Category Listings" would probably be to learn topic codes relevant to one's research and then go through the guide interview by interview, noting interview numbers and appropriate pages where the topic is addressed. One could then find the right interviews and page numbers in the bound volumes of the A-Schedule interviews.

B-Schedule categories are nearly identical to A-Schedule categories. The B-Schedule interviews targeted especially knowledgeable persons for information about particular general categories ("Labor," "Education") and are filed by general category in their file boxes. According to Balzer there are more specific category indexes filed with each group of B-Schedule interviews, but I could find none.

There are also numerous unpublished reports based on the interviews on the reference shelves in the Davis Center library.
Finally, the Harvard Depository holds filing cabinets which contain snippets of A- and B-Schedule interviews filed according to particular topic codes.