Expanded Guide to the Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System

people gathered

Participants of the session of the executive committee of the World Federation of Trade Unions in Moscow. Image via the Soviet Information Bureau Photograph Collection.

Friday, August 28, 2020

The Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System, implemented at the Davis Center (then the Russian Research Center) in the early 1950s, is a collection of anonymous interviews in which several hundred Soviet displaced persons and defectors described their experiences in the USSR prior to and during World War II. The interviews were made available online in 2005. A unique source for the study of Soviet society between 1917 and the mid-1940s, the HPSSS includes vast amounts of one-of-a-kind data on political, economic, social and cultural conditions. An expanded guide to the collection, authored by David Brandenberger, is now available. 

The new guide contains detailed instructions for navigating the site and lists strategies for using the keyword-search function effectively. It also features an expanded discussion of the project’s origins, limitations, respondent sample, interview methodology, and transcription practices, all of which helps researchers make informed use of the collection. An appendix provides links to all interview transcripts alongside respondents’ demographic data. Hugh Truslow, former Librarian for the Davis Center Collection, calls it “a tremendous addition to the online resource, and a major boon to current and future HPSSS users at all levels.” 

David Brandenberger (Harvard PhD, History, 1999) is Professor of History and Global Studies at the University of Richmond. He writes on Stalin-era propaganda, ideology and nationalism.