Widener Library Announces Latest Digital Projects Pertaining to Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia

woman holding sign

The so-called mikropiket (one-person protest) is the only type of public political protest allowed by Russian law without prior permission. Harvard Library is preparing a digital collection of images taken by Russian photographers documenting the protests.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Over the past year Widener Library has been busy implementing a number of digital projects pertaining to Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia. Here’s a summary.

Digital Resources for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies 

A new Harvard Library resource guide, Digital Resources for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies, brings together online resources for research in post-Soviet and Eurasian studies available via Harvard digital platforms or produced and freely accessible outside the Harvard system. The Harvard Library’s digital collection includes a robust and constantly growing collection of databases, indexes, e-books and journals, digitized archives, video streaming services, digital images, and other resources. In addition, more and more primary and secondary sources are becoming openly accessible online thanks to the efforts of international bibliographic services, national archives, libraries, and research institutions.

Russian E-Books

The Library recently expanded its holdings of Russian e-books, adding 900 more titles to the East View E-Books collection. The new titles were published between 2018 and 2020 by Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, Iazyki slavianskikh kultur, Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniia, Nestor-Istoriia, Pashkov dom, Progress-traditsiia, Rossiiskaia natsionalnaia biblioteka, ROSSPEN, Sankt-Peterburgskii gosudarstvennyi universitet, Vysshaia shkola ekonomiki, and other publishers. At present the Harvard Library’s East View E-Books collection includes over 1,500 Russian titles in the social sciences and humanities, fiction, poetry, reference works (dictionaries, catalogs, encyclopedias, etc.), statistical publications, as well as issues 1–15 of the series Dostoevskii : materialy I issledovaniia, Bolshaia sovetskaia entsiklopediia 1926-1947, Glas magazine (1992-2014), volumes from the Polnoe sobranie russkikh letopisei series and 43 volumes of Sbornik boevykh dokumentov Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny, 1941-1945. Additionally, Harvard Library users have access to over 6,000 Russian-language fiction, poetry, drama, and non-fiction titles by over 300 authors via a full-text searchable Essential Russian Classics collection.

Literary Authors from Europe and Eurasia

screenshot of library website

The Literary Authors from Europe and Eurasia Web Archive brings together websites related to literary authors (of both fiction and non-fiction essays), translators, critics, and publishers from Europe and Eurasia. The project launched in May 2019 aims to preserve the history of the contemporary literary process as reflected in the non-print publishing activity of important literary figures and organizations. Their websites represent a key addition to the traditional literary archives and by preserving them the curators strive to assure the continuing availability of this potentially ephemeral content to researchers and scholars. Since the advent of web publishing many authors have taken their texts to the new media, often maintaining online diaries, commenting on literary and political events, and simply having personal websites complete with biographies, schedules of appearances, audio and visual materials as well as literary and critical texts. It is not unusual for poets and prose writers alike to test out their new texts on their social media audiences. All these sources serve as key additions to the traditional archives and are of great value for researchers. At the same time due to the nature of the internet, political pressures in Eastern Europe and Eurasia and brevity of human life these materials are fragile and will perish if not preserved.

The project archives the following types of sites:

  • Personal websites
  • Social media accounts and blogs (LiveJournal only at this point)
  • Sites of literary organizations and awards

The Literary Authors from Europe and Eurasia Web Archive is an initiative developed by librarians at Columbia University, Harvard University, Princeton University, and Yale University, under the auspices of the Ivy Plus Libraries Confederation. The collection is curated by Anna Rakityanskaya (Harvard), Thomas Keenan (Princeton), Robert Davis (Columbia), and Anna Arays (Yale). As of March 25 2020 the archive lists 83 sites in 11 languages from 13 countries. The archive content can be accessed directly from its Archive-It page or from Worldcat. Anyone can recommend a web site for archiving by following this link and answering a simple questionnaire.

In Progress: Special Digital Collections

Video appeals to the President of Russia

screenshot of video

For this project we are collecting and archiving online videos created as direct appeals to Vladimir Putin by Russian citizens. V. V. Putin has been President of Russia since 2012, previously holding the position from 2000 until 2008. His televised Direct Lines with Russian citizens, during which he answers questions from audiences all across Russia, have been broadcast yearly since 2001 (including 2008–2012, when he served as prime minister), featuring live calls or pre-recorded video appeals from ordinary citizens drawing attention to various local problems and asking the president to take them under his personal control. In addition to the video appeals recorded for the Direct Lines, the project will include video appeals to the President recorded by various groups and individuals in Russia trying to get him directly involved in resolving various social, economic and environmental issues by personally pressuring local authorities. Some videos are recorded by citizens who wish to simply express their opinion on the President’s work, give him advice or send him good wishes. Please visit the project information page on the AEOD site to learn more about this collection as we continue to develop it.

One-Person Protest in Russia: Photographs

woman holding sign

Harvard Library is currently preparing a digital collection of photographs taken by Russian photographers during the so-called one-person protests. This format (“mikropiket”) is the only type of public political protest allowed by Russian law without prior permission and consists of a person standing in a public place (such as at the Presidential administration building or a large public square) holding up an often handmade poster emphasizing a political or legal issue that needs attention. A special branch of that activism, “metropiket” (initiated by Mikhail Pletnev of the Yabloko party and the Association of Independent Municipal Deputies of Moscow) is a movement that organizes individual protest at subway (metro) stations. Participants are asked to protest at a subway entrance with the goal of raising public awareness of various political and human rights issues. They are also asked to have their photos taken there and posted on social media to normalize the idea of peaceful political protest. The collection contains roughly 1,000 photographs taken in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Rostov-na-Donu, Krasnoiarsk, Kostroma, Arkhangelsk, and Ekaterinburg.

To learn more about any of these digital initiatives, contact Anna Rakityanskaya, Slavic Librarian, at rakityan@fas.harvard.edu.