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Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia: A Research Guide: Primary Sources and Archives


  • Primary Sources in the PUL Rare Books and Special Collections Department
  • Finding Published Primary Sources in the Princeton University Library
  • Primary Sources Available Digitally to PUL Users
  • Resources for Archival Research in and/or on Russia
  • Guides to Russian Archival Collections

Primary Sources in the PUL Rare Books and Special Collections Department

The Princeton University Library Rare Books and Special Collections Department houses many important collections and items relating to Russia.  You can see handwritten manuscripts of Osip Mandel'shtam's poetry, letters to and from Leo Tolstoy, and the personal papers of Father Georges Florovsky, as well as editions of many important literary works and translations, including the first book ever written on Russia in the English language and several Russia-related works owned by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Keep in mind that these items must be requested in advance and can only be used within the library itself, so plan accordingly.

For a list of manuscript collections relating to Russia, click here.  (Clicking on any link will bring you to the finding aid for that collection.)

For a description of the library's rare-book holdings, click here and go to 'Russian History and Literature.'

Finding Published Primary Sources in the Princeton University Library

When looking for a primary source on a subject relating to Russia or Eastern Europe, it is important to remember that a great number of useful and interesting primary sources have been published in book or microform.

There are many ways of finding these materials in the catalog.  One of the best is to type the name of the region in which you are interested, the word History, and if applicable, a historical event, time frame, or beginning date, and then to search by SUBJECT.  Scroll down to see the subjects, looking for the subdivisiion --Sources, which indicates that the book consists of primary sources.

Here are some examples of subject headings in the PUL catalog:


Soviet Union--History--Revolution, 1917-1921--Sources

Poland--History--17th century--Sources

As you will have noted from the above examples, there are a lot of variations, and you will get the best picture of what's available if you try different permutations and do some scrolling around.

If you are interested in a very specific topic, especially if it's not precisely covered by the subject headings in the catalog, you may also find it helpful to try keyword searches using certain commonly-used words that indicate a published collection of primary sources (for example, the English 'Sourcebook' or the Russian 'Dokumenty i materialy').  So, for example, if you are looking only for primary sources relating to the civil war following the October Revolution, and not the revoution itself, you may find useful resources by searching Grazhdansk? voin? dokumenty materialy by KEYWORD.  (Bear in mind that since this is a keyword search, not a subject search, you may get extraneous material- to take the example above, you might get resources in Russian on other civil wars- so examine the results you get to make sure that you are finding what you want and to look for subject headings or other keywords that might prove useful in finding other material on your topic.)

The sources you find may be in printed books or on microfilm.  If you are specifically interested in resources on microfilm, please see Russia, the Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe, a guide created by Elizabeth Bennett, Librarian for History and the History of Science. 

Primary Sources Available Digitally to PUL Users

Check out the Digital Libraries and Web Resources page for collections of primary sources on the open Internet.

Russian Newspapers Available Digitally to PUL Users


Coverage from 1912 to 2009.


Coverage from 1917 to 2010.

Literaturnaia Gazeta

Coverage from 1929 to 2011.

Current Digest of the Russian Press

The Current Digest of the Russian Press (formerly the Current Digest of the [Post-]Soviet Press) was founded in 1949. Each week it presents a selection of Russian-language press materials, carefully translated into English. The translations are intended for use in teaching and research. They are therefore presented as documentary materials without elaboration or comment, and state the opinions and views of the original authors, not of the publisher of the journal. This is the best source for this period for those who do not read Russian.  Use this link to access content from the first issue to the present day. 

Russian Magazines and Journals Available Digitally to PUL Users

Vestnik Evropy 

Complete run from 1802 to 1830.  Can be browsed by date or searched using the database's main search interface.

Voprosy istorii

Complete run of the journal titles Istorik-marksist (1926-1941), Bor'ba klassov (1931-1936), Istoricheskii zhurnal (1937-1945), and Voprosy istorii (1945 to the present).  Can be browsed by date or searched using the database's main search interface.

Voprosy literatury 

Complete run from 1957 to the present.  Can be browsed by date or searched using the database's main search interface.

Resources for Archival Research in and/or on Russia

Asmus, V. F.  Kratkie posobie po staroi orfografii russkago iazyka.  M.: Russkoe zertsalo, 1999.  (F) PG2143.A858 1999

Berry, M.J. and M.J. Ilic.  Using the Russian archives: an informal practical guide for beginners based on users' experience.  [Birmingham] : British Academic Committee for Collaboration with Russian Archives, [1999-] (SLAV) CD1710.U85

Glagoleva, O. E.  Working with Russian archival documents: a guide to modern handwriting, document forms, language patterns, and other related topics.  Toronto: Centre for Russian and East European Studies, 1998.  (SLAV) CD1711.G523 1998

Grimsted, Patricia Kennedy.  A handbook for archival research in the USSR.  [New York?] : International Research and Exchanges Board ; [Washington, D.C.] : Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies, c1989.  (SLAV) CD1711.G68 1989

Russkie pocherki: Russian handwriting.  Ed. Biske Roman.  Newtonville, Mass.: Oriental Research Partners, 1987.  (F) Z43.R87 1987

Guides to Russian Archival Collections

Fondy russkogo zagranichnogo istoricheskogo arkhiva v Prage : mezharkhivnyi putevoditel'.  Moskva : Rosspen, 1999.  (SLAV) Z2517.F66 1999

Gosudarstvennye khranilishcha dokumentov byvshego arkhivnogo fonda KPSS : spravochnik.  Novosibirsk : Sibirskii khronograf, 1998.  (SLAV) CD1733.3.G67 1998

Grimsted, Patricia Kennedy.  Archives and manuscript repositories in the USSR, Moscow and Leningrad: supplement: bibliographical addenda.  Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1972.  (SLAV) CD1711.G7

Institut russkoi literatury (Pushkinskii dom) Rukopisnyi otdel.  Lichnye fondy Rukopisnogo otdela Pushkinskogog doma : annotirovannyi ukazatel'.  Sankt-Peterburg : Plits, 1999.  (SLAV) PG2920.I53I56

Muzyka i muzykanty. Tvorcheskie i biograficheskie materialy v fondakh i kollektsiiakh rukopisnogo otdela Pushkinskogo Doma. XVIII-XX vv.  Ukazatel'.  Sankt-Peterburg : Bulanin, 2003.  (Mendel Music Library) ML128.B3 M89 2003

Rossiiskii tsentr khraneniia i izucheniia dokumentov noveishei istorii.  Kratkii putevoditel': fondy i kollektsii, sobrannye TSentralnym partiinym arkhivom.  M. : Izd-vo "Blagovest", 1993.  (F) CD1711.R67 1993

Tarakanova, I.G.  Tsentralnye arkhivy Moskvy: putevoditel' po fondam.  M. : Mosgorarkhiv, 1999- (SLAV) DC1712.A2 T37 1999

Tsentralnye arkhivy Moskvy. Putevoditel' po fondam lichnogo proiskhozhdeniia.  M. : Izd-vo obedineniia "Mosgorarkhiv", 1998.  (SLAV) CD1717.P47 T78 1998