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Russian journals on Google books

There are some amazing resources on Google books, which can really transform the way scholars work and particularly the time spent on locating materials. As a postgrad in the late 1990s, when I wanted to find out about the serial publication of The Idiot, I ended up having to consult the journal in a library in St Petersburg, because the relevant year was missing from the British Library’s collection. Obviously, I didn’t go to Petersburg solely for that, but nevertheless I used a disproportionate amount of time accessing a fairly basic resource. When I wanted to do the same for Crime and Punishment recently, I was overjoyed to find the journal Russkii vestnik (Russian Messenger) on Google books, and this time it took me a couple of hours.

Finding Dostoevsky’s works in a journal is easy, as you know what you’re looking for and which years are involved. Often, though, tracking down an article in an old journal is more time-consuming, particularly when you only have partial information — I eventually found Chernyshevsky’s article on the Crystal Palace from Otechestvennye zapiski (Fatherland Notes — also on Google books) for my post on the Crystal Palace in Russian Literature, but it took a while. And if you wish to browse the contents more generally, it’s even more of a problem. There are no lists of contents available apart from those in individual issues, which are sometimes difficult to locate; the order in which the volumes appear is jumbled enough to cause confusion; and some volumes are incorrectly numbered.

Accessibility is only part of the question; information about precisely what is out there is equally important. For that reason, I’ve decided to start compiling lists of contents for the nineteenth-century Russian literary journals that are available in full text on-line, with links to the relevant issues. I’ll begin with Russkii vestnik, because it was the most important literary journal of the day, featuring the major works of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Turgenev, among others. The years 1856-1869 have been digitized in full, albeit with the odd volume missing. The blemishes you would expect from nineteenth-century originals notwithstanding, the scans themselves are of good, usable quality (I haven’t looked at every page, but have done a good deal of scrolling, and haven’t seen a single gloved hand, and have only spotted one or two slightly wobbly pages), so a vote of thanks is due to the New York Public Library, whence they came. Russkii vestnik mainly seems to be available on Google books, with relatively few, and rather random, issues, uploaded to archive.org (at least, so far as I have been able to establish), but even the rather unwieldy 800-page on-line versions and untitled pdfs available through Google are very useful.

I’ll be working backwards from 1869, publishing each year as a separate post, before creating a static page to collate everything and compiling an index. I’ve decided to transcribe in transliteration, updating to present-day spellings for ease of reading, because it’s still quicker for me than typing in Cyrillic, and the plain text versions of the contents pages on Google books are a bit of a disaster (aside from the slightly fuzzy typefaces, OCR can’t handle pre-revolutionary orthography). Although I’ve tried to be careful, there are bound to be errors, so if you spot any, please send corrections. I’ve already found a couple of mistakes in the contents pages themselves (anomalies in chapter numbering, etc), and have corrected those. For some issues, the supplement (mostly featuring translations of English novels) is not available; here I have included the information in the contents list for the sake of completeness, but noted its absence from the scan.

Once I’ve finished Russskii vestnik, I’ll move on to Otechestvennye zapiski and Sovremennik (The Contemporary). The project is obviously going to take some time, but I hope other scholars and readers will find it a useful resource.

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  1. Sounds, like a good project, Sarah.
    I’ll be glad to help.
    I assume, you know that Harvard library catalog has a lot of links to Russian titles scanned by Google.

  2. Hi Yuri,
    for some reason your comment went into my spam folder, but I have now restored it.
    I have a lot of projects on the go at the moment, and this one has had to take a back seat for a while, but you may have spurred me back into action!
    I’ve used the Harvard catalogue links from time to time – you’re right, it’s very useful.
    Re you email: I’ve used the Tsarskoe selo online library, but their download restrictions are slightly problematic. The libinfo.org site I only came across a few weeks ago and haven’t got round to looking at their journal holdings, so thanks for the reminder.
    At a glance it seems these are the same scans from Google books, with the same problem up to 1869, at least – the copies that are missing from the NYPL collection haven’t been scanned. But it’s very useful for me post-1869, which Google seem to treat as a cut-off point for access for UK users, for copyright reasons – I’ve been requesting they do something about this as these are obviously out of copyright, but so far to no avail.
    When I’ve got my current work load out of the way and can get back to this project, I’d really like to discuss it further with you.

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