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Annual Report of the Slavic Division for 1940


(From the report of the Chief, Mr. Rodionoff)

The Slavic Division is a library unit for collecting and administering Slavic books for reference service, without a strictly defined scope of their classes. The fact that many classes and fields were well-represented in the Division's nucleus, the Yudin Collection of Russian books acquired by the Library in 1907 1, served, to some extent, as an impetus for the subsequent development of the said collection in the same classes and fields of Russian books. Although theoretically all the subjects in all the Slavic languages and all the Slavica in other languages are conceivable in a scope of Slavic collections, the Slavic Division, in its actual efforts for expansion, has always been handicapped by several factors, as the lack of funds for purchase of books, the inadequateness of its staff for the multiplicity of its functions, the limited shelving space, etc. Short-handed, short-spaced and short-moneyed, the Division could not even dream of ambitious plans for its development because it would be a case of building castles in the air.

The deficiencies of the equipment, therefore, considerably limited the scope of the classes and fields which were deemed such [sic] important in the Division's holdings as to warrant their further development though on a small scale. They are Philosophy and Religion, History and Auxiliary Sciences, Social and Political Sciences, Fine Arts, Belles-Lettres and Bibliography — all, or almost all, in Russian. To a still lesser extent have been increased the Russian holdings of the Division in Geography, Science, Medicine, Agriculture and Technology.

Several other important and large Slavic holdings of the Library, not limited to the Russian language alone, are either administered by its other special divisions, as Documents, Law, Manuscripts, Maps, Music, Periodicals, Rare Book Room, Smithsonian, or classified in its General Classification which is under the administration of the Reading Rooms.

One might naturally ask, why, then, the Library of Congress should maintain special divisions to administer its books in some specified languages, as Chinese, Japanese, Semitic and Slavic, and does not distribute the said books throughout its General Classification by the subjects? This might be explained, probably satisfactorily, that the main objective of library work is a comprehensive reference service, and that the requirements of such service necessitate the subdivision of a large central library into several practical operating reference units, the more, the better, along with technical processing units. It might also be added that the proper coordination and balance between the reference and processing units should be regarded as another important prerequisite of a better and efficient reference service.


The usual difficulties of securing Slavic material 2 were considerably increased during the year by the wars in Europe which catastrophically dwindled the stocks of out of print publications available for export to America, as well as the European production of new books, and badly affected the facilities of transportation. Moreover, the administrative reorganization of the Library undertaken after October 1st, 1939, and the subsequent revision of its acquisitions policy made the development of the collections of the Slavic Division for the rest of the fiscal year hardly feasible, although the American book markets still had available at reasonable prices many Russian, and some Rossica in non-Slavic languages, publications, of considerable reference and cultural value, of which the Slavic Division has no copies.

Nevertheless, a few publication from those acquired by the Division during the year may be noted, as follows.


Copies of the two recent interesting bibliographical publications of the Leningrad State Public Library, in the name of M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin, were received by the Slavic Division through the International Exchange, viz.:

  • Ivanov, P. P. Arkhiv Khivinskikh khanov XIX v. Issledovanie i opisanie dokumentov s istoricheskim vvedeniem. Novye istochniki dlia istorii srednei Azii (The Archives of the khans of Khiva. A research on, and a description of, the documents, with a historical introduction. New sources for the history of the peoples of Middle Asia). Leningrad, 1940. 288 p. This publication is the first systematic description of the Archives which were deposited in the Library in 1876, misplaced there for 60 years, but finally located in 1936. The compiler is a well known Russian orientalist. The language of the documents is the Khivo-Uzbek: they are described and annotated in Russian and some of them are printed in the original.
  • Strugatskii, N. L. Ukazatel' portretov M. E. Saltykova-Shchedrina i illiustratsii k ego proizvedeniiam (An index of the portraits of M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin and of the illustrations to his works). Leningrad, 1940. 72 p. M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin (1826–1889) was a great Russian satirist whose name the Leningrad State Public Library now bears. This is the first complete index of his portraits and of the illustrations to his works.

History and Auxiliary Sciences

A few out of print Russian historical publications on the Caucasus acquired by the Division during the year may be noted for their rarity, besides their exceptional reference value, viz:

  • Dubrovin, N. Istoriia voiny i vladychestva russkikh na Kavkazie (A history of the war and the Russian domination over the Caucasus). St. Petersburg, 1871. Volume first, in three parts, comprising over 1,500 pages, the third part being a bibliographical index of the sources for the first and second parts.
  • Kavkazskii sbornik (Collection of material on the Caucasus). Tiflis, 1876–1910. Volumes 1–23, 25 and 30. This serial was published by the High Command of the Russian Army which occupied the Caucasus to record various historical material (as diaries, reminiscences, correspondence, etc.) bearing upon the Russian conquest of the Caucasus and the war of Russian against the foreign powers which attempted to invade that territory.
  • Murav'ev, N. N. Voina za Kavkazom v 1855 godu (The war beyond the Caucasus in 1855). St. Petersburg, 1876–1877. In two volumes, with atlas of engravings. This is a comprehensive account of the Russian military operations against Turkey in Asia Minor during the Eastern (Crimean) War. The author was at that time the Viceroy of the Caucasus and the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Caucasian Army.
  • Potto, V. Kavkazskaia voina v otdiel'nykh ocherkakh, epizodakh, legendakh i biografiiakh (The Caucasian War in separate sketches, episodes, legends and biographies). St. Petersburg, 1885–1887. In four volumes.

In the field of Auxiliary Sciences of History the two rare Russian publications acquired by the Division during the year may also be mentioned because of the wealth of reference material which they contain, viz:

  • Imperatorskoe moskovskoe arkheologicheskoe obshchestvo. Komissiia po sokhraneniiu drevnikh pamiatnikov (Imperial Moscow archeological society. Commission on the preservation of ancient monuments). Drevnosti. Trudy. . . (The antiquities. Transactions of. . .). Moscow, 1907–1915. In six folio volumes, with numerous plates (some in color) and illustrations. The set contains the proceedings of the Commission, with numerous reports and articles on the architecture, decorations and condition of various Russian churches, monasteries, palaces, etc., which were regarded as remarkable monuments of fine arts. Since many, if not all, of these monuments were destroyed after 1917, their accurate descriptions made by specialists will always be invaluable for historians of Russian fine arts.
  • Lakier, A. B. Russkaia geral'dika (The Russian heraldry). St. Petersburg, 1855. In two volumes, comprising 632 pages of text, one genealogical chart and 25 plates. This work, being the first scientific, systematic and comprehensive research in the Russian heraldry and sphragistics, laid the foundation of further studies in, and development of, the same fields.


  • Vize, V. IU. Moria sovetskoi arktiki (The seas of the Soviet Arctica). Leningrad, 1939. Third edition, revised and augmented, comprising 567 pages, with illustrations and maps. This work is a scientific description, in the light of the Arctic explorations, of those parts of the Arctic which are adjacent to the northern shores of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and of the endeavors of the Government of the said union to accommodate them for the Northern Sea Route between the Atlantic and Pacific. The author is [a] well known Russian specialist in the oceanography.

Social and Political Sciences

In this class the Slavic Division acquired small but complete sets of ten rare Russian revolutionary serials, dating from the middle of the nineteenth to the beginning of the twentieth century. Owing mostly to very limited funds of the publishers, these serials were issued irregularly and did not last long. Published outside Russia, they were smuggled into that country for an unlawful circulation.

Probably the most distinguished serial in this group is Golosa iz Rossii (The Voices from Russia), a complete set in nine issues, published in 1858–1860 in London by A. I. Gertsen, a famous Russian liberal publicist and political emigrant of the middle of the nineteenth century. Since sets of his other, more known, serial publications, namely, Kolokol (The Bell) and Poliarnaia Zviezda (The Polestar) were acquired by the Division previously, together with sets of many other Russian revolutionary serials 3 the group acquired during the last year thus well supplements the Division's collection of similar publications acquired before.

Fine Arts

Among a few acquisitions made during the year by the Division in this class copies of the two well known original researches by outstanding Russian historians of fine arts should be noted for their rarity and reference value, viz:

  • Ainalov, D. V. Mozaiki IV i V viekov. Izsliedovaniia v oblasti ikonografii i stilia drevne-khristianskago iskusstva (Mosaics of the fourth and fifth centuries. Researches in the field of the iconography and style of the ancient Christian art). St. Petersburg, 1895. 198 p., with illustrations.
  • Kondakov, N. P. Pamiatnik garpii iz Maloi Azii i simvolika grecheskago iskusstva. Opyt istoricheskoi kharakteristiki (The monument of harpyias from Asia Minor and the symbolism of the Greek art. An attempt of a historical characterization). Odessa, 1873. 234 pages. The famous sepulchral reliefs known in the history of Greek arts as the monument of harpyias [today called the Harpy Tomb, Ed.], discovered in 1838 by Sir Charles Fellows, an English archeologist, and donated by him to the British Museum, are analyzed and characterized in this dissertation by the late Professor Kondakov (1844–1925).


Although the Slavic Division is a reference library unit, it would lack one of some important prerequisites for a satisfactory reference service — the proper care and arrangement of its collections and catalogs — if it were not for the constant and persistent technical processing, however simplified, of its books by its staff to keep them in library-like, doing away with their store-like, condition. For, the Catalog and Classification Divisions do not have a sufficient staff to process the Slavic Division's books of which hardly more than 900 titles were cataloged by the Catalog Division during the last three years, with cards printed for not more than 750 of them.

The staff of the Slavic Division, however, is also, and always has been, inadequate to the size of its collections and their annual increases, as well as to the multiplicity of its functions which combine the processing work with reference and reading room service. The Division's already large stock of unrecorded and poorly arranged material is, therefore, increasing, and only the sight memories of the members of its staff make that stock fairly usable for reference service.

The brief summaries of the Division's processing and reference work done during the year are as follows.

About 1,110 new author entries were written in longhand and filed in the Division's catalog of temporary entries; 1,934 titles were classified; about 2,900 books were plated, labeled and marked with call numbers; 8,509 pieces of printed material, condensed into 1,404 volumes, were prepared for binding and about 8,800 were arranged on the shelves.

About 3,615 printed cards were received from the Classification Division and filed in the Slavic Division's catalog of printed card entries. It should be noted, however, that almost all of these cards record not the Slavic Division's holdings, but those belonging to the General Classification and to the Law Library.

The Union Catalog of the Russian holdings in American libraries, which is in the care of the Slavic Division, absorbed considerable time for filing about 2,433 cards, of which 2,050 were received during the year and the rest was taken from the stock of undistributed cards accumulated previously.

The Division lent 1,187 volumes, either through the interlibrary loan system or on borrowing privileges.

About 2,000 readers and visitors were served with references by the Division during the year, and some 850 written inquiries were answered in the official correspondence.

In addition to the regular routine duties summarized above, a very important processing work, exacting, pressing and time-absorbing, befell the Division the last Fall, has held the staff continuously in its grip ever since, and is to be carried out under the same pressure of time limits during the greater part of the current year.

The work consists of compiling the up to date data on the Slavic Division's serials and periodicals which are to be recorded in the second, revised and augmented, edition of the Union List of Serials and Periodicals in American libraries, now under preparation for publication. The second edition will replace the first one published (with two supplements) in 1927–1933. Since (1) the Slavic Division has accumulated many thousand serials and periodicals, (2) some basic bibliographical data on each entry are to be included into the Union List, and (3) such data for many a title are not readily obtainable and have to be searched for, — even a layman could easily conceive the entire project as a combination of a reliable bibliographical research on, with the most precise cataloging and shelf-listing of, a big stock of Slavic material.

The importance of the properly compiled Union List can hardly be underestimated. For, it should be regarded as a published catalog, in book form, of the combined holdings in serials and periodicals, in many languages, collected by the American libraries. Easily distributed all over the world, like any other book, the Union List makes these holdings known to all concerned and becomes indispensable in locating the particular issues of the specified titles.

According to a rough estimate, the Slavic Division has already revised, recorded and turned over to the Editors of the Union List the data on about 800 titles, representing a collection of about 10,000 issues. Unfortunately, the work for the greater part of the Division's alphabet of the titles of serials and periodicals is still ahead, to be completed during the current year.

1Cf. Report of the Librarian of Congress, 1907, p. 20–24. Back to text

2Cf. Report of the Librarian of Congress, 1937, p. 221. Back to text

3Cf. Report of the Librarian of Congress, 1936, p. 219, and Report of the Librarian of Congress, 1939, p.299. Back to text

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