Historical Background: 19th - 20th Centuries

Mikhail Osipovich Gershenzon, 1869-1925.
П. Я. Чаадаевъ.
[P. IA. Chaadaev.]

Saint Petersburg: M. M. Stasiulevich, 1908.

A biography of the prominent early nineteenth-century Russian thinker, Peter Chaadaev, by the Russian scholar M.O. Gershenzon. Chaadaev was a close friend of Pushkin and espoused liberal political ideas which at times placed him in disfavor with the tsar. Deeply influenced by European philosophers, Chaadaev wrote Philosophical Letters (1829-1831), in which he expressed indignation over the lack of Russian recognition of universal human values. Following its publication he was declared insane by Imperial decree. He replied with Apology of a Madman (1837), which was not published in his lifetime.

The cover of this book is cloth, woven with synthetic gold thread, made for the book at roughly the same time as the book’s publication.

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Postcards of the last Russian royal family (Romanov dynasty), ca. 1908-1917.
From the European Nobility Postcard Collection, Special Collections Library.

Some early twentieth-century postcards displayed members of royal families, including the Romanovs. Shown here is the royal family, notably Empress Alexandra, who came under the influence of Rasputin, and Grand Duchess Anastasia, who was believed by some to have survived the execution of the royal family in 1918. The royal family consisted of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, Grand Duchess Tatiana, Grand Duchess Olga, Grand Duchess Maria, Grand Duke Alexei, heir to the throne, and Grand Duchess Anastasia.


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Ninth printing. Petrograd: Sinodal Press, 1918?

Russian Orthodoxy was the predominant faith in imperial Russia, one that survived the Revolution and the immediately ensuing years. On display is a missal in Church Slavonic, the written and spoken language of Russian Orthodoxy, published in its ninth edition in 1918. The contents include prayers and liturgies.


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Petr Mikhailovich Boklevskii, 1816-1897.
Альбомъ гоголевскихъ типовъ: по рисункамъ художника П. Боклевскаго с предисловіемъ В. Я. Стоюнина.
[Album of Gogolian Characters: Based on Drawings by the Artist P. Boklevskii with a Foreword by IA. Stoiunin.]

Seventh edition. Saint Petersburg: O. Kirchner Publishing, 1894.

A collection of satirical portraits by the artist Boklevskiĭ, this book was inspired by characters and their descriptions in Gogol’s works. Shown here is a portrait of Ivan Ivanovich Dovgochkhun, from “Povest’ o tom kak possorilsia Ivan Ivanovich c Ivanom Nikiforovichem” [A Tale about how Ivan Ivanovich argued with Ivan Nikiforovich], in the collection Mirgorod. Gogol describes Dovgochkhun as “…slightly shorter than Ivan Ivanovich but makes up for this by spreading in girth….” Gogol was one of Russia’s great prose writers, known for his use of comic devices, particularly satire, as well as horror and the grotesque.


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Petr IUl’evich Schmidt, 1872-1949.
Островъ изгнанія (Сахалинъ).
[Island of Exile (Sakhalin).]

Saint Petersburg: O. N. Popova Publisher, 1905.

In the 25 years preceding publication of this book, Sakhalin Island served as a penal colony for some of Russia’s worst criminals. Sakhalin also attracted the attention of scholars and amateurs who were interested in investigating some of Russia’s more exotic locations. Of primary interest was the populace endemic to the island and its distinctive customs and practices.


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Leon Trotsky, 1879-1940.
Советская власть и международный империализмъ.
[Soviet Power and International Imperialism.]

Petrograd: Petrograd Soviet Publishing, 1918.

Published just after the Revolution, and based on a lecture that Trotsky gave on April 21, 1918, this work views Soviet power and its relationship with imperialistic nations. It was published by the Petrograd Soviet, the Petrograd [City] Council. At the time Trotsky was already or was soon to be Commissar of Foreign Affairs, and was looking ahead to the relationships of Russia with the other world powers.


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Nikolaǐ Berendgof, b. 1900.
Тринадцатый год.
[Thirteenth Year.]

Moscow and Leningrad: Land and Factory, 1930.

Just thirteen years after the October Revolution, and nine years after the publication of Trotsky’s speech shown above, Berendgof published this paean to the new Soviet state. Despite the current condition of this particular volume, it was printed on expensive paper which had high rag content, and was bound in vellum. Clearly such a title was held in very high regard, and was treated accordingly by the state-owned publisher.


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Stepan Iosifovich Gulishambarov, 1849-1915.
Сравнительная статистика Россіи в міровомъ хозяйствѣ и в ряду Великихъ Державъ в первое десятилѣтie царствованія Императора Николая II: 1894-1904 гг.
[Comparative Statistics of Russia in the World Economy and Ranked with the Great Powers in the First Decade of the Reign of Nicholas II: 1894-1904.]

Saint Petersburg: [s.n.], 1907.

This book contains a decade of statistical data reflecting demography, economic indicators, mortality, etc., all in the context of the Great Powers: Europe, Asia, Africa, America, Australia, and even including the Polar Regions. This work draws attention to the role of Russia as a great power in the first decade of Nicholas II’s reign. Interestingly this work draws on data and does not rely on laudatory prose to convey the successes of Nicholas’s reign.


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Aleksandr Vasil’evich Druzhinin, 1824-1864, editor.
Библіотека для чтенія. Журналъ словесности, наукъ, художествъ, промышленности, новостей и модъ.
[Library for Reading. Journal of Literature, Science, the Arts, Manufacturing, News and Fashion.]

Volume 15. Saint Petersburg: Alexander Smirdin, 1836.

This journal carried contributions by well-known artists and critics, among them Benediktov, Polevoĭ, and Marlinskiĭ. This particular issue contains a lengthy article on the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin and his new undertaking, the journal Sovremennik (Contemporary).


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Vladimir Aleksandrovich Sollogub, 1813-1882, compiler.
Вчера и сегодня: литературный сборникъ.
[Yesterday and Today: A Literary Collection.]

Book One. Saint Petersburg: A. Smirdin, 1845.

Since the time of Sumarokov the Russian intelligentsia was enamored of literature. This first volume provides examples of the diverse talents that flourished in the first half of the nineteenth century in Russia. It contains contributions by Prince Vladimir Odoevskiĭ, Ivan Turgenev, Vasiliĭ Zhukovskiĭ, Nikolaĭ Iazykov, Vladimir Benediktov, Petr Viazemskiĭ, and Count Alekseĭ Tolstoĭ, and excerpts from the papers of then recently deceased Mikhail Lermontov.


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Nikolai Mikhailovich Karamzin, 1766-1826.
Histoire de l'Empire de Russie.
Translated by Messrs. St. Thomas and Jauffret. Volume 1. Paris: A. Belin, 1819.
Исторія государства россійскаго.
[History of the Russian State.]

Sixth edition. Volumes V and VI. Saint Petersburg: Imperial Academy of Sciences, 1852.

Karamzin was a historian, social commentator, literary critic, and writer of sentimental prose. In 1802 he was awarded the title of Imperial Historiographer, the duties of which he fulfilled in 1816 when he completed the first eight volumes of the first edition of this title. Displayed here is the French translation, published in 1819 and distributed throughout Europe. Karamzin was favored by the tsarist regimes of both Alexander I and Nicholas I.

Also shown are volumes from the sixth edition, part of a set given to the University of Michigan by Grand Duke Alexis, fourth son of Tsar Alexander II, during a well-publicized tour through the United States in 1872. It was during these travels that he hunted buffalo with “Buffalo” Bill Cody and General Custer.


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E. Berezin.
Море: мореходное искусство; богатство моря. Историческій очерк всемірной торговли и значеніе ея для цивилизаціи.
[The Sea: The Art of Seafaring; Wealth of the Sea. A Historical Essay on Worldwide Commerce and its Meaning for Civilization.]

Saint Petersburg: Fellowship "Social Good", 1863.

This title was originally published in German, and was then translated into Russian. The illustration displayed here portrays a steamboat on the open sea, viewed by a group of Native Americans on shore. Publications from the turn of the century displayed Russia’s interest not only in the Russian Far East (as seen in Island of Exile above) but also in America in the “far west,” as we see here.


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V. P. Gaideburov, editor.
Книжки недѣли: ежемѣсячный литературный журналъ.
[Books of the Week: Monthly Literary Journal.]

January 1895, Nos. 1-3. Saint Petersburg: Nedieli, 1895.

This miscellany, published as a monthly supplement to the weekly newspaper The Week, contains poetry, prose, short stories, and literary criticism not confined solely to Russian titles. This particular issue contains a Buddhist fairytale, “Karma,” taken from its English rendering in Open Court. Shown here is Count Leo Tolstoy’s introduction along with his Russian translation of the tale.


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Agniia Mikhailovna Vitman, et al.
Восемь лет русской художественной литературы,
[Eight Years of Russian Artistic Literature, 1917-1925.]

Moscow and Leningrad: State Publisher, 1926.

This bibliographic directory lists the authors who published between 1917 and 1925, their works, and works about them. Although published considerably after the 1917 Revolution, this title includes the names of many avant-garde artists who had shaped literature prior to or during that time. By 1925 many writers had already lost their lives, left Russia, or were no longer permitted to publish, which makes this publication quite remarkable. Those listed include Evgenii Zamiatin who eventually was forced to emigrate, Isaak Babel’ and Osip Mandel’shtam, who were arrested and died in captivity, the openly gay Mikhail Kuz’min, whose death in the late 1930s went virtually unacknowledged, and, Anna Akhmatova, who was not permitted to publish new verse for a quarter of a century.


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Russian Bibliological Society.
Достоевский: однодневная газета Русского библиологоческого общества. 30 октября 1821 - 30 октября
[Dostoevskiĭ: A one-day Newspaper of the Russian Bibliological Society. 30 October 1821 - 30 October 1921.]

Petrograd: State Publisher, 1921.

Certain cultural icons survived immediately following the Revolution, including Pushkin and Dostoyevsky. This work commemorates the 100th anniversary of Dostoyevsky’s birth. It provides a bibliography of the newest works on the writer, as well as articles contributed by the scholars V.V. Vinogradov, V.N. Perets, and A.L. Slonimskii.