Stalin digital archive nears completion

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Photo by Creative Commons.

The Yale University Press will likely make the Stalin Digital Archive, which will contain more than 28,000 documents related to former Soviet Union Premier Joseph Stalin, available for purchase by this summer, according to John Donatich, director of the Yale University Press.

The project is the culmination of over 20 years of collaboration between Yale University Press and the Russian State Archive of Social and Political History (RGASPI). David Schiffman, Yale University Press director of digital publishing, said students and faculty will gain access to the archive for free since Yale University Press provides all publications to Yale University Library.

“The main goal is to provide students and scholars access to the very important set of primary sources without the need to travel to Moscow,” Donatich said. “It is a new way of doing research made possible by the rapid development of digital tools that did not exist even 10 years ago.”

The archive includes Stalin’s personal papers, letters and private notes in the margins of various books, in addition to documents related to his work in government and foreign affairs, Schiffman said, comparing it to a presidential library.

Though discussions about exploring and digitizing the Stalin papers began around 2005, and a formal agreement to digitize them was signed in 2009, the Stalin Digital Archive is the result of a much longer relationship, Donatich said.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Yale University Press began working with RGASPI to create the Annals of Communism, a series of 25 volumes about the history of Soviet and international communism. When the Stalin papers were declassified, RGASPI approached Yale University Press with a proposal to digitize the documents, Donatich said.

The Annals of Communism series will be included in the Stalin Digital Archive, according to a YUP press release.

University Librarian Susan Gibbons, who has seen several demonstrations of the archive and is a member of the Yale University Press Board of Governors, said the archive includes social media tools to allow researchers to interact and discuss the archive’s materials.

“The Stalin Digital Archive is not the digital equivalent of a traditional book,” Gibbons said.

Though Tatjana Lorkovic, Slavic and East European Collections curator at the Yale University Library, said she believes the Stalin Digital Archive is not “complete,” she said the information is “very useful” for students and faculty searching for primary source materials.

John MacKay and Vladimir Alexandrov, Slavic Languages and Literatures professors, added that the period of Soviet history covered by the archive had far-reaching effects on the rest of the world, making it an important resource for researchers.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York were among donors to the project.

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