Digitizing the Russian émigré news magazine “Illustrated Russia”

The following post has been written by Phaedra Claeys, PhD researcher at Ghent University.

In my PhD research, funded by the Special Research Fund (BOF), I focus on the Russian émigré news magazine Illustrated Russia (Illyustrirovannaya Rossiya), which was published in interwar Paris, the heart of the Russian emigration after the 1917 Revolution and the following Russian Civil War. I study the magazine in order to verify whether mainstream, everyday émigré culture was just as preservationist and prerevolutionary oriented as its high culture counterpart. There has been quite some research on so-called high émigré culture (think of highbrow literature, fine arts, opera etc.) that show an inclination to prerevolutionary Russian themes and styles (such as, for instance, the use of typical Russian landscapes, buildings and clothing, or of traditionally Russian musical styles). There is, however, never been any similar research for more middlebrow and mainstream, everyday culture in the Russian emigration.


Set of covers of Illustrated Russia.

Illustrated Russia is a unique and invaluable time document for various reasons. First of all, it covers a large period of the interwar emigration as it was weekly published from 1924 until 1939, this amounts to a total of 748 issues of about 25 to 30 pages each, or roughly 20.000 pages in total. Second, it was widely read and had a diverse readership, not only in Paris, but in all corners of the Russian diaspora. And finally, Illustrated Russia’s content was very diverse: the magazine covered a variety of themes and topics, ranging from news events and politics to fashion and sport, and this in a wide array of genres and media, from literature to short or more elaborate articles, photographs, games, and cartoons, to name but a few. What is more, these themes and topics reported not only on the émigré community, but also on prerevolutionary Russia, Soviet-Russia, and the world in general.


Short story “Easter visit” by Sasha Cherny, with illustrations by Fyodor Rozhankovsky. IR 1926-17(50), p. 1-3.


“Historical rooms in the Winter Palace”. IR 1926-28(61), p. 8-9.


Children’s page. IR 1927-1(86), p. 10-11.


Reproductions of works of art in the Christmas issue: on the left “In the Miracle Monastery” by V. I. Shukhaev, on the right “Tsarevich” by I. Ya. Bilibin. IR 1927-52(137), p. 9-10.


“Inventions humanity is waiting for”. IR 1930-21(262), p. 12-13.


“Russians in Berlin”. IR 1933-09(407), p. 12-13.


Cartoon “Progress in the field of agriculture in the USSR” by MAD. IR 1935-27(528), p. 3.


Fashion page “Parisian fashion”. IR 1938-44(701), p. 18-19.


“A. P. Ryabushkin”. IR 1939-3(713), p. 12-13.

As the images above highlight (and, of course, as its name also suggests), Illustrated Russia is an illustrated magazine, containing a large amount of visual material, ranging from photographs to illustrations and cartoons. Illustrated Russia, thus, is not only an invaluable source of information for research, it simply also is a remarkable visual object. Therefore, in order to do the magazine full justice, Illustrated Russia has been fully digitized and a IIIF repository has been created, which is now included in the Ghent University Library catalogue and is publicly accessible online

The digitization of Illustrated Russia is a collaboration with the library La Contemporaine in Paris, part of Université Paris Nanterre (Paris-X). This library holds the entire run of Illustrated Russia in good condition, and in the framework of our partnership, La Contemporaine has carried out the complete digitization of the periodical, as well as the application of OCR software to the scans.

On the IIIF repository, visitors are able leaf through this unique news magazine and get a glimpse of the daily life of the average Russian émigré during 1920s and 30s. Once I have finished my dissertation in Fall 2020, the collected (meta)data and annotations in the form of tags will be added to the scans in the IIIF repository. In this way, even after this research is finished, the data is preserved and can be used not only to appeal to a broader interested public, but also for further research, as the added tags undoubtedly will give rise to many new research questions.

Phaedra Claeys

PhD researcher at Ghent University

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Jean Monnet work programme and UCL SSEES Library guides


The European Institute has been designated a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence by the European Commission in recognition of the Institute’s reputation as a facilitator of high-quality research and information on the European Union. As part of the current Jean Monnet work programme, SSEES library staff, together with the help of Rasa Kamarauskaite and Zora Kostadinova, UCL SSEES PhD students,  have created three new resource guides. They focus on primary sources from governments, international organisations, NGOs, research institutions and the media, research materials, providing documentary evidence on issues which generate a great deal of secondary information, news reporting and opinion, but where facts are harder to find.

The first guide focuses on LGBTQ+ in Eastern Europe. Recent years have witnessed a growing interest in sources of academic research engaging with the topics of queer histories, queer culture, geographies of sexualities, gender identity, homophobia, LGBTQ citizenship, migration and asylum. The UCL SSEES Library guide to resources on LGBTQ in Eastern Europe is supporting the strand on LGBTQ Migration and Asylum providing reliable resources evaluated by the library’s specialist staff. The content is curated by UCL SSEES Library and covers a wide range of resources including recent publications, academic repositories, reports, periodicals, oral histories archives, news portals, audio and video resources, as well as organisations.

Another guide, the EU Migration guide,  focuses on the recent migration from Central and East European countries (EU8, EU2 and Croatia) to the UK. It covers academic research and publications on the subject, literature, audio-visual material (film, TV, radio), statistical information, migrant media outlets and portals in the UK and cultural institutions. The guide is divided by country. The amount of information available for each country largely reflects both the size of the migrant community in the UK and the year in which the country joined the EU.

A third guide, UCL SSEES Library guide to TV news in Eastern Europe is not a thematic but a resource-focused guide and collates TV news channels and information programmes from the region. The content of the guide was carefully selected by specialist Library staff. The guide provides access to very extensive news channels, both to current news and an extensive online archive. The guide is an important and useful research tool for the analysis of news and of political narrative in the era of populism and fake news. Another aim of the guide is to provide a modern replacement for the service UCL SSEES Library was responsible for number of years when recording news from selected countries for teaching and research purposes.


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Blog posts from member libraries

It is the 600th anniversary today of the First Defenestration of Prague. It might be of interest to read about it from the BL European Studies blog.  

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COSEELIS 2019 captured on Twitter

Last week, the 2019 COSEELIS conference took place at St Anne’s College, Oxford.  It was a very enjoyable and international affair, and heartfelt thanks were expressed by all delegates to our local host, Nick Hearn (Taylorian, Oxford), and to the COSEELIS Treasurer (Ildi Wollner, British Library) and Chair (Katya Rogatchevskaia, BL) for organising such a fantastic conference.

Lesley Pitman, a former COSEELIS Chair and now a personal member of COSEELIS, has created a Twitter moment capturing her tweets and those of others about the conference, providing a super and nicely illustrated summary of the two days in Oxford.  Do have a look!

Mel Bach
COSEELIS Secretary

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Deadline for applications for Cambridge Slavonic librarian job approaching!

From the UL’s Catherine Cooke collection. Don’t be late in sending in your application!

Monday 8 July is the deadline for applications for a full-time Slavonic and linguistics position split between Cambridge’s Modern and Medieval Languages Faculty Library (30 hrs/week) and the main University Library (6.5 hrs/week).

The post-holder will be involved in the day-to-day running of a busy faculty library, working to support undergraduates and taught postgraduates in the Slavonic Studies and Linguistics parts of the Faculty, and will also work with the UL’s Slavonic team to expand the University’s research collections in Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish.

Excellent knowledge of Russian and library experience are required.  Further details are here: https://www.jobs.cam.ac.uk/job/21886/

Mel Bach
Cambridge University Library

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