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.
PhD researcher at Ghent University