Databases of the week: Slavic and Eastern European databases

February 10, 2020
Margarita Nafpaktitis
Ogonek No. 2 (1968)

Winston Churchill began his BBC Radio broadcast on Ocrtober 1st, 1939 by declaring: “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key.”*  Scroll down to the bottom of this post to find out what he thought the key was, but in the meantime, Stanford Libraries provide access to a wide array of online resources to help students and researchers find their own keys to the conundrum of a country that is still very much in the news.  Here are just a few of my favorites:

The Current Digest of the Russian Press (in English!)
Founded in 1949, the Current Digest was first published as The Current Digest of the Soviet Press (1949-1991), followed by The Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press (1992-2010), and now The Current Digest of the Russian Press. Each week the Current Digest presents a selection of Russian-language press materials, carefully translated into English. The translations are intended for use in teaching and research. They are therefore presented as documentary materials without elaboration or comment, and state the opinions and views of the original authors, not of the publisher of the journal.  What I love about The Current Digest it can be searched to find actual news stories from the Russian media, but in English, and citing them will add vivid, on-the-ground detail and evidence to a history, political science or literature paper.

Socialism on Film: The Cold War and International Propaganda
Sourced from the British Film Institute (BFI), this collection of documentary, newsreel and feature films reveals the world as seen by Soviet, Chinese, Vietnamese, East European, and Latin American filmmakers. Ranging from the early 20th century to the 1980s, material encapsulates the themes of war, revolution, news, current affairs, culture and society. The majority of the footage is previously unseen and provides an essential repository of research material for the study of key political and social events of the 20th century. A crucial resource for anyone studying twentieth-century history, propaganda, communism, the Cold War era and its conflicts, the Soviet Union, film and documentary, military history, media studies, cultural and social history. The films are fully transcribed and available to stream through a specially-developed video player. Users can focus their research through advanced search functionality, and by filtering all footage by country of production, genre or subject area.  A few examples of film you can watch: Lenin and Trotsky speaking at a rally in 1918, the Sputnik launch,  clips of Soviet athletes and sporting competitions from 1935, and so much more. A number of countries in Eastern Europe are also covered in this collection.

Ogonek Digital Archive
Ogonek is one of the oldest weekly magazines in Russia and has been in continual publication since 1923.  I like to describe it as the Life magazine of Russia. Generously illustrated with many photographs of major events and everyday life around the Soviet Union, Ogonek was a must-read for Russians and scholars of Russia alike.  Fully digitized in color, scroll through years of documentary photographs or search the magazine’s contemporary commentary for particular topics.

For more information or for help in navigating these resources or any others in Slavic and East European studies, please get in touch to set up a consultation.

*”That key is the Russian national interest.”


Margarita Nafpaktitis

Margarita Nafpaktitis
Curator for Slavic and East European Collections