Slavic Languages and Literatures

Slavic Languages and Literatures

Concentrators in the field of Slavic Languages and Literatures are in luck: Houghton Library has the largest Slavic collection in the world, amassing many rare items that were destroyed through countless intellectual purges in Eastern Europe across the centuries. HOLLIS accounts for almost 140 Russian manuscripts and twenty manuscripts described as Slavic, which include material related to Ukraine, Poland, and the Czech Republic. However, the collection is by no means limited to those materials: the library’s largest source of Slavic documents is the Kilgour Collection of Russian Literature, whose catalogue (Z2491.5.H3 1959, 001219054) is available as a reference tool in the Houghton Reading Room and which covers the period 1750-1920 as well as early books and manuscripts that range from a Cyrillic primer to a complete first Slavonic version of the Bible printed in 1581.

The Slavic collection at Houghton is, however, impressive throughout. Literarily, it contains an 1852 manuscript of Childhood (MS Russ 75, 008933765), Leo Tolstoy’s first published work, with the author’s additions and deletions—only an inkling of what students can find in the library through the Kilgour catalogue. Historically, it is a true treasure trove. Beginning with Russia, Houghton contains, for instance, a twelfth-century Psalter in Church Slavonic (MS Typ 221, 009606661), a true relic, and a 1711 manifesto to Moldavia and Wallachia by Tsar Peter the Great (MS Russ 39, 009433921) haranguing “all Christian peoples” to fight against the Ottomans. It is also home to the Vladimir, Grand Duke of Russia Russian imperial family collection (MS Russ 26, 000602191), which includes letters by Tsar Alexander II, his tsarina, and other Russian and European nobles. The letters are not only personal but also political, providing a thorough picture of the Russian royal family in the late nineteenth century.

The library also owns incredible material pertaining to Russian history in the twentieth century, including documents concerning the investigation into the death of Tsar Nicholas II following the 1917 Russian Revolution (MS Russ 35, 000602246); the Edward Huntington Fallows “Anastasia” papers (MS Am 2648, 011789513), concerning a woman’s claim to the princess’ identity and containing plenty about the Romanovs; and a series of Leon Trotsky’s papers (MS Russ 13-13.11). Houghton, however, also holds a wealth of material about Eastern Europe at large, including, most notably, a large collection about the Solidarność movement in Polish; the papers of Polish writer Wacław Grubiński (MS Slavic 18, 010277818); and a poster collection covering the 1968 Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia (MS Typ 597, 000602275). Students interested in Czech might also want to check out the catalogue of Five Centuries of Czech Printing (*AC9.H2618H.995f, 006256313), an exhibition held in honor of President Václav Havel’s visit to Harvard in 1995 that amassed some of the library’s most important materials in that language.

Houghton also includes less illustrious materials related to the Slavic Languages and Literatures concentration, including a collection of drawings of the USSR dating back to 1922 (MS Russ 28, 000602238), Russian business documents from the period 1543-1775 (MS Russ 30, 000602236), a Russian folklore collection spanning the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth (MS Russ 105, 009429199), and even the family correspondence of Joseph Ponzio (2014M-37, 014145082), chef de cuisine to Grand Duke Peter Nikolaevich from 1895 to 1902.