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Reviewed by:
  • Minuvshee: Istoricheskii al′manakh, 25: Soderzhanie tomov 1–24
  • Marina Sorokina
Minuvshee: Istoricheskii al′manakh, 25: Soderzhanie tomov 1–24. St. Petersburg: Atheneum-Feniks, 1999. 520 pp. ISBN: 5-901027-20-5.

The boom in the publishing of documents which seized Russian professional and popular historical publications at the beginning of the glasnost' era, and which led to an unsystematic, avalanche-like appearance of an enormous quantity of new archival sources, also gave rise to a peculiar ideology of premature publishing: the publication of documents without commentary or scholarly apparatus, without preparatory work in textology or source criticism. In the best case, publications guided by such an ideology reproduce the discovered "text"; in the worst, they distort the document, virtually destroying it as a "historical source."1 Today the question posed by many historians – "can archival documents be published this way?"2 – ought to receive the categorical reply: "archival documents must not be published this way."3

Volume 25 of the historical almanac Minuvshee concluded a project in the publication of documents that had been going on for almost a quarter of a century. Its first volume, a direct descendent of the well-known samizdat almanac Pamiat', appeared in Paris in 1986 in the Russian émigré publishing house "Atheneum."4 Materials for it were being gathered and prepared in the USSR by a group of independent historians, philologists, and archivists as far back as the 1960s–1970s, when the uncensored publication of an archival document was considered "socially dangerous," was equated by the authorities with anti-Soviet agitation, and was punished by a special article of the Criminal Code. At the time it seemed that, like all bookish "Rossica" published abroad, the journal was doomed to exist outside the USSR, on the shelves of Soviet libraries' "special [End Page 805] collections," or hidden away in the homes of a few Moscow and Leningrad intellectuals.

However, with the change in the political situation Minuvshee – alone among the thick tamizdat almanacs – returned to Russia and resumed publication in its homeland. Its first 12 issues came out in Paris in 1986-91,5 and the same number appeared in Saint Petersburg in 1993-99, where the now renamed publishing house "Atheneum-Feniks" has issued a whole series of documentary publications – the biographical almanac Litsa (7 volumes), the regional studies almanacs Nevskii arkhiv (3 volumes) and Iaroslavskii arkhiv (1 volume), as well as three "unplanned" collections of articles and publications, In Memoriam, dedicated to the memory of the historians Iakov Solomonovich Lur'e, Feliks Fedorovich Perchenok, and Aleksandr Iosifovich Dobkin. The latter two were regular contributors to and editors of Pamiat' and Minuvshee.6

Twenty-four volumes of archival documents on the history of 20th-century Russia and the USSR, each 400-500 pages in length, more than 260 publications and articles, more than 18,000 names – such is the impressive numerical sum of Minuvshee's work. No other Russian-language historical almanac can compare with it in terms of consistency of publication (exactly twice a year), volume and diversity of the documentary materials published, and the scholarly level of their preparation. As I see it, the almanac owes its leading position to the fact that, from the very beginning, Minuvshee was not simply a publishing operation, but the research-publication project of an informal, interdisciplinary, and international group of authors united by a common understanding of the exceptional role of the archival source in the study of the history of Russia.7

I hasten to point out that the almanac Minuvshee was never a narrowly professional publication. On the contrary, it was from the beginning oriented toward the ordinary educated reader interested in the search for historical truth. But thoroughness in documentation and precision in the treatment of facts were declared by the compilers of Minuvshee to be a most important principle on this path. It is precisely for this reason that the almanac became, above all, a collection of document publications – foreign, Soviet, unorthodox, and oppositionist – on Russia's entire recent history. [End Page 806]

One of the main ideas with which Minuvshee was launched was the opposition of the archival source – the document, the fact – to the "Soviet historiographical...


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