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Register of the Boris I. Nicolaevsky Collection, 1801-1982
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  • Title: Boris I. Nicolaevsky collection
    Date (inclusive): 1801-1982
    Collection Number: 63013
    Contributing Institution: Hoover Institution Archives
    Language of Material: Mainly in Russian.
    Physical Description: 795 manuscript boxes, 1 cubic foot box, 4 oversize boxes, 16 cardfile boxes, 1 album box, 1 oversize folder, 1 motion picture film reel (340.5 linear feet)
    Abstract: Correspondence, memoranda, writings, speeches, memoirs, minutes of meetings, conference proceedings, leaflets, resolutions, bulletins, reports, clippings, newspapers, other printed matter, and photographs, relating to Karl Marx and the international socialist movement; the First, Second, Third and Fourth Intenationals; Russian revolutionary, anarchist and socialist movements, especially the Rossiiskaia sotsial- demokraticheskaia rabochaia partiia (RSDRP) and its Menshevik wing; the Partiia sotsialistov-revoliutsionerov (PSR); the Russian Revolution and Civil War; Russian politics and government in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; communism in the Soviet Union; Russian emigre politics; the Vlasov movement during World War II; and Russian displaced persons after World War II. Includes records of the RSDRP, the PSR, and other organizations; and papers of Rafail Abramovich, Pavel Aksel'rod, Viktor Chernov, Leon Trotsky, Iraklii TSereteli, and many others. Also includes papers of B. I. Nicolaevsky.
    Physical Location: Hoover Institution Archives
    Creator: Nicolaevsky, Boris I., 1887-1966


    This work was made possible in part through a grant from the Division of Research Programs of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


    Microfilm use only. The Hoover Institution Archives only allows access to copies of audiovisual items. To listen to sound recordings or to view videos or films during your visit, please contact the Archives at least two working days before your arrival. We will then advise you of the accessibility of the material you wish to see or hear. Please note that not all audiovisual material is immediately accessible.

    Publication Rights

    For copyright status, please contact the Hoover Institution Archives.
    Finding aid published as:

    Guide to the Boris I. Nicolaevsky Collection in the Hoover Institution archives, compiled by Anna M. Bourguina and Michael Jakobson, Stanford, California: Hoover Institution, 1989
    All rights in published finding aid reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Boris I. Nicolaevsky collection, [Box number], Hoover Institution Archives.

    Alternative Form Available

    Also available on microfilm (796 reels).


    Among the Hoover Institution Archives' many rich holdings in the area of Russian and Soviet studies, the single most valuable may well be the Boris I. Nicolaevsky Collection. The product of over forty years of vigorous collecting, it brings together a wealth of material from many diverse sources, contained in 811 boxes and amounting to 330 linear feet. It includes personal papers of such outstanding Russian historical figures as Mikhail Bakunin, Petr Lavrov, Georgii Plekhanov, Paul Axelrod, Julius Martov, Iraklii Tsereteli, Viktor Chernov and Leon Trotsky. The collection as a whole provides unparalleled documentation of the nineteenth and twentieth century Russian revolutionary movements, including the anarchists, the populists, and the Socialist Revolutionary Party (PSR), and especially centers on the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDRP). It also covers political, social and economic conditions in Russia and the Soviet Union, Russian émigré life and politics both before and after 1917, and the international socialist movement. Specific topics covered include the tsarist government, the 1905 revolution, the Imperial Duma, the February and October 1917 revolutions, the Civil War, the Vlasov movement during World War II, and Russian displaced persons after World War II. A smaller portion of the collection provides valuable historical source material on non-Russian subjects, specifically on the history and activities of the First, Second, Third and Fourth Internationals, and the labor and socialist movements in Europe and the United States. The materials comprising the collection include letters, memoranda, writings, speeches, memoirs, minutes of meetings, pamphlets, occasional serial issues, underground leaflets, other rare printed ephemera, photographs, and other primary source documents.
    The origins of the Nicolaevsky Collection are best understood within the context of the eventful life of Boris Ivanovich Nicolaevsky himself. (1) Nicolaevsky was born in 1887 in the small town of Belebei, in what is now the Bashkir Autonomous Republic, the son of an Orthodox priest. At an early age, he was caught up in the Social Democratic movement, in 1904 formally joined the RSDRP, and soon gravitated toward its Menshevik wing. Over the next years, Nicolaevsky's activity as a revolutionary organizer and journalist was interrupted only by periodic arrests and sentences to prison or internal exile.
    Following the revolution of 1917, his interest turned increasingly in the direction of archival work. He was appointed to a commission to investigate the files of the tsarist secret police, helped to set up an official Soviet archive, and served from 1919 to 1921 as director of the Historical Revolutionary Archive in Moscow. In the latter year, Nicolaevsky was among a number of leading Mensheviks arrested by the Soviet regime. After a year in prison, he departed for exile in Berlin in 1922.
    Even then, Nicolaevsky's connection with the Soviet archives was not severed. He served from 1924 to 1931 as Berlin representative of the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow, collecting material for the institute. In addition, Nicolaevsky also became a steady contributor to the Menshevik newspaper in exile, Sotsialisticheskii vestnik. Over the decades, his meticulous research found an outlet not only in innumerable articles in that journal and others, but also in four scholarly books: Aseff the Spy: Russian Terrorist and Police Stool (1934); Karl Marx, Man and Fighter (1936, co-authored with Otto Maenchen-Helfen); Forced Labor in Soviet Russia (1947, co-authored with David J. Dallin); and Power and the Soviet Elite (1965, a collection of essays).
    With the Nazi advent to power in Germany in 1933, Nicolaevsky moved on to Paris. At this time he accomplished a major coup by engineering the shipment of invaluable archives of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) out of the country. He formed a new relationship with the International Institute for Social History in Amsterdam, soon becoming its Paris representative, and bringing into its home and Paris offices important holdings from the SPD Archive and other sources. When this material was threatened by the German invasion of France and the Netherlands, Nicolaevsky was instrumental in saving much of it. He fled to New York at the end of 1940 to take charge of papers he had sent out of the country ahead of him. Other materials, secreted in France throughout World War II, were reclaimed at the close of hostilities. Still another portion of the collection, however, did fall into Nazi hands and was never recovered.
    In the United States, Nicolaevsky promptly established himself as director of the American Labor Archives and Research Institute in New York. He continued his collecting activities, as well as his journalistic and scholarly writing. Some of the valuable printed materials he had assembled were sold to the Indiana University Library in 1955. The bulk of his collection was acquired by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University at the end of 1963. In addition to the Nicolaevsky Collection established in the Hoover Institution Archives, many printed items were integrated into the Hoover Institution Library, adding greatly to already rich Russian area holdings. Nicolaevsky himself served as curator of his collection at the Hoover Institution until his death in 1966.
    The Nicolaevsky Collection is divided into 280 subgroups or series. Most of these subgroups are established on the basis of provenance, and consist either of personal papers of individuals, or records and/or issuances of organizations. In many cases, these subgroups also contain notes by Nicolaevsky about the person or organization in question.
    Thirty-nine subgroups are based on internal records and/or issuances of organizations. Of these, documentation of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDRP) is of outstanding importance. The material (53 boxes) encompasses minutes, conference proceedings, leaflets, underground publications, other issuances, and internal letters from the time of the formation of the party to the Russian Revolution. Documentation on the Menshevik wing of the party is particularly good, and is indeed more detailed than that in any other source outside the Soviet Union. There is extensive material not only on the Mensheviks' early history, but also on their delegation in exile from the 1920s on. Related subgroups include resolutions, letters, statutes, minutes and leaflets of the Soiuz russkikh sotsial-demokratov (13 boxes); letters, reports and leaflets of the New York Group of the RSDRP, 1900-1917 (1 box); leaflets and reports of the Bund, the Jewish affiliate of the RSDRP (1 box); and letters and writings issued by the Latvian Social Democratic Party (1 box).
    Next in importance among records of organizations are those of the Socialist Revolutionary Party (PSR), consisting of minutes, resolutions, theses, letters, issuances and other material from the 1880s up to World War II, including substantial documentation of both the pre-1917 and subsequent exile periods (11 boxes).
    Other records of Russian revolutionary organizations are more fragmentary, but include those of the nineteenth-century Narodnaia Volia (1 box of leaflets, pamphlets, programs and other issuances).
    Another perspective on Russian revolutionary activities is provided by three boxes of police reports by the tsarist Ministry of the Interior. From the period of the Russian Revolution and Civil War itself comes one box of instructions, bulletins, and writings of the Soviet secret police, Cheka (VCHK).
    Thoughts and activities of the Russian émigré community during the 1920s and 1930s are reflected in correspondence and manuscripts of the Paris journal Poslednie novosti (17 boxes), and the Berlin journals Novaia russkaia kniga (4 boxes) and Letopis' revoliutsii (2 boxes). The post-World War II Narodno-trudovoi soiuz solidaristov is represented by two boxes of issuances, programs, and leaflets.
    Records of non-Russian socialist organizations include two boxes of correspondence of the German SPD, 1891-1922, mainly relating to its Dietz Verlag publishing house.
    There are, in addition, a number of other organizational records, primarily of Russian revolutionary of émigré groups, but also including records of police agencies, Civil War governmental agencies and editorial boards of journals.
    The 144 subgroups constituting personal papers of individuals make up by far the largest portion of the collection. Dozens of members of the RSDRP account in turn for the largest share of the personal papers. Among the prominent party leaders whose papers are included are: Georgii Plekhanov (1 box), Paul Axelrod (11 boxes), Julius Martov (3 boxes), Aleksandr Potresov (2 boxes), Georgii Chicherin (1 box), Iraklii Tsereteli (11 boxes), Noi Zhordaniia (1 box), Rafail Abramovich (28 boxes), Nikolai Volskii-Valentinov (2 boxes), and Vladimir Voitinskii (2 boxes). The papers of Leon Trotsky and of his son Lev Sedov, dating almost entirely from the period after Trotsky's expulsion from the Soviet Union, are especially noteworthy, in part because of their extent (76 boxes). (2)
    Among materials of PSR members, the papers of Viktor Chernov (17 boxes) and the memoirs of Ekaterina Breshko-Breshkovskaia (1 box) are of particular importance.
    Other Russian revolutionists whose papers are in the collection include: the anarchists Mikhail Bakunin (4 boxes) and Prince Petr Kropotkin (1 box); Vera Figner, leader of Narodnaia Volia (1 box); and Petr Lavrov, leader of Zemlia i volia (2 boxes).
    Russian liberalism is represented by papers of Paul Miliukov (1 box), and of Prince David Bebutov (8 boxes), both leaders of the Constitutional Democratic Party (KDP); of Petr Struve (1 box); and of Ekaterina Kuskova and her husband Sergei Prokopovich (1 box).
    Papers of Iurii Semenov (4 boxes), representative abroad of Generals Denikin and Vrangel' during the Russian Civil War, provide coverage of the White governments of that period.
    There are also papers of writers and scholars, including such notable literary figures as Maxim Gorky (1 box), Leonid Andreev (5 boxes), Ivan Bunin (1 box), and Nina Berberova (11 boxes), as well as of the historians Vladimir Burtsev (5 boxes) and Solomon Schwarz (1 box).
    Papers of non-Russian individuals or of Russian émigrés primarily concerned with non-Russian subjects constitute another category. Notable among these are papers of Angelica Balabanova (1 box), secretary of the Communist International and subsequently Italian Socialist Party leader; Nahum Stone (10 boxes), American labor economist; Jules Guesde (1 box), French socialist leader; and Hermann Schlüter (1 box), German-American socialist. The two latter subgroups both include original writings of Friedrich Engels.
    Dozens of other subgroups consist of papers of: members of the RSDRP, the PSR, and other revolutionary groups, going back well into the nineteenth century; members of the KDP; officials of the tsarist,
    Provisional, White Civil War, and Soviet, governments; police officials; prisoners; writers; historians; journalists; and non-Russians, mainly socialists, living in the United States, Great Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Austria, and Yugoslavia.
    In addition to subgroups constituting records of organizations or papers of individuals, another large block of 81 subgroups was established on the basis of topic. Each such subgroup contains material collected directly by Nicolaevsky and/or acquired by him from diverse sources, but having in common some unifying subject or theme. Types of material frequently found in this block of subgroups include collected memoirs, letters, reports, printed matter, and notes by Nicolaevsky himself. Among such subgroups are those devoted to: the life of Karl Marx and the international socialist movement of his time; the history of the composition and exposure as forgery of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion; the condition of Jews in Russian society; the role of Freemasons in Russian history; Russian revolutionists and provocateurs; intelligence and secret police activities under both the tsarist and Soviet governments; activities of the Duma; the Russian Revolution and Civil War; the Kronstadt rebellion of 1921; forced labor, prisons and prison camps in the Soviet Union; the Vlasov movement during World War II; postwar Russian refugees and displaced persons; and the history of socialist movements in France, Germany and the United States.
    There are a small number of remaining subgroups. These include nine established on the basis of physical form (notably audio-visual materials, miscellaneous issues of politico-satirical journals, and bibliographical materials). There are also the personal papers of Nicolaevsky himself, in five subgroups, including Nicolaevsky's personal correspondence, his published and manuscript speeches and writings, and, of particular note, his unfinished documentary history of the Bolshevik Center of 1908-1912. There are also a subgroup of materials documenting the growth of the collection itself and a subgroup of the personal papers of Anna Bourguina, Nicolaevsky's longtime collaborator, and, as his widow, successor to the curatorship of the collection.
    In one way or another, Russians who had left their homeland were intermediaries in passing on to Nicolaevsky the great bulk of the material composing the Nicolaevsky Collection. He obtained roughly 23 percent of the collection (186 boxes) from fellow Mensheviks, 7 percent from members of the PSR (58 boxes), 6 percent from members of other revolutionary organizations (46 boxes), 10 percent from former Soviet officials (82 boxes, mainly accounted for by the Trotsky papers), 12 percent from refugees from the Russian Revolution and Civil War who had not been identified with revolutionary organizations (96 boxes), and 9 percent from World War II-era refugees from the Soviet Union (71 boxes). Non-Russian sources, mainly socialists from other countries, contributed 10 percent (78 boxes), while Nicolaevsky directly collected from publicly available sources, or originated through his own correspondence and writing, the remaining 23 percent (194 boxes).
    The collection is divided into two parts, reflecting a marked discontinuity in its processing history. Part I constitutes somewhat more than half of the collection (456 boxes, or 56 percent of the total), and contains a disproportionate number of the subgroups (229 of 280). This part was arranged by Anna Bourguina, Nicolaevsky's widow, who succeeded him as curator of the collection upon his death in 1966, and who retained that position until her own death in 1982. She assigned a unique identifying number to each subgroup (numbers 1-246, seventeen numbers within that sequence being unused). Subgroups were numbered in arbitrary order. Moreover, in many cases, material in Part I that might logically have formed a single subgroup was broken up into two or more subgroups simply because it was processed at different times. Thus Subgroups 6, 9, and 66 are all made up of records of the RSDRP and are designated as RSDRP-I, RSDRP-II and RSDRP-III. Bourguina organized the material within each subgroup in a somewhat arbitrary fashion, assigning each file folder a sequential identifying number within its subgroup. Her register to this part of the collection, which was in Russian, featured subgroup and file folder numbers prominently, and, over the years, many scholars employed these in citations.
    Following Bourguina's death, Michael Jakobson undertook a revision of the register to Part I, rendering it into English, and adding clarified descriptions and more detailed breakdowns in many places. The container list in the present register, beginning on page 1, indicates on the left-hand side of the page newly assigned box and folder numbers that run consecutively through the 811 boxes of the collection, continuing from one subgroup to another. Bourguina's overall arrangement of Part I, however, was retained intact. Her numerical designation of subgroups appears as part of the title of each subgroup and as part of the running head at the top of each page. Bourguina's file folder numbers are also retained and appear in parentheses at the end of each entry, toward the right-hand side of the page. For example, Subgroup 15, papers of Iraklii Tsereteli, includes a file of letters to Tsereteli from Rafail Abramovich, which Bourguina designated as 15-7, the seventh file of Subgroup 15. A glance at the numerical running heads at page-top level quickly brings one to the beginning of Subgroup 15 on page 35. Another glance down the right-hand side of the page easily locates the parenthetical notation 15-7, which is seen to be in Box 29, folder 7 of the collection. Absence of a parenthetical number at the end of an entry in Part I normally indicates an added breakdown in detail made by Jakobson beyond Bourguina's original treatment.
    One subgroup in Part I calls for particular mention. This is Subgroup 231, papers of Leon Trotsky and Lev Sedov. Since these papers had not been made publicly available for research up to the time of the revision of the register, Bourguina's file folder designations were disregarded and the subgroup was rearranged by Jakobson in a systematic manner and with especial detail. Pierre Broué and Jean van Heijenoort provided assistance in a portion of this work.
    Fifteen smaller subgroups in Part I had not been broken down by Bourguina beyond the subgroup level and were fully processed by Jakobson.
    Part II of the Nicolaevsky Collection, amounting to approximately 44 percent of the whole (51 subgroups in 356 boxes), was, with very minor exceptions mentioned in the register, totally unarranged at the time of Bourguina's death. A grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1986 permitted this half of the collection to be processed. The work was carried out by Michael Jakobson, who established Subgroups 247-297 in accordance with modern archival principles and arranged each subgroup systematically. Olga Dunlop assisted in arrangement of Subgroup 283. In some instances, material in Part II was closely related to one or more subgroups in Part I. Thus, for instance, in addition to the three subgroups of RSDRP records in Part I, there is also an RSDRP-IV (Subgroup 279) in Part II.
    In addition to the container list, which runs from page 1 to page 617, there are two other important components of the register. The subgroup list, which appears on pages ix through xxxiv, provides a concise overview of the entire collection, with a brief description of each subgroup, its inclusive dates, and its physical size. Browsing the subgroup list will often be useful in suggesting portions of the collection likely to be relevant to a given area of interest.
    The index, which covers pages 618-755, provides a single alphabetic listing of proper names and specific topics mentioned in the container list. All references in the index are to page numbers of the container list. Use of the index will be particularly helpful in locating information on a specific person or organization. Nadya Stoy assisted in preparation of the index.
    All names of Russian organizations are given in Russian rather than English in the register, for example, Rossiiskaia sotsial-demokraticheskaia rabochaia partiia rather than Russian Social Democratic Labor Party. The thorny problem of the spelling of names of Russian individuals has been resolved by employing Library of Congress transliterations of the Cyrillic uniformly, for example, Aksel'rod rather than Axelrod, SHvarts rather than Schwarz, Trotskii rather than Trotsky, and Burgina rather than Bourguina. Only one exception has been made, in the case of the established name of the collection itself. Nicolaevsky rather than Nikolaevskii is used throughout.
    Charles G. Palm

    Associate Director, Hoover Institution


    (1) For a detailed account of Nicolaevsky's life, upon which the summary above is based, see Alexander and Janet Rabinowitch, with Ladis K. D. Kristof, eds., Revolution and Politics in Russia: Essays in Memory of B. I. Nicolaevsky (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1972), especially the Foreword by Alexander Rabinowitch (pp. vii-xii), Ladis K. D. Kristof's essay B. I. Nicolaevsky: The Formative Years (pp. 3-32), and Philip E. Moseley's essay Boris Nicolaevsky: The American Years (pp. 33-38). The transcripts of a series of interviews with Nicolaevsky on his early life were published posthumously in Leopold H. Haimson, The Making of Three Russian Revolutionaries: Voices from the Menshevik Past (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 214-292.
    (2) For further description of this material see Dale Reed and Michael Jakobson, Trotsky Papers at the Hoover Institution: One Chapter of an Archival Mystery Story, American Historical Review 92 (April 1987): 363-375.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Abramovich, Rafail Abramovich, 1880-1963.
    Aksel'rod, P. B. (Pavel Borisovich), 1850-1928.
    Chernov, V. M. (Viktor Mikhailovich), 1873-1952.
    Communist International.
    Fourth International.
    International Socialist Congress
    International Workingmen's Association.
    Labour and Socialist International.
    Marx, Karl, 1818-1883.
    Partiia sotsialistov-revoliutsionerov.
    Rossiiskaia sotsial-demokraticheskaia rabochaia partiia.
    Russkaia osvoboditel'naia armiia.
    Trotsky, Leon, 1879-1940.
    TSereteli, Iraklii Georgievich, 1882-1959.
    Communism--Soviet Union.
    Russians in foreign countries.
    Soviet Union--History--Revolution, 1917-1921.
    Soviet Union--Politics and government.
    Soviet Union.
    World War, 1939-1945--Collaborationists.
    World War, 1939-1945--Refugees.
    World War, 1939-1945--Soviet Union.
    World War, 1939-1945.