Slavonic and East European collections

Cartoon of Russian soldier punching officer
Detail from 'Frontline
Verses', poster, Russian Civil
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The humanities are the main focus of our collecting. Subjects covered include:

  • History
  • Politics
  • Literature
  • Literary criticism
  • Arts and culture.

We have a smaller number of social science titles, but hold biographies of Russians noted for their achievements in any field.

The Library did not collect East European material on a regular basis until the 1960s. At this time the focus was mainly on Russian works.

Since 1710, however, we have received many British, and some American, publications on Russia and Eastern Europe through our legal deposit privilege.

Our list of selected Russian / East European serials contains those titles which we are presently receiving.

We now actively collect any publications relating to:

  • Scottish links with Russia and Eastern Europe
  • The activities of Scots in Russia and Eastern Europe.

For more information on Scotland's connections with Russia, see our general listing of Slavonic and East European books and articles.

Countries featured in our collections

We continue to buy publications relating to the former Soviet Union. We also collect materials published in Europe and North America which relate to Russia.

Polish collections occupy second place in our Eastern European holdings. However, we stopped buying Polish materials on a regular basis in 1995, due to financial constraints. Our Polish acquisitions are now mainly limited to reference works and Poland's relations with its neighbours.

Collections relating to the other East European countries are on a much smaller scale. Purchasing now focuses mainly on reference materials and works on foreign relations.

We still receive British and American publications on Eastern Europe via legal deposit and donation.

Donations and special collections

Excepting mountaineering and polar material bought via the Graham Brown Fund, we do not normally collect older books. However, a number of earlier works have come to the Library through donations and exchanges with foreign libraries. We hold, for example, around 30 volumes of the Russian census of 1897.

Our three Polish special collections are:

  • The 'Bibliotheca Polonica': Contains 143 volumes mainly relating to the history of Poland. Presented to the Signet Library in Edinburgh in 1820 by Polish exiles.
  • A collection of 1,000 20th-century books: Gifted by the Polish community in Edinburgh in 1962 to mark the millennium of the Polish state.
  • A collection of 131 volumes, mainly on Polish art and topography: Count Jan Tarnowski presented this to the Library in 1964.

We also hold the following material:

See our Special and Named Printed Collections for more information.

Microfiche collections

Our largest microfiche collection is the 'Russian History and Culture Index'. This contains several thousand rare Russian 19th-20th-century titles from Helsinki University library.

Photo of Russian peasant woman
Russian peasant
Photo: William Carrick.
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We also have the following non-print collections:

  • The 'Sobranie dokumentov samizdata' and its continuation 'Materialy samizdata': These contain samizdat documents - secretly published government-suppressed literature - from 1968 to 1988.
  • The 'Slavic Cyrillic Union Catalog of Pre-1956 Imprints': Microfiche catalogue containing works held by libraries in the USA.
  • 'The Soviet Union: Special Studies 1970-1980': American microfilm reports on the Soviet Union armed forces and Soviet politics.

Manuscript, maps and music collections

Our manuscript collections contain material relating to Russia. This is generally scattered among the papers of Scottish diplomats, missionaries, soldiers and travellers, among others. Our map collections and music collections also hold related works.


For more information about our Slavonic and Eastern European collections email Catherine Booth.


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