Russian, Slavonic and East European material

An introduction to primary resources in University of Glasgow Library Archives & Special Collections (ASC)


University of Glasgow Library ASC houses a large number of items of interest to students of Russian, Slavonic and East European studies. The material is spread among various collections and covers a wide range of subjects. The Trotsky and Bissett collections, for example, are a valuable resource for students interested in the Soviet Union and the Euing collection contains a number of Slavonic bibles and religious works. The items displayed here represent an overview of the main strengths of the Slavonic material in ASC: history and travel, politics, and primary sources for studying the development of the modern languages.

Printed material is searchable through the rare books search and the search can be limited by language or location to provide more tailored information. Unpublished items are listed in the manuscripts catalogue. The collection descriptions and selective subject index will provide general information on the collections' contents.

This page is arranged according to the following themes:

Details of selected works in ASC with images


Church Slavonic

Page showing feast days and festivals of the Orthodox calendar. 

Church Slavonic Manuscript 
[18th century?]

Ms Ferguson 140

This Church Slavonic manuscript probably dates from the eighteenth century. It shows the arrangements of the Saints' and feast days of the Orthodox calendar, which begins on 1st September. The book also contains the text of several prayers. It is handwritten in Church Slavonic.


Beginning of the liturgy

Slavonic Service Book 
Moscow: 1793

Sp Coll Euing Dq-c.16

This Slavonic Service book consists of a set of prayers and the text of the liturgy of St John Chrysostom; the normal liturgy used in the Orthodox Church. This is an excellent copy; printed in red and black ink with decorative borders on each page.


First page of the Gospel of Mark


The New Testament in Slavonic and Russian 
St. Petersburg: 1822

Sp Coll Euing Dr-f.13

Church Slavonic is an adaptation of the Old Church Slavonic language and continues to be used as the liturgical language of the Russian Orthodox church. Before the eighteenth century Church Slavonic was widely used as a literary language before being replaced by the Russian language in secular contexts. As Old Church Slavonic is a South Slavonic language, Church Slavonic and Russian vary considerably. Despite this there are many borrowings from Church Slavonic in the modern Russian language. On the left column of each page of this copy of the New Testament is the Church Slavonic and on the right the Russian translation.



Introduction to the alphabet and general grammar

Россїская универсальная грамматика или всеобщее писмословіе

Sp Coll 1930

Serious study into the Russian language began around the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth centuries. The grammars published at this time reflect the change through which the Russian language was passing as it moved away from the separate dialects of Kiev, Novgorod, Pskov and so on to a unified Russian language by the end of the eighteenth century.


The Cyrillic alphabet


Собраніе разныхъ песенъ/ Опытъ новаго правописанія
St. Petersburg: 1773

Sp Coll 1958

This small book contains two items: a collection of songs and a manual of Russian spelling. The latter sets out the rules for spelling and proper use of what it terms the "new Russian language."



Title page

Polish Bible 
Königsberg: 1738

Sp Coll Euing Dw-g.21

The first Polish translations of the bible emerged in the second half of the fourteenth century with the Florian Psalter. Polish bibles originated after the middle of the fifteenth century. This bible represents the older language, printed in black-letter script with only occasional Roman script, a style common until the end of the eighteenth century.


Title page

Polish Bible 
Moscow: 1822

Sp Coll Euing Dr-f.8

In the nineteenth century the decline of the Polish language was reversed. The period of romanticism brought new regional influences to the Polish literary language and scientific and technical terminology was enriched. This bible represents that period of growth in the Polish language. Unlike the 1738 bible, it immediately appears more modern, being written in Roman script, like modern Polish.


Sigismond III

Gabinet medalów polskich 
Berlin: 1845

Sp Coll S. M. 1779/1780

These volumes consist of the images of medals held in Poland at the time along with accompanying texts and introduction. The text is in Polish with a parallel French translation. This image, from volume one, depicts King Sigismond III Vasa of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Page 5 of the songbook


Polski Śpiewnik Narodowy z melodami 
London [194?]

Store 32431

This is a collection of Polish national songs with lyrics and music. Patriotic and national songs were common in Poland in the nineteenth century; being a reaction to the partition of Poland by Russia, Austria and Prussia. The song shown here is Pieśń legionów polskich.



Title page

Bohemian Bible 
Kralitz: 1596

Sp Coll Euing Dk-g.4

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the Czech language came increasingly to be used for learned and technical purposes, being influenced by the revival of classical scholarship in Italy. At this time Czech adopted many aspects of Classical Latin. This bible is an edition of the Kralice Bible, published by Protestant Unitas Fratrum. It is widely regarded has the best model of literary Czech, although it retains some archaisms. This bible was extremely important in influencing the later development of the Czech language.


Letter to V.H. Zavertal


Letter from Dvořák to V. H. Zavertal 
Prague: 1898

MS Zavertal Cb11-x.3/4

This letter of March 1898 from Dvořák to the Czech composer and musician Václav Hugo Zavertal mentions Glasgow, where Zavertal settled in the late nineteenth century.



Russian and Polish entries

The Polyglot, a collection of many languages, nine thousand in general use, or most customary words, in ten mother tongues, or idioms, French, German, English, Russian, Polish, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, with Russian and Polish cants... 
[Brussels]: 1841

Sp Coll BD19-b.9

A polyglot is a book containing the same text in multiple languages. The most important were polyglot bibles which were useful for the study of scripture; however dictionaries such as this were also popular. This multilingual dictionary lists words and phrases by theme. It is laid out in five columns, each column containing two languages. The Russian text is, sometimes inaccurately, transliterated into Latin characters. This image shows the Polish and Russian text from the section on food and drink.


Russian, Greek and Latin entries

Словарь на шести языках
St. Petersburg: 1763

Sp Coll 1946

This small polyglot dictionary contains definitions in Russian, Greek, Latin, French, German and English.

Introduction | Languages | Bissett | Trotsky | Travel | History | Emblems | Papers

Bissett Collection

The Bissett collection comprises around 1,500 left-wing pamphlets dating from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, gathered by the Glasgow schoolteacher James Bissett and purchased by the University in 1981 with the help of the Local Museums Purchase Fund. The collections contains material by Russians such as Lenin and Tolstoi, as well as works on the Soviet Union and communism. The pamphlets here show the British left-wing view of the Soviet Union.

The National Union of Railwaymen delegation

Visit of Delegation from National Union of Railwaymen (Great Britain) to the Soviet Union

Sp Coll Bissett Add. 192

This pamphlet records the visit of the visit of the Delegation to Moscow, Leningrad and Sochi and gives their impressions of the Soviet Union's industrialisation and the role of women. The delegation is shown here visiting the Moscow metro.


Title page

N. Lenin:  Lessons of the Russian Revolution
London: 1918

Sp Coll Bissett Add. 200

This short pamphlet is published under the name Nikolai Lenin, a pseudonym V. I. Lenin occasionally used before the revolution. It concerns the outcomes of the revolution and speaks frankly of the his perceived failure of the "first phase of revolution".


From the section on the workers

The U.S.S.R. and the Capitalist Countries
Moscow: 1938

Sp Coll Bissett Add. 197

This small book was published by the Soviet Foreign Languages Publishing House, which published translations of Soviet works. It comprises an economic and political critique of the capitalist system, from a socialist point of view, covering topics such as unemployment, industrial relations and the plight of the peasants. The page displayed here deals with the "impoverishment of the workers" in a capitalist society.


Beginning of chapter three: Moscow

E. Sylvia Pankhurst: Soviet Russia as I saw it
London: 1921

Sp Coll Bissett Add. 7

Sylvia Pankhurst, daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst was a lifelong activist for women's rights and radical politics. She was actively involved in the suffragette and anti-fascist movements and the issue of Ethiopian independence was central to her later life. She also worked on behalf of the hands Off Russia campaign and, at the end of WW1, visited Russia via the Arctic Sea and Murmansk, where she met Lenin. This pamphlet describes that meeting and the rest of her journey, which allowed her to meet many Russians and see first hand the aftermath of revolution. This page is the beginning of her description of Moscow.


The S.T.U.C General council

Impressions of our Visit to Russia by General Council Scottish T.U.C.
Glasgow: 1955

Sp Coll Bissett 943

This pamphlet describes the Scottish Trade Union Congress' General Council's visit to Leningrad. It seeks to find answers to questions on Soviet industry, trade, labour conditions and culture. The Council are shown here visiting Manezh Square in Moscow.


Introduction | Languages | Bissett | Trotsky | Travel | History | Emblems | Papers

Trotsky Collection

The Trotsky collection was given to the University in 1983 by Trotsky's biographer, Louis Sinclair. It comprises around 1800 editions of Trotsky's works in some forty languages as well as numerous secondary sources. The collection has since been augmented with other items, including copies of films and correspondence. 

Title page

Leon Trotsky, Куда идёт Англия? 
Moscow/ Leningrad: 1925 

Sp Coll Trotsky R87.93

This book is the first Russian Edition of Where is England Going? in which he attacks the British Labour Party and sets out his own political philosophy.


Entry for 9th Feburary

Leon Trotsky: Туда и обратно 
Petrograd: 1919

Sp Coll Trotsky Add. 94

Trotsky was a leading spokesman of the St. Petersburg Soviet of Workers' Deputies during the 1905 revolution. In 1906 he was tried and sent to jail, where he wrote several important political works. In 1907 he was exiled to Siberia. Туда и обратно is the account of his escape from exile. This page is the entry for 9th February.


First page

Leon Trotsky: Grigorii Zinoviev, О мятеже левых с-р 
Petrograd: 1919

Sp Coll Trotsky Add. 97

This work was written by Trotsky and Grigorii Zinoviev, who was a principal collaborator with Lenin before the revolution and later became a victim of Stalin's Great Purges. This book deals with the Social Revolutionaries, who opposed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and were expelled from the Bolshevik government in 1918.


Title page

Report of the XV Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
London: 1928

Sp Coll Trotsky 343

This account of the 15th congress of the Communist Party, where Stalin consolidated his power and the Trotskyists were expelled, was published by the Communist party of Great Britain. It comprises all the speeches made as discussions and reports made by the committee.

Title page

Ruská revoluce listopadová ve vzpomínkách účastníků 
Prague: 1931

Sp Coll Trotsky 314

This item from the Trotsky collection consists of a dialogue between Trotsky and several others concerning their memories of the October revolution. Czech developed through the adoption and borrowing of many new words in the nineteenth century, particularly technical terms. The Czech language in the twentieth century is a result of that development and has broadly stabilised, although the literary and colloquial languages are moving closer.


Introduction | Languages | Bissett | Trotsky | Travel | History | Emblems | Papers


Plate 12

P. S. Pallas: Travels through the Southern provinces of the Russian Empire
London: 1802

Sp Coll BG52-c.16-17

Pallas was a German naturalist and professor of natural history at the Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg. From 1768-1774 he travelled across Russia on a scientific expedition; a journey which produced important discoveries-most notably of mammoth fossils in the Siberian ice-but also ruined his health. The findings of his expedition were published in his Reise durch verschiedene Provinzen des russischen Reichs (1771-6), which was translated into several languages. We hold several editions of Pallas' works. This English translation is more richly illustrated than the Russian version, containing a large number of coloured engravings. This image shows two Crimean Tatars.


Map of a Tatar village

Nikolai Petrovich Rychkov: Журнал или дневныя записки путешествїя Капитана Рычкова по разнымъ провинціямъ россійскаго государства
St. Petersburg: 1770

Sp Coll q607

An assistant of Pallas at the Academy of Sciences, Nikolai Petrovich also published a record of his travels through the Russian provinces, here in diary form. Rychkov's diary details his journey, beginning in the city of Sinbirsk (later Simbirsk, now Ulyanovsk). His detailed accounts also include maps of the towns visited. Shown here is a map of a small village close to the town of Elaburg in Tatarstan.


The town of Bronnizui

J.T. James: Journal of a Tour in Germany, Sweden, Russia, Poland during the years 1813 and 1814
London: 1816

Sp Coll g.5.13

John Thomas James (1786-1828) was bishop of Calcutta and a writer on art. In 1813 he began a tour of northern Europe with Sir James Riddell, publishing this account of his travels upon his return. The book contains several engravings of places visited. This image shows the village of Bronnizui, Novgorod.

Engraving of three Cheboskary girls

John Dundas Cochrane: Narrative of a Pedestrian Journey through Russia and Siberian Tartary
London: 1824

Sp Coll 2498-2499

Captain John Dundas Cochrane entered the Royal Navy at age ten and served in Indian waters. He travelled throughout Europe on foot, earning himself the nickname "The Pedestrian Traveller". In 1820-21 he crossed Russia, marrying a Russian in Kamchatka and returned to Europe in 1823. The drama of his difficult and dangerous journey are encapsulated in the lively prose of this account. This image shows three girls from Cheboksary, now the capital of the Chuvash republic. 

Two Crimean Tatars

P. S. Pallas: Путешествіе по разнымъ провинціямъ Россійской Имперіи
St. Petersburg:1773

Sp Coll q604

Pallas was a German naturalist and professor of natural history at the Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg. From 1768-1774 he travelled across Russia on a scientific expedition; a journey which produced important discoveries-most notably of mammoth fossils in the Siberian ice-but also ruined his health. The findings of his expedition were published in his Reise durch verschiedene Provinzen des russischen Reichs (1771-6), which was translated into several languages, including the Russian edition displayed here. The work contains valuable ethnographic and geographic information. We hold several editions of his various works.

Introduction | Languages | Bissett | Trotsky | Travel | History | Emblems | Papers


  See also Sigismund von Herberstein: Rerum Moscoviticarum Comentarii ('Description of Moscow and Muscovy') first printed in 1549. The third edition (Basel: 1556) has been featured as a Book of the Month.


Introduction in Russian and Latin

Catherine II: Наказъ
St. Petersburg: 1770

Sp Coll q217

Catherine the Great's Nakaz was a legal document, first issued in 1676, first written as a guide for a legislative commission intended to devise a new, revised code of laws. The Nakaz favoured a freer society, with all equal before the law. Although it opposed torture and capital punishment it continued to support the principle of absolutism. The Nakaz had little impact on Russian law; however it  acted as a major stimulus to Russian political thought. This copy was the first edition to appear in four languages and was owned by Charles Gascoigne who became head of the Aleksandrov Cannon factory and the Koncherzersk Foundry at Petrozavodsk.


A woman from Kamchatka with her child

The Costume of the Russian Empire
London: 1804

Sp Coll RF 355

This book contains seventy-three coloured engravings alongside descriptions in English and French. The work was copied from a Russian series of engravings done in St. Petersburg in 1776-9 and is dedicated to the late Empress. This image is of a woman from Kamchatka with her child.

Title page

Prince Mikhail Shcherbatov: Исторія Россійская отъ древнешихъ времянъ 
St. Petersburg: 1771

Sp Coll q602

Mikhail Mikhailovich Shcherbatov was a Russian scholar and nobleman from one of Russia's oldest aristocratic families, who wrote on the political and social developments in the eighteenth century. In 1768 he became imperial historian; between 1770-91 his seven-volume history of Russia was published. Shcherbatov's work was the first attempt to produce a narrative of Russian history based on primary sources, incorporating old chronicles and legal documents.


Two Russian boors

Robert Lyall: The Character of the Russians and a Detailed History of Moscow
London: 1823

Sp Coll c.2.12

Robert Lyall (1789-1831) was a botanist and traveler who, in 1815 went to Russia as a physician, where he graduated as a doctor and surgeon at the Imperial Medico-Surgical Academy in St. Petersburg in  1816. The Character of the Russians was published in 1823 and includes descriptions of scientific societies, Moscow plants and architecture among other subjects. This image depicts "two Russian boors who have just quitted a Kabak, or Tippling House"



Introduction | Languages | Bissett | Trotsky | Travel | History | Emblems | Papers


Title page

Символы и емблемата 
Amsterdam: 1705

Sp Coll S.M. 1477

This most famous and influential Russian emblem books was first published in 1705, on the order of Peter the Great. It is heavily based on Devises et Emblèmes by Daniel de La Feuille. It comprises several hundred emblems with text in multiple languages. The front cover, shown here, has as its centrepiece a portrait of Peter the Great. The double-headed eagle, the symbol of Imperal Russia is shown on the left.


Page ninety

Емвлемы и символы избранные 
St. Petersburg: 1788

Sp Coll S.M. 1567

This later edition of Символы и емблемата, published in 1788, contains an introductory essay by Nestor Maksimovich Ambodik who was Russia's first professor of obstetrics and taught in St. Petersburg. The book is notable for having been mentioned by the writer Ivan Turgenev in his novel A Nest of the Gentry. This copy was given to William Stirling Maxwell by Turgenev himself.


Plate thirty

Емблемат дхвный 
[Moscow?]: 1743

Sp Coll S.M. Add 331

Glasgow's copy of this emblem book is the only one known to exist outside of the National Library in St. Petersburg. It contains forty emblems, and is based on a German emblem book by Johann Saubert entitled Duodekas Sacrorum. For a more detailed article and more images from this book, see the November 2006 book of the month.

Introduction | Languages | Bissett | Trotsky | Travel | History | Emblems | Papers


Contents page of a draft version of History of the Communist Party of the USSR

Papers and Correspondence of Doctor Rudolf Schlesinger

MS Gen 1660

Rudolf Schlesinger (1901-1969) was a Marxist theoretician and co-founder of the University of Glasgow's Institute of Soviet and East European Studies and was influential in establishing Soviet Studies as a discipline in its own right. His papers were transferred to ASC by his friend and executor René Beerman. The documents in the collection include personal correspondence, drafts and revisions of books and articles and part of the records of the German Communist Party of the 1920s and 30s

Typewritten draft for Koczy's book "The Vinland Map"
Papers of Doctor Leon Koczy

MS Gen 1661

ASC also holds the papers of Professor Leon Koczy (1900-1981) who was a prominent member of the Polish community in Glasgow. A mediaeval historian, he also have many lectures and made many speeches at celebrations and other events.  He wrote several works on Polish-Scottish history and relations. These items are as yet uncatalogued but contain drafts of articles, pamphlets and reports as well as items relating to Scottish-Polish communities and organisations such as the Polish Library in Glasgow or the Scottish Polish Society.