THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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Exploring Europe at the British Library

Introduction

Discover the British Library's extensive collections from continental Europe and read news and views on European culture and affairs from our subject experts and occasional guest contributors. Read more

07 December 2016

Commemorating the Russian Revolution

Last week the British Library announced some of our forthcoming cultural highlights for 2017. Among them is a major exhibition to mark the centenary of the Russian Revolution. For the curators involved, this will be the culmination of many months of planning: deciding on the exhibition’s ‘storyline’ and selecting items from our rich collections to illustrate it, complemented by loans of artefacts from other institutions.

The exhibition will begin in the reign of the last Tsar, looking at social and political conditions in Russia in the early years of the 20th century, and exploring the growth of revolutionary movements. Exhibits will include the lavish album published to commemorate the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II and, at the other end of the political spectrum, a letter from Lenin (under the pseudonym ‘Jacob Richter’) applying for a reader’s ticket for the British Museum Library.

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Crowds celebrating the Coronation of Nicholas II from the album Les Solennités du saint couronnement... (St Petersburg, 1896). The scene here later turned to tragedy when there was a stampede for souvenir gifts, food and drink in which over 1,300 people were killed.

Among the items illustrating the Revolution itself, alongside images of events and key players, will be Order No. 1, published by the Petrograd Soviet in March 1917. This initiated a new era of soldier–officer relations, requiring officers to treat soldiers respectfully and giving soldiers the same rights as civilians when off duty, overturning centuries of traditional military discipline.

Order no. 1
Prikaz No. 1 (Order no. 1), 14 (1) March 1917. HS.74/1870

The Civil War which engulfed Russia in the aftermath of the Revolution is also examined, with material from both sides of the conflict. A striking White Army recruitment poster aimed at Muslim communities in the Caucasus is a reminder of the huge geographical, ethnic and linguistic scope of Russia and of the conflict that arose from the Revolution.

Recruiting Poster 1856.g.8.(30)
White Army recruituing poster, with text in four langauges: Russian, Arabic, Circassian and Nogay. 1856.g.8.(30)

The combination of War, Revolution and Civil War brought huge problems to Russia, and the tragedy of famine for people on all sides and none of the conflict. For many supporters – or perceived supporters – of the old order, the Revolution also led to exile from their homeland. Meanwhile the Bolsheviks were trying to consolidate and maintain power and to create and celebrate their new world. Drives for popular literacy and to encourage workers’ co-operation led to the creation of material such as a striking hand-painted and hand-lettered ‘wall newspaper’ produced by a local women’s committee in Yalta. It contains reports on their joint achievements, amateur poetry and stories intended to inspire and promote new communist values.

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Ialtinskaia delegatka (The Yalta Female Delegate), hand-lettered wall newspaper, 1927. The four women pictured are the main authors and artists.
Add MS 57556.

The Bolsheviks also hoped to export the revolution, and Socialist revolutionary movements flourished briefly in several European countries immediately after the First World War. At the same time, many of Russia’s former imperial possessions fought for independence from the new Russian state with greater or lesser degrees of success.

Red Army Alphabet World on Fire-Cup.401.g.25
Exporting Revolution: in this ‘Red Army Alphabet’ the letter G stands for the Russian word for ‘to burn’ (goret’). The picture caption reads: ‘The Earth burns with a fire / Lit by the worker’s hand.’ Dmitri Moor, Azbuka krasnoarmeitsa (Moscow, 1921). Cup.401.g.25

As well as the familiar figures and key players of the Revolution – the Romanovs, Rasputin, Lenin, Trotsky – the exhibition also seeks to convey the lives of ordinary people during these turbulent years, using quotations from contemporary diaries and letters. As the exhibition title, Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths, suggests, there are many sides to the story of the Revolution, and many aspects that have been mythologised by subsequent generations. We hope that our telling of that story, based on the most recent research, will introduce it to new audiences and bring a fresh perspective to those familiar with it.

The exhibition Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths will run from 28 April until 29 August 2017 in the PACCAR Gallery.

 

05 December 2016

The Brothers Jovanović National Library

In 1920 the Serbian Legation in London donated 250 small size unbound fascicles of Serbian literature to the British Museum Library. This donation was a welcome addition to the Library Serbian collections, which then consisted hardly of a few hundreds Serbian literary works.

These issues were part of a collection of Serbian literature published in Pančevo, a small town in the then Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, from 1871 to 1912. The works were published by the Brothers Jovanović, Kamenko (1843-1916) and Pavle (1847-1914), printers and booksellers from Pančevo. In 1870 the Brothers Jovanović established a Serbian printing-press, and in 1872 a bookshop in their hometown. Their aim was to publish and sell Serbian school textbooks and literature, the long awaited educational and cultural needs of the Serbian people in Austro-Hungary.

The Brothers Jovanović’s bookshop was the first major Serbian publishing bookshop in the Monarchy, and with the bookshops funded earlier in Belgrade, in the neighbouring Princedom of Serbia, were the first to establish modern Serbian publishing and book trade.

Between 1871 and 1912 the Brothers Jovanović published about 400 Serbian titles of which about 100 were school textbooks.
The collection of works donated to the Library had been published in the series called: “The Brothers Jovanović National Library” from 1880 to 1890.

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 Front cover of a volume in the series. The Brothers Jovanović National Library. Jovan Rajić, Battle of Dragon and Eagles. (Pančevo, 1884). British Library 012265.e.5/44.

Above is the layout of the cover of the Brothers Jovanović National Library series: their bookshop was shown here as a cultural edifice built on the pantheon of Serbian and world literature presented and promoted in this series. Front of their national library are the Corinthian columns adorned in ribbons bearing the names of the greats of Serbian and world literature (the text in Cyrillic on the left column reads: Dositej, Kraszewski, Hugo, the right column bear the names of: Njegoš, Gogol and Goethe. The name of the series is inscribed across the arc which sits on the columns. In the left-hand corner is a roundel portrait of Dositej Obradović (1739-1811), a Serbian philosopher and writer, and in the right-hand corner is a roundel portrait of Prince Bishop of Montenegro Petar II Petrović Njegoš (1813-51).

The Brothers Jovanović published literature in affordable paper-back issues in small octavo format, printed in a small font. The majority of works in the series were made up of separately published issues. These were published in non-consecutive instalments usually over a several-month period. Up to 24 issues were produced per year and in total the series comprises 216 such issues published from 1880 to 1890.

The set of 250 issues donated to the Library also includes issues published by the Brothers Jovanović’s bookshop from 1871 to 1912, which were subsequently added to the Brothers Jovanović National Library series (they are numbered in the series from 217 to 348), when the bookshop was sold to the new owners in 1913. This set of 250 issues is incomplete as 11 issues are missing.

The Library’s set was bound in 124 volumes placed at shelfmarks 012265.e.5/1-149 and a number of works are bound together. It is the only single set held in a British public collection, and one of the most complete in Britain and Serbia. The Library’s set holds 158 separate works. The whole collection is described in 168 catalogue records

This collection has a historical significance for the British Library as the donation notably boosted its existing collections of Serbian literature. Today this collection is relevant for the study and research into the development of modern Serbian literacy, language and literature. It is a very useful survey of primary sources for the development of Serbian literature.

Radicevic

Frontispiece and title page with the author’s portrait and his autograph. Branko Radičević, Poems. (Pančevo, 1880). British Library 012265.e.5/95.

The collection contains works of the major Serbian writers of the Enlightment, Classicism and Romanticism who, in their lexical and stylistic innovation, contributed greatly to the development and promotion of modern Serbian literary language. This new literary form was based on the principles of Vuk Stefanović Karadžić’s language reform.

Pucic
Frontispiece and title page with the author’s portrait. Medo Pucić, Poems. (Pančevo, 1879 [reissued in the series 1913]). British Library 012265.e.5/101.

Đorđe Popović-Daničar, editor of the Brothers Jovanović National Library series,  saw that the modern writers of all periods and those who wrote in Russo-Slavonic and in Slavonic-Serbian were represented in the series thus showing the continuity in Serbian literature. He contributed greatly to the series by writing introductory texts, compiling works of lesser known writers, translating and transliterating from Russo-Slavonic and in Slavonic-Serbian into the contemporary Serbian language and the new orthography, and by translating from a number of major European languages. Popović-Daničar was remembered as the first translator of Don Quijote from Spanish into Serbian.

The presentation of Serbian national poetry is another strong feature of this collection.

Boj na Kosovu

 Frontispiece. From Battle of Kosovo. (Pančevo, 1880 [reissued in the series 1913]). British Library 012265.e.5/121.

A great prominence of Serbian national poetry in the series pointed not only to the significance and influence of spoken national language for the creation of the new literary language, but it also reflected the contemporary national and political aspirations and struggles in the Balkans and the rest of Europe of that period, leading up to the First World War.

Hajduci
Frontispiece. From Serbian Outlaws in National Poems. (Pančevo, 1882 [reissued in the series 1913]). British Library 012265.e.5/110.

The fact that in this series the Brothers Jovanović ventured to showcase Serbian literature, together with other works of world literature in Serbian translation, was surely a sign of confidence and trust they had for the future of the Serbian literature and its readers.

Milan Grba, Lead Curator South-East European Collections

Reference:

Žarko Vojnović, Iz Sparte svetlost, to jest, Život i podvizi Kamenka i Pavla braće Jovanovića: ujedno i bibliografija izdanja. (Pančevo, 2010). YF.2014.a.12874

 

01 December 2016

Ukrainians Mark 70 Years of AUGB

To mark the 70th anniversary of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB), an academic conference was held earlier this month at the Association’s Central Office in London. Academics from both the UK and Ukraine considered various historical aspects ranging from prominent personalities to émigré publications to highlighting a rich array of data and source archival documents.

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Speakers at the conference (Photo by Ihor Polataiko, reproduced by kind permission of the AUGB)

The origins of the AUGB go back to 1945 when Ukrainians serving in the Polish Armed Forces under British command came up with the idea of creating an official body to cater for their ethnic and spiritual needs. With the help of the Ukrainian Canadian Servicemen’s Association, based in London’s Sussex Gardens, they coordinated activities from late August 1945 up to the AUGB’s inaugural General Meeting in Edinburgh in January 1946. A Central Office was purchased in March 1947 which provided a base from which to help incoming Ukrainians settle in Britain.

In early 1949 an Invalids Fund was also established after the British Government decided (December 1948) to transport some 300 sick and injured Ukrainian former prisoners of war to Germany (and from there back to the USSR to face almost certain death). The decision was ultimately reversed in the face of Ukrainians threatening all-out strike action in protest, though the London Times of 30 December 1948 suggested that it was the hunger strike of the individuals concerned, coupled with the ‘repugnant’ nature of the government’s decision, that ‘naturally’ aroused objections among ‘ordinary Englishmen’. During that year alone, AUGB members donated a shilling a week to raise over £17,000 - the equivalent of well over £1.3 million today. This enabled the purchase of a property in Chiddingfold, Surrey, to provide care for those who were unable/unfit to work, or who simply required respite care. The property also accommodated summer youth camps until the 1960s and subsequently became a residential care home until its closure in 2012.

Over 300 Branches of the Association were created in the late 1940s but this number became substantially reduced by the mid-1950s as Ukrainians settled in closer proximity to each other in major towns and cities. Within these clusters they formed amateur cultural groups – choirs, dance ensembles, orchestras, theatre groups  - and also collected funds to purchase community centres.

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 From the collection of 40 postcards Ukrains’ka Pisnia (Ukrainian Song; London, 1969)

As AUGB activities expanded, the AUGB Library (1947), the Association of Ukrainian Women (1948) and the Association of Ukrainian Teachers and Educators (1955) were established. The last coordinated community nurseries and language schools for a growing second generation. To facilitate consistency the AUGB published practical guidelines (in 1955) on methods of education, notably in four volumes of Materiialy Vykhovannia i Navchannia (Educational and Teaching Materials) dedicated to different aspects of Sunday school teaching.

I am often asked what drove that first generation of Ukrainians to be so generous with their time and the little money that they earned. The answer lies among the many resolutions adopted during the Association’s Annual General Meetings, illustrated by this example from 1948: “The AUGB, as a non-party generally-national organisation, calls on all Ukrainians to work together, irrespective of faith and political persuasion, to attain our ultimate goal – a Free, Independent and Sovereign State of the Ukrainian Nation”.

This love of Ukraine made the preservation of language, culture, and devotion to the homeland an important goal. Amongst other things it inspired regular publications of: a newspaper from November 1945 to the present, initially Nash Klych (‘Our call’) and then from spring 1947 Ukrains'ka Dumka (‘The Ukrainian Thought’; LOU.1165 [1994]); an annual calendar booklet, Kalendarets' ukraintsia u Velykii Brytanii (1947-2004; P.P.2458.lo.); a satirical magazine, Osa (‘Wasp’) (1947-1948); an English-language quarterly The Ukrainian Review (1954-2000; P.P.4842.dns.) and a school children’s magazine, Iuni Druzi (‘Young Friends’; 1955-1984; P.P.5992.gan.).

OSABLOGKURLIAKBi-weekly Osa (Wasp),  issue 1/46 1947

The latter was supplemented by the publication of children’s books, such as the alphabet and early reading text-book Bukvar (1958), or popular national tales, such as ‘Grandad’s Turnip’ (1954-55), or indeed the delightful narrative poems of the exceptional Leonid Poltava – Zhuchok-Shcherbachok (‘The little beetle Shcherbachok’; W.P.9391/3.), Slon po Afrytsi khodyv (‘The elephant walked through Africa’; 1955; W.P.9391/2) and others.

PoltavaBooksBlogBooks by Leonid Poltava from the British Library’s Collections

The books were published predominantly in Ukrainian but there were exceptions. Perhaps of particular note was the publication of Song out of Darkness, a collection of poems by the national poet, Taras Shevchenko translated by Vera Rich  to mark the centenary of the poet’s death, which we are now working on to update and republish.

SongOutOfDArknessTitlepage Frontispiece and title-page of Song out of Darkness (London, 1961)11303.bb.3.

The AUGB’s Library and Archive was also named after the Ukrainian bard. Today it works closely with the British Library and its collection of over 35,000 books is open to all students, academics and casual visitors interested in studying Ukrainian diaspora publications.

HOLODOMORCOVERBLOGCover of the catalogue Holodomor 1932-33 movoiu dokumentiv (London, 2003; YF.2012.a.16782) published for the exhibition commemorating 70 years of the Great Famine in Ukraine

As Ukrainians celebrate the 25th anniversary of the independence referendum vote of 1 December 1991 and simultaneously focus on events in Ukraine over the past three years (notably the annexation of the Crimea and the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine), we continue to face fresh challenges, adapt and seek new ways of developing, communicating and working with our members and the wider community. Our newspaper, website and social media aim to bring news and events to wider audiences and promote a greater understanding, not only of our heritage, but the contribution that we can make to academic research and cultural diversity.

Fedir Kurlak, AUGB CEO