Slavic and East European Microform Project

The Slavic and East European Microform Project (SEEMP), formed in 1996, is the “youngest” of CRL’s Area Studies Microform Projects (AMPs). The need for a Slavic and East European project was discussed in a number of venues in prior years. However, it was not until 1995 that a Steering Committee was formed to serve as a forum for discussion on the need for preservation activities in Slavic and East European Studies and how these needs might be met by the formation of a microform project. Would such a cooperative project be advantageous? What should be its focus? Which institutions, if any, are willing to commit to such a project? What kind of structure would work best?

The Steering Committee members were from institutions that belonged to one or more of the other existing microform projects at CRL and were already familiar with the basic concepts and operations. However, unlike the other AMPs that were formed through independent entities that chose to align with CRL, this project turned to CRL to assist in the formation and development from the outset. CRL’s staff assisted in advising the committee, including help in the development of the draft bylaws, based on earlier proposed versions and examples from the other AMPs.

As discussions progressed, agreement on basic purposes and structures emerged. The general mission statement was developed as follows: “the purpose of the Slavic and East European Microform Project (SEEMP) is to acquire microform copies of unique, scarce, rare and/or unusually bulky and expensive research material pertaining to the field of Slavic and East European studies; and to preserve deteriorating printed and manuscript materials of scholarly value.”

Defining the region of focus was a surprisingly challenging task, as the region continued to define itself through the mid-1990s and the post-communist era. The committee decided to be as inclusive as possible, and included the countries of Eastern and Central Europe (Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine), Russia, the Transcaucasian countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia), and the Central Asian countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan).

The Steering Committee issued a formal invitation to membership in January 1996, asking institutions for a commitment to join by April 1, 1996. Invoices went out at the beginning of CRL’s fiscal year, July 1. Initial membership fees to join were set (and remain to date) at $600.

The structure of SEEMP membership was similar to that of the other AMPs, organized on the principle of institutional membership with a committee of the whole and an executive committee to carry out project business between annual meetings. Member institutions are entitled to vote on all questions before the committee; borrow all project materials; purchase positive copies of SEEMP-funded negative microforms at member prices; and propose suitable titles for original filming or purchase from commercial sources.

The first meeting of SEEMP took place at the 1996 annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies in Boston on November 17, 1996. At the meeting, the committee discussed the kinds of proposals that would be of value to the group, the merits of original filming versus purchasing existing sets, and collaborating with commercial filmers to produce new sets from materials held in the region. A number of ideas surfaced that later became full projects of the group. These projects included:

  • Newspapers of the October Revolution: a collection of individual issues from Moscow, St. Petersburg (Petrograd/Leningrad), and other regions published during the years 1917–1918, held by the Library of Congress.
  • Newspapers of the former Yugoslavia: a set of titles including Vijenac, Nasa Borba, and Hrvatsko Slovo, covering the period 1990–1994. A later title, Oslobodenje, was added and continues to be filmed at present.
  • University of Toronto, John Luczkiw Collection of publications by Ukrainian “Displaced Persons” and Political Refugees, 1945–1954.

These projects, among others, represent the variety and scope of the efforts SEEMP sought to undertake.

The committee over time has focused a good deal of attention on acquiring and filming regional newspapers, both contemporary and historical material. Over a series of proposals, SEEMP engaged East View Information Services to acquire permission, and collect and preserve more than 20 regional newspapers from Russia covering the period 1991 to the present. These regional newspapers are not commonly collected nor commercially microfilmed elsewhere, but represent important local perspectives on national affairs as well as news of local events largely absent in national press in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The titles cover cities and districts (oblasts) from all over Russia, including the Far East, Caucasus and Caspian Sea regions, and the Urals.

In a related project, SEEMP has filmed a wide array of titles that represent right-wing extremist views in Russian politics and society. The papers, covering roughly the years 1990–1999, were collected by the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, among others. The papers represent a variety of views from the well-known Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) of Vladimir Zhirinovski to lesser known groups, all of whom present views out of the mainstream of Russian politics. Russian nationalist organs in the Baltic countries, Belarus, and Ukraine are included along with newspapers from many regions in the Russian Federation. The newspapers represent monarchist, nationalist, fascist, and conservative Orthodox sentiments. Many also represent a strong anti-Semitic undercurrent in Russian politics and society.

Only a decade old, SEEMP has amassed an impressive collection of materials for consultation. SEEMP is considering how to expand its activities to the other broad regions, including South Slavic regions and Central Asia. SEEMP is also considering how to incorporate digital projects into its workflow. From the outset, SEEMP agreed that digital projects could be included as part of its activities. This principle was included in the founding documents and in the guide to submitting proposals, available on the SEEMP project Web site.