Curriculum Vitae Survey Scientific Team Bibliography Links



Yuri Zaretsky

Russian Federation





The present overview covers seven subject matters and ends with conclusions. The subject matters are:

1. Appearance of the first-person writings in Russian archival inventories

2. Bibliographical inventories of Russian first-person writings

3. Published collections of first-person texts

4. Six main topics of contemporary research and corresponding bibliography

5. Terminology used by Russian scholars to label first-person writings

6. Research centers


1. Appearance of the first-person writings in Russian archival inventories

1.1. Russian Archival Terminology

In the commonly accepted Russian archival language the terms first-person writing or

egodocument are not used. The most respected among Russian archivists Dictionary of Contemporary Archival Terminology [Slovar’ sovremennoj arkhivnoj terminologii] (Moscow, 1982) offers two other terms that correlate to the first-person writing and egodocument: document of personal origin [document lichnogo proiskhozhdenia] and inventory of personal origin [fond lichnogo proiskhozhdenia] (the latter contains references to documents of personal origin).

1.2.1. The Definition of the document of personal origin

The meaning of the term document of personal origin is quite vague. In archival records management it is defined as any document produced by a person that is not related to his/her performance of official or public duties.  

1.2.2. The Notion of the inventory of personal origin

The inventory of personal origin in archival records management is understood as a set of documents containing documents originated during the lifetime of a person, a family or a clan. A typical structure of such inventory (here taken from the Dictionary of Contemporary Archival Terminology) includes:

·         Manuscripts of the provenance individual (fondoobrazovatel) (scientific works, literary writings, etc.)

·         Biographical materials of the provenance individual (personal documents, documents of official and public activities)

·         His/her correspondence (both outcoming and incoming)

·         Materials related to the provenance individual (memoirs about this individual, reviews of his/her writings, etc.)

·         Visual materials (photos, portraits, drawings, etc.)

·         Materials of relatives of the provenance individual

It seems obvious that inventories of personal origin may be of use for the first-person writings hunters. Meanwhile, it is clear that this type of archival inventories offers limited opportunities for them. Firstly, because its structure is designed in accordance with the idea of a “modern individual” (i.e. it does not correspond to the idea of a “medieval” or an “early modern” individual). Secondly, because this “modern individual” is suggested to be not an “ordinary man” but an intellectual (writer, scientist, man of arts, etc.). Thirdly, because in archival practice autobiographies, diaries, memoirs, letters and other first-person writings are frequently allocated to different other types of inventories.


2. Bibliographical inventories of Russian first-person writings

The most comprehensive and detailed guide on published Russian first-person writings is a fifth-volume annotated bibliography by Piotr Zaionchkovsky: Zaionchkovsky P.A. History of Pre-Revolutionary Russia in Diaries and Memoirs. Annotated Index of Books and Journal Publications [Istorija dorevoljutsionnoj Rossii v dnevnikakh i vospominanijakh. Annotirovannyj ukazatel' knig i publikatsij v zhurnalakh], 5 vols. (Moscow, 1976-1988)

The bibliography is organized in alphabetical order of authors (Vol. 1 – “A-B,” etc.) and covers documents from fifteenth to early twentieth century. It is also marked by two other important characteristics: it is unfinished; many texts it covers can be hardly treated as egodocuments.


3. Published collections of first-person texts

Three most recent serial publications of first-person texts are given below:

3.1. Russia in memoirs series by the New Literary Review Publishers [Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie], Moscow (

Main characteristics of the series:

·         Preference to unpublished texts or texts appeared in rare periodicals and books

·         Preference to texts written by “common people” from different strata of Russian society

·         Most texts are of nineteenth and early twentieth century  

·         More than 30 books published since late 1990s

3.2. History of subjectivity series by the Academic Project Publishers [Akademicheskii projekt], Moscow (

Main characteristics of the series:

·         Collections of first-person writings (both Russian and Western European translated into Russian) with scholarly introductions, commentaries and bibliography

·         Designed for university teaching

·         Already published: Medieval Europe [Srednevekovaia Evropa]

·         In print: Ancient Rus’ [Drevniaia Rus’]

·         On the list: Italian Renaissance [Italianskoe Vozrozhdenie] (3 vols.)

3.3. Sporadic publications in other series

Example: Memoirs of Siberians. Nineteenth century [Memuary sibiryakov. XIX vek] in The History of Siberia. Documentary Sources series

Main characteristics of the publication:

·         Includes earlier unpublished and barely known texts

·         The texts are written by people from different social strata: local bureaucracy, merchants, Kazaks

·         The edition contains extensive introductory article, footnotes, bibliography


4. Six main topics of contemporary research and corresponding bibliography

4.1. History and theory of literary genres

·         Krushelnitskaya E.V. Autobiography and Hagiography in Old Russian Literature [Avtobiografija i zhitie v drevnerusskoi literature] (Saint Petersburg, 1996)

Annotation: Scholarly publication of a number of sixteenth-seventeenth century writings with detailed comparative analysis of manuscripts. The main aim of the study is to trace how “autobiographies” have been transformed into “hagiography.”

4.2. Historical source studies

·         Tartakovsky A.G. Russian Memoirs from the 18th to mid-19th Century: From manuscript to book [Russkaja memuaristika XVIII – pervoj poloviny XIX veka. Ot rukopisi k knige] (Moscow, 1991)

·         Idem. Russian Memoirs and Historical Consciousness of the 19th Century [Russkaja memuaristika i istoricheskoe soznanie XIX veka] (Moscow, 1997)

Annotation: The works contain the most comprehensive historical analysis of Russian memoirs of the period. The analysis mainly discusses how “historical events” are “reflected” in memoirs. The notion “memoirs” is poorly defined and indistinct.

4.3. History of childhood

·         Kosheleva O.E. ‘My Own Childhood’ in Old Rus’ and in Enlightenment Russia (16th-18th cent.) [Svojo detstvo v Drevnej Rusi i Rossii epokhi Prosveschenija (XVI-XVII vv.)] (Moscow, 2000)

·         Bezrogov V.G. (ed.) Memory of Childhood: Recollections about Childhood from Late Antiquity to Early Modern Times [Pamjat’ detstva: Vospominanija o detstve ot pozdnej Antichnosti do rannego Novogo vremeni] (Moscow, 2001)

·         Bezrogov V.G. (ed.) Memory of childhood: Recollections about Childhood in the Epoch of Rationalism and Enlightenment [Pamjat’ detstva: Vospominanija o detstve v epokhu ratsionalizma i Prosveschenija] (Moscow, 2001)

4.4. History of women / women studies

·         Savkina I. Conversations with the Mirror and with Behind the Mirror: Autodocumentary Women Texts in Russian Literature of the First Part of the 19th Century [Razgovory s zerkalom i zazerkal’em: Avtodokumental’nye zhenskie teksty v russkoi literature pervoi poloviny XIX veka] (Moscow, 2007)

·         Pushkareva N.L. At the background of woman autobiography in Russia [U istokov zhenskoj avtobiografii v Rossii], Filologicheskie nauki, 2000, vol. 6

·         Soupriyanovich A. Women’s Identity and Medieval Mysticism: a Gender Analysis [Zhenskaia identichnost i srednevekovaia mistika: opyt gendernogo analiza] (Moscow, 2008)

4.5. History of the self

·         Zaretsky Yu. Autobiographical Selves: from Saint Augustine to Protopope Avvakum [Avtobiograficheskie Ja: ot Avgustina do Avvakuma] (Moscow, 2002)

·         Zaretsky Yu. Renaissance Autobiography and Individual Self-consciousness: Enea Silvio Piccolomini (Pius II) [Renessansnaia avtobiografiia i samosoznanie lichnosti: Enea Sil’vio Pikkolomini (Pii II)] (Nizhnii Novgorod, 2000)

4.6. History of everyday life

·         Kosheleva O.E. “Correspondence of Princess P.A. Khovanskaya (1670s): Communicative Functions” [Perepiska kn. P.A. Khovanskoj (70-e gg. XVII v.) i eio kommunikativnye funktsii], Among Friends and Family. Individual and Group in Eastern and Western Europe before Modern Times [V svoem krugu. Individ i gruppa na Zapade i Vostoke Evropy do nachala Novogo vremeni] (Moscow, 2003)

·         Koshenova N. Sources of Personal Origin on Siberian Merchants fom Mid-Nineteenth to Early Twentieth Century [Istochniki lichnogo proiskhozhdeniia o sibirskom kupechestve vtoroj poloviny XIX-nachala XX vv.] (Barnaul, 2005)

Annotation: An abstract of Ph.D. thesis defended at Altai State University


5. Terminology used by Russian scholars to label first-person writings

·         Memoir/autobiographical literature – most common both for literary criticism and historiography

·         Autobiography – mainly used in literary studies

·         Egodocument – gains growing popularity in historiography and cultural studies

·         Autodocumentary text – newly emerged in literary criticism (launched by Irina Savkina)


6. Research centers               





At present there exists a considerable background for the study of first-person writings in Russia. The main constituents of this background are the developed tradition of research on egodocuments and the present-day scholarly activity of academics all over Russia. A special interest to the study of first-person writings has been revealed in the last two decades. This interest has resulted both in the rapid growth of publications of first-person texts and studies on them, and in the increase of discussions on the subject within the scholarly community. What is peculiar for the current state of first-person writings studies in Russia is its close connection with the university teaching. The desired actions for promoting first-person writings studies are: creation of a national network that would bring together researchers in the field; integration of this network into a larger international one; translations of studies on the subject from and into Russian.