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COLLECTION Identifier: fun0001

Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System digital collection: interviews and manuals, 1950-1953


A collection of digital facsimiles of transcripts of interviews conducted with Soviet émigrés to West Germany, Austria, and the United States, in 1950 and 1951. The source materials are from the Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System held in the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Collection at the H.C. Fung Library, and in the Widener Library. The materials are in English. The interviews and most manuals and guides are full-text searchable from the HPSSS Online home page at:


  • Creation: 1950-1953

Access restrictions

There are no access restrictions to the digitized materials, with the exception of eighteen interviews of the B-Schedule, where the name of the respondent is given. Access to the page images of these interviews is restricted to the Harvard community.


1 collection (705 digitized transcripts of interviews, 7 digitized manuals and guides)

The digitized materials consist of transcripts of 705 interviews with some 330 respondents, as well as manuals, indices, and guides to the interviews.

The interviews are of the following types:
  1. 1. Personal life history documents (A-Schedule interviews).These 343 standardized interviews were conducted according to an interview guide (A-Schedule) covering the individual's life history, his/her experiences in certain selected areas of Soviet life, and his/her attitudes toward a wide range of topics.
  2. 2. Special topic interviews (B-Schedule interviews). These 362 interviews consist of
  3. ___interviews with qualified informants conducted on special topics within eight major areas: economics, family, government, social stratification, nationalities (ethnic groups), the German occupation during World War II, partisan movements, professions, and
  4. ___clinical interviews, including psychological tests.

Four versions of the A-Schedule were used for interviewing. They are identified as type A (American), type A2, type A3, and type A4. The interview guides used for the B-Schedule interviews varied with the topics.

The interview transcripts for both Schedules are chiefly in English, with a few sections in Russian.

For purposes of administrative control of the records, prospective interviewees were assigned an absolute number. Many of these candidates were in fact, for a variety of reasons, not interviewed. This accounts for omissions in the sequence of absolute numbers (case numbers).

Historical note

In the spring of 1950, the Russian Research Center at Harvard University entered into contract AF 33(038)-12909 with the Human Resources Research Institute of the Air University at Maxwell Field Air Base, Alabama, to conduct a large scale, unclassified project, based largely on interviews with Soviet émigrés, with the ultimate goal of gaining new insights into strategic psychological and sociological aspects of the Soviet social system. The project was named the Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System, also known as the Harvard Refugee Interview Project.

The Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System was developed by sociologist Alex Inkeles and social psychologist Raymond Bauer. To test the viability of the project preliminary interviews were conducted in Munich, in 1949, by Merle Fainsod and Paul Friedrich. From 1950 to 1951, several hundred Soviet refugees, residents in West Germany Austria, and the United States, were contacted as prospective interviewees for the HPSSS; some 330 candidates were selected and given full-depth interviews by specialists prominent in the field of Soviet studies. In addition to those named above, these specialists include Joseph Berliner, Alexander Dallin, Robert Feldmesser, Mark Field, Marc Fried, Eugenia Haufmann, Kent Geiger, Sidney Harcave, Ivan London, Michael Luther, John Orton, Alex Peskin, John Reshetar, and others.


The online collection is arranged in four series:

  1. I. Manuals, indices, and guides
  2. II. A-Schedule interviews (personal life histories)
  3. III. B-Schedule interviews (special topic interviews on economics, family, government, stratification, nationalities, wartime occupation, partisan movements, professions); clinical interviews
  4. IV. Friedrich-Fainsod files

Custodial information

The Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System Online is a joint digital project of the H.C. Fung Library and the Slavic Division of the Widener Library, funded by the Harvard University Library Digital Initiative. Production of the digital collection was undertaken in 2005-2006 by staff of the Imaging Services of the Harvard College Library.

Source materials for the Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System Online are from the Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System (HPSSS) conducted by scholars and specialists of the Harvard Russian Research Center from 1950 to1953. Data gathered in the HPSSS, as well as related reports and analyses, were originally housed at the Harvard Russian Research Center, renamed Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies (DCRES) in 1996. In the fall of 2005, the HPSSS materials in the DCRES collection were transferred to the H.C. Fung Library.

The bulk of the HPSSS records consists of two sets of interview data (the A-Schedule, and B-Schedule), copies of which are held by the H.C. Fung Library and Widener Library under call nos. (Slav 1711.10.10, and Slav 1711.10.11)

Related materials

The Friedrich-Fainsod preliminary interviews, and other analyses and reports were not digitized. The complete collection of HPSSS materials, part of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Collection, may be consulted at the H.C. Fung Library.

Administrative records of the Refugee Interview Program, part of the records of the Russian Research Center, are housed at the Harvard University Archives (call no. UAV. 759)


Mandelstam Balzer, Marjorie. Materials for the Project on the Soviet Social System. Cambridge, Mass. : Russian Research Center, Harvard University, 1980.
  • Mandelstam Balzer, Marjorie. Materials for the Project on the Soviet Social System. Cambridge, Mass. : Russian Research Center, Harvard University, 1980.

General note

Note: The interviews and most manuals and guides are full-text searchable from the HPSSS Online home page

When searching these materials, the user should bear in mind that the original data gathered in the Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System was not edited for grammatical or typographical errors, and that the re-keyed text of the HPSSS Online is not always accurate due to the limited legibility of the original materials.

The small number of transcripts in Russian are accessible online, but are not full-text searchable.

General note

  1. Refugees -- Soviet Union.
  2. Refugees, Russian -- Interviews.
  3. Refugees, Ukrainian -- Interviews.
  4. Refugees, Belarussian -- Interviews.
  5. Minorities -- Soviet Union.
  6. Refugees -- Psychological testing -- Soviet Union.
  7. Soviet Union -- Social conditions.
  8. Soviet Union -- Politics and government.
  9. Soviet Union -- Social life and customs.
  10. Soviet Union -- History.
  11. Soviet Union -- History -- German occupation, 1941-1944.

Processing note

Materials from the Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System were identified and prioritized for digitization by David Brandenberger. Funding by the Library Digital Initiative allowed for the digitization of the complete set of 1950-1953 interviews (both schedules A and B), and a number of key manuals, indices, and guides. These materials were processed for digitization by Richard Lesage.

Digital images of the interviews were created from copies of the A-Schedule and B-Schedule interviews held by Widener Library (call nos.: Slav 1711.10.10, and Slav 1711.10.11). These copies had been previously disbound for microfilming. The manuals, indices, and guides were digitized from originals held by the H.C. Fung Library.

When pages of interviews were found to be missing from the Widener copy of the A-Schedule, replacement pages were obtained from the bound copy of the H.C. Fung Library. There are only a few instances of such replacements, and they are noted below in the inventory.

Page images of all interviews were sent to a vendor for re-keying (transcribing). The legibility of some of the original transcripts is limited due to the poor quality of the original print, and fading over the years. All characters legible to the keying technician were re-keyed. Characters not legible were not re-keyed. Since texts were re-keyed once and not corrected, there is no guarantee of 100% accuracy. The manuals and guides, with the exception of the Qualitative File: A-Schedule category and the Qualitative File: Index of Special Non-File Categories, were also re-keyed.

The labels for the A-Schedule interviews were devised from elements contained in the "face sheet data" found at the beginning of each interview. These elements include the case number of the respondent, the initials of the interviewer, the particular type of schedule used, and the respondent's gender, age, nationality, and occupation in the Soviet Union.Labels for the B-Schedule interviews contain only the case number of the respondent, and initials of the interviewer, as they appear in the header of the transcripts.

Harvard University. Russian Research Center. Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System Digital Collection: Interviews and Manuals: A Finding Aid
Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the H.C. Fung Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University Repository

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