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COLLECTION Identifier: DCVC001

Soviet Information Bureau photograph collection

Propaganda photographs of post-World War II Soviet Union from the Soviet Information Bureau.

Dates

  • 1938-1948 (inclusive)
  • 1946-1948 (bulk)

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Prior appointment required.

Conditions Governing Use

For restrictions on use, please consult the Librarian for the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Collection.

Extent

1 collection (5,780 photographs)

Intended to document the reconstruction of the Soviet Union following World War II, these black-and-white photographs provide a substantial visual record of daily life, culture, and news at the start of the Cold War. Subjects range from famous people, such as Joseph Stalin and Dmitri Shostakovich, to ordinary people from all parts of the Soviet Union, including non-Russian speaking republics. Images show men, women, and children involved in domestic life, education, health care, industry, agriculture, transportation, sports, the arts, fashion shows and other exhibitions, recreation, religion, the military, politics, and government. Other images show street views, cityscapes, buildings, and structures throughout the Soviet Union, as well as scenes from some Eastern European satellites. Images of special historical interest depict the Battle of Stalingrad, post-World War II demobilization and reconstruction, Nazi war crimes trials in both Nuremberg and the Soviet Union, Victory Day parades on Red Square, Stalin's 70th birthday celebration, Communist Party leaders, and visits of state by Field Marshal Montgomery, Lady Churchill, Iranian Princess Ashraf Pehlevi, Marshal Tito, and others.

The collection contains about 5,765 gelatin silver prints, 3 acetate negatives, and 12 photographic postcards. It includes portrait, cityscape, news, publicity, fashion, and ethnographic photographs. Photographic prints measure 18 x 23 cm. or smaller. Some are cropped and in other cases panoramic views were created by taping two or more photographs together. "SIB Photoservices, Moscow" and "World News Services, 45 Avenue Road, Toronto 5, Ontario" are stamped on the versos of most photographs. Some are stamped: "Passed by censor, USSR".

Typed captions in English are attached to nearly 85 percent of the photographs, giving the series or feature title, photographer, date, location, and original reference number. Some captions are in Russian, Czech, French, and German. In some instances, the photographs are accompanied by a typescript of the story they were made to document. The photographs were taken chiefly by Soviet Information Bureau photographers, with more than 225 identified on the attached captions, including such notable photographers as Evgeny Khaldey, Georgy Zelma, Arkady Shaykhet, Yakov Khalip, and Max Penson.

Biographical / Historical

The Soviet Information Bureau (Sovinformburo) was created by a directive of the Soviet Council of People's Commissars and the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party just two days after Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 24, 1941. Directed by A.S. Shcherbakov from 1941-1945, it was the main propaganda arm of the Soviet state during World War II. As explained by Shcherbakov, SIB's main objective was the use of the mass media as an ideological instrument of the Soviet Union. SIB headquarters were located in Kuibyshev (now Samara) before being moved to Moscow in March 1942, and throughout the war years the organization's staff grew to almost 400.

After the war, SIB distributed information about reconstruction and the lives of people in post-war Soviet Union, and with the onset of the Cold War, it also developed counter-propaganda materials. SIB opened editorial offices in the U.S., Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, the Middle East, Asia, and elsewhere. It also established a book division, translation division, and photo information division.

Despite its important role during the war and increased activity in the post-war years, including the publication of Soviet journals abroad, such as Soviet Life and USSR, SIB was not immune from the instability of a repressive Stalinist regime. Staff and reporters often came and went, for reasons which are not always explained in the literature. In 1949, S.A. Lozovsky, who had succeded Shcherbakov as director of the SIB, was branded an enemy of the state and arrested, and all those who had worked with him were immediately fired. In the 1950s, various SIB social committees were closed and reorganized as Soviet leaders feared the connections being made with foreign mass media outlets and social organizations. The Novosti Press Agency (APN) was created in 1961 officially ending the existence of the Soviet Information Bureau.

Arrangement

The photographs are arranged alphabetically by series title, mostly based on attached captions. This arrangement comes closest to representing the original organization of the photographs. In some instances, series with different titles that cover the same subject have been combined. Photographs that do not include attached captions or series titles are arranged alphabetically by general subject headings.

Physical Location

Closed stacks room.

Custodial History

Gift of Alfred G. Meyer, 1957.

Most of the photographs in the collection were taken by photographers working for the photography department of the Soviet Information Bureau. David Magidoff, Moscow bureau chief for World News Service, and his successor, Andrew Jacob Steiger, acquired the photographs for their working files from Grigorii Sorokin, head of the department. Additional photographs in the collection were acquired by Frank E. Frank, chief of the World News Services bureau in Prague. In 1953, Steiger returned to the United States with the photographs. While working as a reporter for Universal Trade Press Syndicate of New York City in the mid-1950s, he tried to sell them. When his efforts proved unsuccessful he gave the nine cartons of photographs to Alfred G. Meyer, who was then teaching at Columbia University but had served as Assistant Director of the Russian Research Center at Harvard University from 1952-1953 and was still affiliated with the center. When Meyer left Columbia to teach at Michigan State University in 1957 he donated the photographs to Harvard and they were placed in a storage vault in Widener Library where they remained until being rediscovered in 2000.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Alfred G. Meyer, 1957.

  • Ernest A. Zitser, "Picturing the Soviet Union's Greatest Generation: The Soviet Information Bureau Photograph Collection of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies," Slavic and East European Information Resources (8:1) 2007.
  • M. I. Afanaseva, ed., APN: Ot Sovinformbiuro do RIA Novosti: 60 let v pole informatsionnogo napriazheniia (Moscow: RIA Novosti: Izd-vo FGUP RIA Vesti, 2001).
  • G. A. Kovalev, "Sovinformbiuro v gody Velikoi Otechesvennoi voiny," Voprosy istorii 6 (1987) 14-23.
  • N. Iu. Nikulina and Z. N. Soroka, "Sovetskoe informatsionnogo biuro v gody Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny (analiz istochnikov)," in Problemy istochnikovedeniia i istoriografii: sbornik nauchnykh trudov (Kaliningrad: KGU, 1999) 58-64.

General note

  1. Families -- Soviet Union.
  2. Education -- Soviet Union.
  3. Public health -- Soviet Union.
  4. Industries -- Soviet Union.
  5. Agriculture -- Soviet Union.
  6. Transportation -- Soviet Union.
  7. Sports -- Soviet Union.
  8. Arts -- Soviet Union.
  9. Exhibitions -- Soviet Union.
  10. Recreation -- Soviet Union.
  11. Religion -- Soviet Union.
  12. World War, 1939-1945 -- Soviet Union.
  13. Propaganda, Soviet.
  14. Soviet Union -- Social life and customs.
  15. Soviet Union -- Armed Forces -- History -- World War, 1939-1945.
  16. Soviet Union -- Politics and government -- 1936-1953.
General note
  1. Animals
  2. Anniversaries
  3. Antiquities
  4. Buildings and Structures
  5. Children
  6. Cities
  7. Clothing
  8. Commerce
  9. Dance
  10. Employment
  11. Events
  12. Literature
  13. Meetings
  14. Military Service
  15. Music
  16. Nature
  17. Organizations
  18. Performances and Portrayals
  19. Republics of the Soviet Union
  20. Science
  21. Transportation
  22. War
  23. Women

Processing Information

Processed by: Susan Sypko and Robert Burton. Updated by Michelle Tavss.
Link to catalog
Title
Sovinformbiuro. Soviet Information Bureau photograph collection, 1938-1948 (inclusive), 1946-1948 (bulk) : Guide
Author
Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies
EAD ID
fun00002

Repository Details

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

Contact:
CGIS Knafel Building, 1737 Cambridge St
Harvard University
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 496-0485