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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Fr 375-375.1

Boris Souvarine papers


Papers of Boris Souvarine, a founder of the French Communist Party and a Bolshevik delegate to the Comintern until expelled in the mid-1920s. He was a leading Sovietologist and anti-communist. Includes correspondence, compositions, source files, and biographical materials.


  • Creation: 1915-1984
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1940-1984

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in French, Russian, and English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to the bulk of this material.

Restriction lifted on MS Fr 375.1 (1) and (2), January 2019. Restrictions removed from Series VII. in 2005.


42 linear feet (127 boxes)

The papers contain correspondence with colleagues and friends (very little from family), compositions, and source files containing printed matter concerning east-west relations. Generally, the original arrangement of materials has been retained. Consequently there is a large section entitled: Compositions arranged by subject. This section reflects Souvarine's original subject categories but the order within each category has been reorganized in the repository into: letters, compositions, and printed materials. Cross-references have been made to all relevant sections within the larger index. An alphabetical listing of the topical groups assembled in this section can be found at the end of the index in appendix 1.

The bulk of the letters date from 1940 to 1984, with some earlier and later. A large early section pertains to Souvarine's years as a communist and to his time spent as a member of the Comintern (see section IV-B, International correspondence). Much of this material, however, are copies that Souvarine gathered for his own research purposes. There are a very few letters from Boris Souvarine to others and those that do exist are mostly drafts. It should be noted that Souvarine's library (including both books and manuscripts) was pillaged by the Nazis during World War II and consequently scattered over Europe (see section IV-B, Nazi pillage). There is a noteworthy collection of letters and compositions by Simone Weil, as well as materials from countless other important figures of the French and Russian political and cultural scene during the twentieth century.

Over half of the collection can be classified as printed materials which consist of source files of clippings, pamphlets, books and offprints that Souvarine assembled for his own use.

The papers have been annotated by Souvarine's step-daughter, Genevieve (Ginette) de Bidart Merrill. Numerous penciled notes in her handwriting can be found throughout. These notes have mostly not been mentioned in the cataloging. Much of the identification of names could not have been made without her assistance.

Biographical / Historical

Boris Konstantinovich Souvarine, the self-educated pioneering Sovietologist, was born in Kiev, Russia but brought to France as a small boy. He was the only foreign communist to have been a member of all three leading bodies of the Comintern for three years in succession. His most well known work was the first biography of Joseph Stalin, published in 1935 as Staline, Aperçu Historique Bolchévisme. For the next sixty years he was a leading Sovietologist and anti-communist, founder of L'Institut d'Histoire Sociale (Paris), as well as an author, editor, historian, journalist and publisher.


Arranged into the following seven series:

  1. I. Letters to Boris Souvarine
  2. II. Letters from Boris Souvarine
  3. III. Other letters
  4. IV. Compositions by Boris Souvarine
  5. V. Compositions by others
  6. VI. Miscellany
  7. VII. Family correspondence

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

88M-29 and 91M-3. Gift of Genevieve (Ginette) de Bidart Merrill; received: 30 May 1985 and 1991.

Related Materials

Additional Boris Souvarine material available at: The Graduate Institute Library, Geneva, Switzerland

Processing Information

Processed by: Bonnie B. Salt

Processing Information

In 2020-2021, as part of a conscious and inclusive re-description effort, entries were updated to include a woman’s full name when identified.

This finding aid was revised in 2023 to address outdated and harmful descriptive language. During that revision, contextualizing processing notes were added to the description of three items. For more information on reparative archival description at Harvard, see Harvard Library’s Statement on Harmful Language in Archival Description.

Souvarine, Boris. Boris Souvarine papers, 1915-1984 (MS Fr 375-375.1): Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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