Reunited Digital Archive of Ossip Mandelstam
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Archives and Collections












The Russian State Archive of Literature and Art

(Rossiiskii Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Literatury i Iskusstva, RGALI)

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The Russian State Archive of Literature and Art (Rossiiskii Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Literatury i Iskusstva – RGALI) is the largest repository of documents relating to Russian and Soviet literature and the arts. This Archive was founded on March 3 1941 under auspices of the Chief Archive Office (Glavnoe arkhivnoe upravlenie) of the Russia Ministry of Internal Affairs (NKVD RSFSR) and incorporated 441 personal collections from the archive of the State Museum of Literature (Gosudarstvennyi Literaturnyi Muzei – GLM) as well as pertinent documents from the USSR Central State Archive of the October Revolution (Tsentral’nyi Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Oktyabr’skoi Revolutsii SSSR), currently referred to as the State Archive of Russian Federation (Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Rossiiskoi Federatsii – GARF), the State Museum of History (Gosudarstvennyi Istoricheskii Muzei), the State Tretyakov Gallery (Gosudarstvennaya Tret’yakovskaya Galereya) and other state archives. Initially this archive was named the USSR Central State Archive of Literature (Tsentral’nyi gosudarstvennyi literaturnyi arkhiv – TsGLA); in 1954 it was renamed the Central State Archive of Literature and Arts (Tsentralnyi Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Literatury i Iskusstva – TsGALI) and in 1992 it acquired its present name, RGALI.

Collection 1893 (“Mandelstam O.E.”) was among the materials transferred from GLM to RGALI; it was transferred following Decree of the SNK SSSR (Sovet Narodnykh Komissarov – the Council of Peoples Commissars) No.725 of March 29 1941.

Collection 1893 was transferred from GLM  to RGALI on September 29 1952 and was accepted by the Head of the TsGLA department for acquisitions and cataloguing (otdel komplektovaniya i ucheta) Yu. A. Krasovsky, who also had a manuscript of Mandelstam’s in his personal collection, later transferred to RGALI (Collection 3265). Initially Mandelstam’s collection was in a classified  repository and had a double call number (F.272s/1893) on account of this, but later it was transformed into two inventories: Inventory No.1 was in the open access repository, while Inventory 2s was in the classified repository. In late 1957 materials from Inventory 2s, which at that time included only three items, were declassified and transferred to the open access repository, thus forming the unclassified Inventory 2 of Collection 1893. 

The origin of Mandelstam’s collection in RGALI was associated with this Inventory 2s that included a small collection of Mandelstam’s poems written in the 1930s: Na vysokom perevale..., Kogda podumaesh’, chem svyazan s mirom..., Slyshu, slyshu rannii led..., ‘Reshenie’, Ya videl ozero, stoyavshee otvesno..., Etot vosdukh pust’ budet svidetelem..., (fragment of ‘Stikhi o neizvestnom soldate), Poyu, kogda gortan’ svobodna i sukha..., Moi shchegol, ya golovu zakinu..., and a copy of the early poem I ponyne na Afone... in the handwriting of Marina Tsvetaeva which turned up intermittently in the collection (F.1893. Op.2. D.1). The true origin of this unit is unknown, but as it was the opening collection of the classified inventory and Collection 1893 as a whole (in November 9 1953 only one collection was described in the inventory and the only fact known was that the weight of this collection was 400 grammes), the assumption was that it came to GLM from NKVD. By the end of 1954 there were five units, three of which arrived in 1950. From the composition and Inventory 1 of Collection 1893, the collection was expanded with the following five unclassified units: a collection of poems of the 1910s and early 1920s – Kogda v teploi nochi zamiraet..., Na perlamutrovyi chelnok..., Mne zhalko, chto teper’ zima..., a stanza from the poem Lastochka (A smertnym vlast’ dana),  Lyublyu pod svodami sedyya tishiny..., (D.1); Zverinets (D. 2); the article Konets romana (D.3); and a fragment of Mandelstam’s letter to the Board of the Union of Soviet Writers (Pravlenie SSP), dated August 23 1923 (D.4). The stamp ‘GLM 11260 / 24’ on the verso of one page and the inscription in capitals in blue ink ‘Osip Emil’evich Mandelstam by a person whose identity has not been established, as well as the note by O.M.: “This is a part of my letter to the Union” (“Eto chast’ moego pis’ma v Soyuz”), lead to the conclusion that this a part of O.M.’s archive somehow left in GLM in 1934 (it is unclear whether these materials were left in the Museum after the return of the archive to the owner accidentally or intentionally or, most probably, were simply donated by O.M. at the beginning of negotiations with Bonch-Bruevich; if this conjecture is right, then it is unclear why it took so long to catalogue these holdings. However, the purposeful creation of the O.M. collection in RGALI started in the the mid-1950s. This lengthy process was almost exclusively as a result of the continuing incorporation into Collection 1893 of O.M. texts found in other RGALI collections. So in 1954 O.M.’s letter to the Executive Committee of the Bureau of the Federation of the Unions of Soviet Writers (Ispolkom Buroi FOSP) concerning the feuilleton by D. Zaslavsky  attacking O.M. was found in Collection 634 (Literturnaya gazeta) and was incorporated into Collection 1893 as unit No.6. The same year O.M.’s letter to S.Z. Fedorchenko and the copy of Novyi Giperborei were found in the collection of M.A. Tarlovsky: in 1955 they were absorbed into Collection 1893, but registered in the classified Inventory 2s (Dd.2, 3). Four  autographs of O.M. poems were found in Collection 1328 (V.P.Polonsky) (Sobiralis’ elliny voinoyu, etc.) in 1956 and were absorbed into Inventory 1 as Unit 7. An autograph of the poem Venitseiskaya zhizn’ was found in 1957 in Collection 1346 (Kollektsiya stikhotvorenii), and was added to Collection 1893, Inventory 1, as Unit 8. Some materials were found in Collection 1334 (A.I. Kruchenykh): an album of letters, reviews and autographs dedicated to O.M. compiled by A.I. Kruchenykh in 1957; and three photographs of O.M. found in 1965, which were added to Collection 1893, Inventory 1, in 1958 and 1962, as Units 9 and 10 respectively.

The formation of Collection 1893 became more focused in the mid-1960s due to the efforts of I.P. Sirotinskaya. In autumn 1966 she, as the representative of RGALI, contacted E.E. Mandelstam, brother of O.M., and N.Ya. Mandelstam (N.M.), who had made her home in Moscow in late 1965. I.P. Sirotinskaya visited the poet’s brother on October 15 and 21 1966, to make acquaintance with his collection. He showed her the collection. promised to transfer it to the state repository in the future, and expressed his wish to visit TsGALI to share his memories of the childhood and youth of O.M.. The first meeting of I.P. Sirotinskaya with N.M. took place in September 28 1966 (A.K. Gladkov was probably the intermediary: in autumn 1964 he had tried to persuade N.M. into giving a copy of her typewritten memoirs to TsGALI, (see RGALI, F. 2590. Op.1. D.104. L.142). In 1966 N.M. had even to deny the existence of her memoirs (cf. in N.M.’s  letter to I.P. Sirotinskaya of November 25 1966: ‘I do not have any memoirs, this is a mere legend.’ (RGALI, Internal description of Collection 1893, L.27). However the RGALI contact with N.M. was reasonably fruitful: in 1966–7 N.M. donated to the archive (in exchange for photocopies of other O.M. manuscripts kept in TsGALI) three photographs of O.M. (Dec. 2 1966), 11 folios of O.M. autographs  (Feb. 2 1967), drafts of Egipetskaya marka, and four folios of autographs of O.M. poems (Dombi i syn and Tennis), three more photographs and a typewritten copy of the O.M. essay Razgovor o Dante (May 18 1967). These materials were included in Inventory 2 of Collection 1893 (Dd.4, 5,10; however, there were five photos, not six as listed in this inventory). At nearly the same time (mid-May 1967), N.M. took back from Khardzhiev the part of O.M.’s archive containing his poems;  I.P. Sirotinskaya also participated in this as the representative of RGALI. Negotiations on archive transfer continued through 1968: so, on October 10 1968 N.M. wrote to N.E. Shtempel’: «TsGALI is pressing me to give up Osya to them. I wonder what other intentions they may be harbouring.» (Nadezhda Mandelstam: Ob Akhmatovoi, ed. P. Nerler, Moscow, Novoe izdatel’stvo, 2007, p. 404). According to I.P. Sirotinskaya (her correspondence with N.M. lasted until 1970), N.M. promised to transfer the whole of the O.M. archive remaining with her to RGALI, but later she changed her mind and in 1972 moved it abroad. Collection 1893 was expanded on January 13 1967 with the autograph of O.M.’s poem Sred’ narodnogo shuma i spekha donated (sold?) to RGALI by L.D. Bol’shintseva, widow of V. Stenich (Op.2, D.7).

After the death of N.M. (Dec. 29 1980) RGALI requested from the notary's office  information about her personal archive, and the response was that no papers were found in the apartment of the deceased. Two and a half years later (May 31 1983) her personal archive, in the keeping of one of her closest friends and heirs, Yu.L. Freidin, was confiscated by the KGB after a search (Vesti iz SSSR, Munich, 1983. No.17). The KGB officers removed six plastic bags with papers, a typewriter, tape-recorder, etc.. O.M.’s books were left with Yu.L. Freidin ‘for safe-keeping’. Immediately after this search, for fear that the Prosecutor's Office would simply destroy the materials confiscated, Yu.L. Freidin wrote a request for the return of the materials confiscated and to transfer the materials to the custody of some state archive, for instance to TsGALI, only in the event that this should prove impossible. Later, referring to this ‘request’ the Prosecutor’s Office of Moscow transferred N.M.’s archive to RGALI (including 175 documents in ca. 1500 pages, 20 books with autographs, a set of photocopies and negatives from the Mandelstam Archive in two boxes). O.M.’s books, left ‘for safe-keeping’, were taken by the Criminal Investigator and the TsGALI representative on October 4 1983 for transfer to TsGALI. In 1984 the KGB returned to Yu.L. Freidin part of his personal materials, but when Yu.L. Freidin demanded that TsGALI return him the whole archive of N.M., TsGALI flatly refused to do this. In the early 1990s,  Yu.L. Freidin described the situation as follows: «In summer 1983 all the Mandelstam materials that I had, including books, photocopies of manuscripts, the personal archive and memoirs of Nadezhda Yakovlevna, a copy of her will, and many other items of my personal archive, were confiscated from me by officers of the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office and the KGB without any legal basis. The full history of this theft is beyond the remit of this paper. I would only say that all my protests submitted to the highest authorities met with no response. Maybe now, when the 100th anniversary of the poet is approaching, the thieves or those who are holding the stolen goods, will feel remorse and return everything to its legal owner?...» (Freidin Yu.L.: “Ostatok knig”: biblioteka O.E. Mandelstama”, Slovo i sud’ba. Osip Mandelstam. Issledovaniya i materialy, Ìoscow 1991. p. 237. See also: Freidin Yu.L.: “Sud’ba arkhiva poeta”, Literaturnaya gazeta, 1991, No. 1, Jan. 9, p. 13). R.I. Rozhdestvensky, as  chairman of the Commission on the Literary Heritage of O.E. Mandelstam, applied on December 18 1990 to the KGB, the Prosecutor’s Office of Moscow, and TsGALI (currently RGALI) for the return to Yu.L. Freidin of the illegally confiscated documentss. The official response came on March 21 1991, but only from the Prosecutor’s Office: “The Prosecutor’s Office of Moscow does not object to the return to Mr. Yury L’vovich Freidin of the Mandelstam-related materials confiscated during the search and given for safe-keeping to TsGALI in 1983”; a representative of the KGB made a similar statement in a telephone conversation (oral communication of  Yu.L. Freidin). There was no response by TsGALI, and so the archive did not give up its ‘position’.

One more element of the Mandelstam holdings in RGALI is the collection of N.E. Shtempel’. The materials started to come to RGALI in 1986, i.e. during her lifetime. Thus in May 1986 she gave them one copy of the album “Mandelstam in Voronezh’ that she had compiled together with V.L. Gordin. The major part of this collection was transferred to RGALI in June 1987, including the books inscribed to her by O.M., and manuscripts of her memoirs of O.M., N.M, etc..

R.I.Rozhdestvensky gave RGALI an autograph of the poem My zhivem pod soboyu ne chuya strany... on April 3 1989 received previously by the Commission on the Literary Heritage of O.M. of  the Union of Soviet Writers of the USSR from the USSR KGB (this autograph, published a hundred times and shown on TV, was officially accounted as ‘unprocessed’ until  2007).

The archive of N.M. (totalling ca. 1500 files) was kept in RGALI without any processing for more than 20 years, and nothing in the way of scholarly description or processing was done until 2006. The same is true for the archive of N.E. Shtempel’. It is proposed to incorporate both these collections into Collection 1983, which seems neither a correct decision nor one with any foundation.

The archive of N.M. and the Moscow part of N.I. Khardzhiev’s archive, nationalised with the participation of RGALI, are the last significant segments of major Mandelstam collections waiting to be processed for research purposes.

Readers started to work with the Mandelstam collections of RGALI in the late 1950s–early 1960s. G.G. Superfin and A.A. Morozov were among the first readers of Collection 1893. It may be noted that information about these materials in TsGALI fairly soon reached Western Slavists. Thus on Oct. 5 1965 B.A. Filippov wrote to G.P. Struve: “Something more: Mandelstam’s manuscripts are available in TsGALI: poems of 1918–1937, his letters to various persons (1922–1929), the poem of OEM Iz zabytoi poemy o dvukh Gonkurakh, the only copy of the hectograph magazine ‘Novyi Giperoborei’ No.1, 1921, with poems by OEM, Gumilev, etc.. Jack Weiner told me that William Edgerton from Indiana University has access to this archive and to manuscripts in it and this Edgerton will soon be going to Moscow. Could you ask him to WRITE DOWN for you the poems by Gumilev and Mandelstam from  ‘Novyi Giperoborei’ and from Iz zabytoi poemy o dvukh Gonkurakh and, if possible, other works by Mandelstam (poems, letters hardly possible) … That would be nice …» (Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University, Stanford, collection  of G.P. Struve


Freidin Yu.L., “Ostatok knig”: biblioteka O.E. Mandelstama, Slovo i sud’ba. Osip Mandelstam. Issledovaniya i materialy., Ìoscow 1991. p. 237. See also: Freidin Yu.L. “Sud’ba arkhiva poeta”,  Literaturnaya gazeta 1991 No 1, 9 Jan., p. 13

Mandelstam, N.Ya., Ob Akhmatovoi, ed. P. Nerler, Moscow, Novoe izdatel’stvo, 2007.

P.M. Nerler

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