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Microform Collection: Gubernatorial Reports of Russian Imperial Governors

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Tanja Lorkovic
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The reports of the provincial governors of 19th-century Russia, dispatched annually to the ministry of the Interior, and ultimately to the Tsar himself in St. Petersburg, are a fundamental source for research in this area. From their inception in 1804 until their demise with the Revolution in 1917, these reports document economic changes, political events, popular disturbances, as they happened. In this respect, they preserve an unparalleled first-hand account of life and politics in 19th-century Tsarist Russia.

The reports are voluminous (sometimes reaching 1000 folios for one year!) due to their vast scope drafted by St. Petersburg officials and the fastidious detailing which they demanded from the governors. Thus, we see in these reports, not only a glimpse of daily life in the provinces, but also a specific view on the history of the state. The task of implementing official decisions was easier said than done, as these reports vividly portray the governors' attempting to enforce in the restless and difficult localities the slick mandates handed to them by a distant and urbane bureaucracy, ignorant of provincial realities.

Governors' reports were made obligatory in 1804, and formalised in 1828 by the addition of rules for the compilation of the reports. In the era of Tsar Nicholas I the
governors' reports were extraordinarily uniform, with the result that they became rather formal. In 1870 the form of the reports was relaxed, but as an appendix a survey of the province was required that consisted of both text and tables. The report included the main events and evaluations, while the survey (which the provincial statistical committees compiled) had statistical information and a general description of the province. The Tsar himself read the reports and made marginal comments in his own hand. The Committee of Ministers reviewed these comments in order to ensure that the appropriate measures were taken.

The originals of the reports are kept in the Central State Historical Archive (RGIA) in St. Petersburg, in the fonds of the Committee and Council of Ministers. Copies
are stored in the fonds of the Council of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, so that where the originals are missing, copies can be used.

IDC, a Netherlands-based microfiche publisher, working in cooperation with Yale, has produced copies of the more important series of the gubernatorial reports. The Yale/IDC project has not filmed all of the reports at once--a mammoth task--but rather those for the Great Reform period of 1855-64 in the following guberniias:

  • Arkhangelskaia guberniia
  • Ekaterinoslavskaia gubernia
  • Iaroslavskaia guberniia
  • Kazanskaia guberniia
  • Moskovskaia guberniia
  • Nizhegorodskaia guberniia
  • Novgorodskaia guberniia
  • Peterburgskaia guberniia
  • Permskaia guberniia
  • Saratovskaia guberniia
  • Tobolskaia guberniia
  • Voronezhskaia guberniia

A second selection will soon be filmed covering the final 12 years of the tsarist regime, 1905 through 1917. The same guberniias selected for the first stage of the project will be used. The first stage of the series comprises 1,176 fiche, organised by guberniia. Scholars can consult these sources in the Microtext Reading Room, which is in the basement of Sterling Memorial Library.

Sterling Library's hours of operation
LOCATION: SML, Microform (Non-Circulating)
CALL NUMBER: Fiche S791: 1-10