Russia to 1796
History 251C
Dr. Christian Raffensperger
Fall 2007
Wittenberg University

Russia to 1796

The history of Russia is very complex and somewhat mysterious to many people. From the early beginnings of Rus' to the unification efforts of Peter the Great into the first true Russian empire the history of Russia slowly evolved. The death of Catherine II (also known as "The Great") in 1796 is a watershed date in Russian history as the 19th century tsars began efforts to modernize the country.

Primary sources versus secondary sources

What is the difference between a primary source and a secondary source? A primary source is typically one written or recorded by a participant in the event, while a secondary source is compiled by an author from primary or secondary sources. An example of a primary source in Russian history is a document written during that period. This may be a document such as a letter or an accounting of an event. A secondary source would be a book written by a historian about the history of Russia.

Manuscripts and letters are primary sources as they were written by the person observing the event. Books may be comprised of primary sources such as copies of letters or documents relating to an event. Reports of events during the Russian era as reported by eye-witnesses would be primary sources, even though they may be printed in books. Newspaper and magazine articles may be considered primary sources, if they are eye-witness accounts of an event. If not, then you may need to consider them a secondary source.

Finding Books

EZRA– Wittenberg’s library catalog

OhioLINK – Ohio academic libraries catalog

WorldCat – used for materials not found in the above catalogs

Subject Headings: Library of Congress Subject Headings

  • controlled language to allow for more uniform retrieval of information
  • some examples of LC Subject Headings for this subject
    • Catherine II, Empress of Russia, 1729-1796
    • Peter I, Emperor of Russia, 1672-1725
    • Russia--Foreign Relations--To 1689
    • Russia--History--To 1533
    • Russia--History--1237-1480
    • Russia--History--Time of Troubles, 1598-1613
    • Russia--History--Peter I, 1689-1725
    • Russia--History--Catherine II, 1762-1796
    • Russia--Politics and Government--To 1533
    • Russia--Politics and Government--1689-1801

Selected Reference Books

Atlas of Russian History
REF G2111 .S1G52 1993

The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Russia and the Former Soviet Union
REF DK14 .C35 1994

The Dictionary of Art
REF N31 .D5 1996

Dictionary of the Middle Ages
REF D114 .D5 1989

Encyclopedia of Russian History
REF DK14 .E53 2004

Encyclopedia of World Art
REF N31 .E53

Other Print Resources (a selective list)

The Cambridge History of Russia
RESERVE DK43 .C35 2006

Reserve Materials

Books are often placed on reserve in Thomas Library by Wittenberg faculty and can be found at the Circulation Desk. You can find these by searching for Reserves on EZRA. You can search for them by professor or by course. Even if the book on reserve is not for your class you can still check them out. These books may only be checked out for a 24 hour period (1 day) and then must be returned or renewed. If you keep them out past the time they are due, you will begin accruing reserve material fines of $1.00 per day until they are returned.

Theses & Dissertations

In the course of your research you may encounter items described as "thesis" or "dissertation". These are the culmination of a masters or doctoral student's research. A thesis is written by a student completing a master's degree in a subject, while a dissertation is written by a student completing their doctoral studies. Many times a doctoral dissertation will ultimately be published (with certain revisions) as a book. A thesis or a dissertation is subject to a review of scholars in the field before it is accepted by the university providing the degree. These documents may prove to be good sources of information, as they often look at very specific issues or problems. Libraries (including Thomas Library) do not typically purchase copies of theses or dissertations, but they are may available through OhioLINK or Inter-Library Loan.

Proquest, a company in Ann Arbor, Michigan, provides microfilming and distribution of theses and dissertations. Their database, Digital Dissertations, may be searched to determine if a dissertation exists and if it is available. Some recent theses and dissertations are available online through this database.

Electronic Books

The library has access to a collection of electronic books which you may encounter as part of your research. They are identified with the words [Computer File] in the title.


Thomas Library has a large collection of microforms, including microfilm and microfiche. Occasionally an article or book you need may be in a microform format. The Library has microfilm and microfiche reader/printers that you can use to print the article or relevant pages of a book. The cost is $.15 per page.

Scholarly vs. Popular Articles

When conducting research it is critical to know the difference between scholarly and popular articles. Depending on the class and the research topic faculty may not accept popular articles as a basis for your research. Be sure to talk with your professor if you have any questions about the articles you wish to use. The Library has a web page which can provide assistance to you in making the distinction between scholarly and popular articles.

Finding Journal Articles

Online Indexes

Art Abstracts - indexes and abstracts articles on art and art history. Indexing is from 1929 to the present.

Historical Abstracts - indexes over 2,000 journals in the field of world history (excluding the United States and Canada) covering the period from 1450 to the present. The index began in 1955.

Humanities Index Complete - indexes articles in archaeology, history, religion, theology and other disciplines. It includes full-text for over 770 journals and indexes over 2,000 titles.

JSTOR - JSTOR is an electronic full-text archive of journals in various disciplines, including history.

Religion and Philosophy Collection - provides access to over 300 full-text journals with indexing from 1975 to the present.

Religion Index - indexes over 1,400 journals and 14,000 edited works related to religious works. Indexing is from 1949 to the present.

Electronic Resources

JSTOR - JSTOR is an electronic full-text archive of journals in various disciplines, including history.

Web Sites

Translations of the Laws of Rus' - English translation of primary documents.

Medieval and Early Modern Russia and Ukraine - provides access to English translations of a number of primary sources for Russian history.

Documents in Russian History: An On-line Sourcebook - English translations of many primary documents in Russian history.

Royal Historical Society Bibliography - provides an authoritative guide to research on British and Irish history from the Roman period to the present. Use the advanced search option to limit by time period or location.

Inter-Library Loan (ILL)

As a student at Wittenberg you have access to a large number of resources, but sometimes the article you want is not available here or through full-text online or the book or video you want is not available here or in Ohiolink. When that happens you need to use our inter-library loan service. By using ILL you can request a copy of an article or a book or video from another library. Most journal articles may not be requested through Ohiolink so you will need to request them on the Thomas Library periodicals ILL form. Check with a Reference Librarian to see if the article you need is available through Ohiolink. Books and videos should be requested on the Thomas Library book ILL form. Items will be delivered at the Circulation desk where you can pick them up and use them. Remember, it can take a few weeks for ILL to be delivered so plan ahead.

Audio-Visual Resources

You may also find audio-visual resources which may be of use to you. These may be videotapes, DVDs, or audio recordings. These are housed in the Audio-Visual Department of the Library and may have special rules about their usage.

Personal Research Consultation (PeRC)

These are one hour appointments with a librarian to discuss your topic and how to proceed with your research. You may schedule them by e-mail, phone or in-person at the reference desk. Doug Lehman is the liaison librarian for the History Department.

Return to Thomas Library Web Page

Web page by Doug Lehman, Wittenberg University
phone: 327-7016

October 10, 2007