The May Cohn Russia and Soviet Union Collection (Vilna Archives)
Scope and Content Note
The May Cohn Russia and Soviet Union Collection (Vilna Archives) includes materials dealing with a wide range of topics mostly pertaining to Jewish life in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union and to a smaller extent to everyday life of ordinary Russian citizens. The collection consists of official government documents such as reports, decrees and regulations, circular letters, lists, vital records, Census records, residency and emigration permits. Also included here are manuscripts, correspondence, printed materials, petitions, announcements, posters, questionnaires, and minutes of meetings.
There is a wealth of materials that shed light on the way Jewish religious and civil life was administered in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. These materials include circulars, orders, rabbinical marriage permissions, documents dealing with election of state Rabbis, decrees, lists of Jewish households, residency and emigration permits, correspondence, materials pertaining to Jewish conscripts, Census records, rules and regulation, and reports.
Administration of Jewish life in the Soviet Union is highlighted by materials pertaining to the Jewish Autonomous Region that include a large number of manuscripts, resolutions, reports, and many issues of a hand-written wall newspaper Birobidzhaner Stern.
Materials dealing with Jewish participation in political activities include election announcements by Jewish and non-Jewish political parties, flyers, appeals, lists of candidates, manuscripts, reports, circular letters, and manuscripts on the history of revolutionary movement and Jewish participation in the movement. Additionally, there are minutes of meetings of a Bolshevik’s student cell and announcements from the Ministry of Jewish Affairs. Also collected here are agitation posters for Jewish political parties such as Obedinennaya evrejskaya socialesticheskaya rabochaya partiya (United Jewish Socialist Worker’s Party, Rus: Объединённая еврейская социалистическая рабочая партия) as well as Soviet propaganda posters.
There is a wealth of materials pertaining to Jewish emigration that consist mostly of materials from the Jewish Colonization Association. These materials include a large number of emigration questionnaires submitted to the Association as part of emigration process, affidavits issued by the police, emigration permits issued by the Governor’s office, individuals’ petitions sent to the government offices, and Association’s correspondence with authorities pertaining to emigration permits. Other materials dealing with the Jewish Colonization Association include administrative materials such as circular letters, minutes of meetings, and reports of activities.
Additionally, there are materials pertaining to administration of Jewish religious and secular education in the Russian Empire including correspondence, circular letters, reports sent to the Ministry of People’s Education and Governor’s Office, and rules and regulations. Most of the materials pertaining to the Soviet Jewish education deal with Institut Evreyskoi Proletarskoi Kultury (Institute of Jewish Proletarian Culture, Rus: Институт Еврейской пролетарской культуры) in Kiev (Kyiv) and its pedagogical section. These materials consist of manuscripts on pedagogy, teacher’s materials such as lesson plans, notes, class journals, and curricula. Other materials dealing with Jewish education include minutes of meetings of the People’s Commissariat of Education, manuscripts, and regulations.
Furthermore, there is a small amount of materials pertaining to Anti-Semitism that include manuscripts and newspapers and clippings from the Russian press pertaining to Beilis' trial in Kiev (Kyiv).
Other materials collected here include conference materials from the Rabbi conference in Zhitomir (Zhytomyr), correspondence, reports and petitions pertaining to aid work for the war refugees and other charitable activities, photographs of Birobidzhan region and Jewish settlers, and materials pertaining to the Russian Orthodox Church that include correspondence, decrees, petitions, and vital records.
- Creation: 1837-1940
Language of Materials
The collection is in Russian and Yiddish, with German, Hebrew, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, English, Belarusian, and Polish.
Conditions Governing Access
The collection has been digitized and is available online without restrictions. The physical collection is closed.
The images, documents, film footage, audio materials, and texts displayed in any portion of this web site may be copyrighted. Permission to use this web site is given on condition that the user agrees to follow U.S. copyright laws. The user agrees that she or he assumes liability for any copyright violations resulting from unauthorized use of items appearing on this web site and to hold YIVO harmless from any action involving copyright infringement. It is the responsibility of the user to carry out a due diligence search under U.S. copyright laws to determine the copyright status of items displayed on this web site.
5 Linear Feet
The May Cohn Russia and Soviet Union Collection (Vilna Archives) includes materials dealing with a wide range of topics mostly pertaining to Jewish life in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union and to a smaller extent to everyday life of ordinary Russian citizens. The collection consists of official government documents such as reports, decrees and regulations, circular letters, lists, vital records, Census records, residency and emigration permits. Also included here are manuscripts, correspondence, printed materials, petitions, announcements, posters, questionnaires, and minutes of meetings. Materials collected here shed light on the way Jewish religious and civil life was administered in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union.
The collection is divided into 3 series:
- Subseries 1: General, 1918-1939
- Subseries 2: Revolutionary Movement and Political Parties, 1897-1932
- Subseries 3: Localities, 1917-1940
- Subseries 4: Birobidzhan, 1924-1930s
- Subseries 5: Institut Evreyskoi Proletarskoi Kultury (Institute of Jewish Proletarian Culture, Rus: Институт Еврейской пролетарской культуры), Kiev (Kyiv), 1922-1939
During the Nazi occupation of Vilna (Vilnius), in 1942, the records were looted by the Einsatzstab Rosenberg and sent to the NSDAP Institute Zur Erforschung der Judenfrage in Frankfurt-am-Main. In 1945 they were recovered by the U.S. army and returned to the YIVO in New York, via the U.S. army archival depot in Offenbach. The records arrived in New York in 1947.
- Poalei Zion, Russia (Organization)
- Allgemeyner Idisher arbayṭerbund in Liṭa, Poylen un Rusland (Organization)
- Jewish Colonization Association (Organization)
- Sotsialisticheskaya Yevreyskaya Rabochaya Partiya (Russia) (Organization)
- Folkspartey (Organization) (Organization)
- Jewish Colonization Association (Organization)
- Institut Evreiskoi Proletarskoi Kul’tury (Organization)
Genre / Form
- clippings (information artifacts)
- Minutes (administrative records)
- Official documents
- Resolutions (administrative records)
- Birobidzhan (Russia)
- Koret︠s︡ʹ (Ukraine)
- Kyïv (Ukraine)
- Russia -- Emigration and immigration
- Z︠H︡ytomyr (Ukraine)
- Guide to the May Cohn Russia and Soviet Union Collection (Vilna Archives) 1837-1940 RG 30
- The collection was processed in the 1960s and 70s by YIVO Archives staff and by Marek Web. Finding Aid enhanced and collection prepared for digitization by Yakov Il'ich Sklar.
- © 2018
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Description is in English.
- Processing, conservation, preparation for digitization and digitization of this collection was done as part of the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Collections Project, with the assistance of grants from the Edward Blank Family Foundation, The National Endowment for the Humanities, the Righteous Persons Foundation, the Conference for Jewish Material Claims against Germany, the Kronhill Pletka Foundation and the Ruth and David Levine Charitable Fund, and anonymous supporters.