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Editorial practice and house style

In preparing for publication a corpus of primary source material with explanatory notes and introductory essays we have tried to ensure that our site will be accessible not merely to specialists in Slavonic studies but also to a broader range of readers with diverse linguistic, historical and cultural interests and linguistic backgrounds.


In 1700 Peter the Great adopted the Julian calendar, which was eleven days behind the Gregorian calendar in the eighteenth century, twelve days behind in the nineteenth and thirteen days behind in the twentieth. The Gregorian calendar, which western states had begun to use in preference to the Julian calendar in 1582, was not adopted in Russia until 1918. In our notes on the documents in this corpus and in our introductory essays and the notes on those essays dates are given in the Old Style (OS; i.e. according to the Julian calendar) when the event to which reference is made takes place in pre-revolutionary Russia and in the New Style (NS; i.e. according to the Gregorian calendar) when it takes place outside Russia.

Dates of lives

We have provided the dates of the lives of individuals to whom we refer (when these dates are known) at first mention of the individual in the notes to each text and in each introductory essay. We have adopted this practice, although it entails some repetition from one document to another, because we have wanted each pair of documents to be free-standing.

Dates of reigns

The dates of the lives and reigns of pre-revolutionary Russian rulers, on the other hand, are provided in a separate document (Dates of reigns), to which there is a link from the left-hand navigation pane, rather than within the documents themselves, because constant reference will be made to these rulers throughout the corpus.


We have in most respects followed the system of transliteration used in the leading UK journal in our field, The Slavonic and East European Review. However, in the text of the introductory essays we have simplified this system in the following ways in order to make it less forbidding to readers who are not Slavists:

  • the Russian soft sign (ь) has not been transliterated. Thus the name of the novelist Гоголь is transliterated as Gogol, not Gogol’. Similarly, Гурьев is transliterated as Gurev, not Gur'ev or Guriev. We have made an exception to this rule in the case of Vasiliev Island;
  • the Russian letter ё has been transliterated not as e but as io or o in order better to represent the sound of the Russian word, e.g. Piotr (not Petr) for Пëтр and Levashov (not Levashev) for Левашёв;
  • the suffix -ский has been transliterated with the ending -sky, which is familiar to Anglophone readers: thus Dostoevsky (not Dostoevskii) for Достоевский;
  • surnames ending in -ой have been transliterated with -oy, which is also familiar to English-speakers. Thus Tolstoy is preferred to Tolstoi for Толстой.

Where we have transliterated material in references to sources that are cited in the notes to the essays or the primary source texts, on the other hand, we have adhered to the more rigorous system used in SEER (i.e. we have used Gogol’, Dostoevskii, Tolstoi and so forth).

Rendering of the surnames of Russian subjects of non-Russian origin

From the early eighteenth century numerous men and women who were not of Russian ethnic origin played prominent roles in Russian society. We have given the surnames of these men and women, who were predominantly of Baltic German origin, in the forms commonly used in the Latin alphabet, e.g. Benckendorff, Lieven, Meyendorff. These forms are likely to be more familiar and more accessible to readers than accurate transliterations of the Cyrillic forms of the surnames of these Russian subjects (Benkendorf, Liven, Meiendorf respectively).

Rendering of Russian forenames

We have preferred transliterated forenames (e.g. Aleksandr for Russian Александр, Piotr for Пëтр) to translated ones (Alexander, Peter), except in the case of monarchs and other members of the Russian royal family, who may be familiar to the English-speaking reader from the translated form. Russian aristocrats themselves often used a French form of their forename (e.g. Alexandre, Pierre). In cases where it is the French form of a forename that is used in a text, we sometimes preserve that form in an introductory essay in order to avoid misunderstanding.

Patronymic names

We have generally omitted the patronymic name that every Russian possesses (e.g. Ivanovich, which incorporates the masculine suffix -ovich, meaning ‘son of’; Petrovna, which incorporates the feminine suffix -ovna, meaning ‘daughter of’). We retain the patronymic, however, when it helps to distinguish the individual in question from a relative, as is often the case among the quite small number of families who made up the high nobility in pre-revolutionary Russia, or in the case of individuals who were commonly referred to by both their forename and patronymic.

Rendering of place names

Places in the Russian Empire are referred to by the name that was in use in Russia at the time of the event or statement in question, rather than in Soviet or post-Soviet times where these are different (thus Nizhnii Novgorod instead of Gorky, the Soviet name of the town on the Volga to the east of Moscow; and Tiflis instead of Tbilisi, the Soviet and post-Soviet name of the capital of Georgia). The modern place-name, where it differs from the name used in the text, may be given in brackets when it is first used.

Titles in languages other than English

Whenever in an introductory essay we use the title of a work (for example, a book, article or journal) which was written in a language other than English, we translate the title. However, the original title is invariably given too, either in the text of the essay or – more commonly – in a note to it.

We have also translated the title of all secondary literature (monographs, edited books, scholarly articles and so forth) that is cited in the notes.

Russian titles

Where we use the Russian form of a title (of a journal, book or article) we give the title in Cyrillic rather than transliterated form. In the case of work published before the orthographic reform of 1918, we have used modernised Russian orthography in the title (e.g. Вестник, not Вѣстникъ).

We have, however, transliterated the publication details (place of publication and publisher) of all works in Cyrillic that are cited in the notes in order to assist users of the site who do not have Russian.

Orthography in the primary source texts

In our transcription of the French documents published here, and in quotations from those documents in the introductory essays and notes, we have preserved the spelling used in the document from which the transcription is taken. No corrections have been made to forms which would have been considered incorrect at the time when a document was produced, let alone to forms which do not correspond to the modern norm but may have been considered acceptable at the time when they were written.

We have, however, standardised use of capital letters (e.g. at the beginning of sentences).

Layout in primary source texts

We have not attempted faithfully to reproduce the layout of the transcribed documents, the great majority of which, of course, are in manuscript form.

We have indicated folio breaks in documents transcribed, but not line breaks.

Punctuation marks

In transcriptions of primary sources we have followed practice in the original, which may differ from modern standard practice in French.

In quotations and references to sources we have preferred to follow modern French and Russian practice, rather than to standardise punctuation according to the English model. Thus we have used chevrons as quotation marks round Russian words and phrases and the titles of Russian articles and have included the spaces that occur in French (but not in English) after an opening quotation mark, before a closing quotation mark and before (as well as after) a colon, semi-colon, question mark or exclamation mark.


Where we have omitted material from a quotation or title we have indicated the omission by use of three dots in square brackets, i.e. [. . .]. Where, on the other hand, we have used three dots without square brackets they indicate suspension points (многоточие), a device that is more common in Russian than in English.


The notes (endnotes) can be accessed by clicking on a note indicator in the text. Full details of a source (including place of publication, publisher and date of publication) are provided when the source is first mentioned, but in subsequent references the title of a source is shortened, where possible, and full details are not repeated. Since the notes may be viewed as a block, users may scroll back up from a shortened reference in order to find the full details of the source in the note where it is first cited.

References to archival documents

The abbreviations that we use in notes to indicate where material is to be found in an archival holding are as follows:

f.          (фонд, i.e. fond)         archive, record group or guide to holdings

op.       (опись, i.e. opis΄)        inventory, schedule or series

d.         (дело, i.e. delo)          file

fol.       (лист, i.e. list)             folio

We have used the English term ‘folio’ because it will be familiar to English-speakers, but in the other instances we have used abbreviations of the terms used in Russian archives in order to facilitate other researchers’ access to the documents in question if they should wish to consult them.


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