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Sovinformbiuro. Soviet Information Bureau photograph collection: Guide

Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies


Harvard University

©2007 The President and Fellows of Harvard College

Last updated on 2016 November 7

HOLLIS # 008862577

Descriptive Summary

Repository: H.C. Fung Library
Location: Closed stacks room.
Call No.: DCVC001
Title: Soviet Information Bureau photograph collection
Date(s): 1938-1948 (inclusive)
Date(s): 1946-1948 (bulk)
Quantity: 5,780 photographs
Abstract: Propaganda photographs of post-World War II Soviet Union from the Soviet Information Bureau.

Processing Information:

Processed by: Susan Sypko and Robert Burton. Updated by Michelle Tavss.

Custodial history:

Gift of Alfred G. Meyer, 1957.
Most of the photographs in the collection were taken by photographers working for the photography department of the Soviet Information Bureau. David Magidoff, Moscow bureau chief for World News Service, and his successor, Andrew Jacob Steiger, acquired the photographs for their working files from Grigorii Sorokin, head of the department. Additional photographs in the collection were acquired by Frank E. Frank, chief of the World News Services bureau in Prague. In 1953, Steiger returned to the United States with the photographs. While working as a reporter for Universal Trade Press Syndicate of New York City in the mid-1950s, he tried to sell them. When his efforts proved unsuccessful he gave the nine cartons of photographs to Alfred G. Meyer, who was then teaching at Columbia University but had served as Assistant Director of the Russian Research Center at Harvard University from 1952-1953 and was still affiliated with the center. When Meyer left Columbia to teach at Michigan State University in 1957 he donated the photographs to Harvard and they were placed in a storage vault in Widener Library where they remained until being rediscovered in 2000.

Access Restrictions:

Collection is open for research. Prior appointment required.

Use Restrictions:

For restrictions on use, please consult the Librarian for the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Collection.

Preferred citation for publication:

Soviet Information Bureau Photograph Collection. [Folder name] folder. Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Collection, H.C. Fung Library, Harvard University.
e.g., Soviet Information Bureau Photograph Collection. "29th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution" folder. Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Collection, H.C. Fung Library, Harvard University.

Historical Note

The Soviet Information Bureau (Sovinformburo) was created by a directive of the Soviet Council of People's Commissars and the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party just two days after Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 24, 1941. Directed by A.S. Shcherbakov from 1941-1945, it was the main propaganda arm of the Soviet state during World War II. As explained by Shcherbakov, SIB's main objective was the use of the mass media as an ideological instrument of the Soviet Union. SIB headquarters were located in Kuibyshev (now Samara) before being moved to Moscow in March 1942, and throughout the war years the organization's staff grew to almost 400.
After the war, SIB distributed information about reconstruction and the lives of people in post-war Soviet Union, and with the onset of the Cold War, it also developed counter-propaganda materials. SIB opened editorial offices in the U.S., Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, the Middle East, Asia, and elsewhere. It also established a book division, translation division, and photo information division.
Despite its important role during the war and increased activity in the post-war years, including the publication of Soviet journals abroad, such as Soviet Life and USSR, SIB was not immune from the instability of a repressive Stalinist regime. Staff and reporters often came and went, for reasons which are not always explained in the literature. In 1949, S.A. Lozovsky, who had succeded Shcherbakov as director of the SIB, was branded an enemy of the state and arrested, and all those who had worked with him were immediately fired. In the 1950s, various SIB social committees were closed and reorganized as Soviet leaders feared the connections being made with foreign mass media outlets and social organizations. The Novosti Press Agency (APN) was created in 1961 officially ending the existence of the Soviet Information Bureau.


The photographs are arranged alphabetically by series title, mostly based on attached captions. This arrangement comes closest to representing the original organization of the photographs. In some instances, series with different titles that cover the same subject have been combined. Photographs that do not include attached captions or series titles are arranged alphabetically by general subject headings.

Scope and Content

Intended to document the reconstruction of the Soviet Union following World War II, these black-and-white photographs provide a substantial visual record of daily life, culture, and news at the start of the Cold War. Subjects range from famous people, such as Joseph Stalin and Dmitri Shostakovich, to ordinary people from all parts of the Soviet Union, including non-Russian speaking republics. Images show men, women, and children involved in domestic life, education, health care, industry, agriculture, transportation, sports, the arts, fashion shows and other exhibitions, recreation, religion, the military, politics, and government. Other images show street views, cityscapes, buildings, and structures throughout the Soviet Union, as well as scenes from some Eastern European satellites. Images of special historical interest depict the Battle of Stalingrad, post-World War II demobilization and reconstruction, Nazi war crimes trials in both Nuremberg and the Soviet Union, Victory Day parades on Red Square, Stalin's 70th birthday celebration, Communist Party leaders, and visits of state by Field Marshal Montgomery, Lady Churchill, Iranian Princess Ashraf Pehlevi, Marshal Tito, and others.
The collection contains about 5,765 gelatin silver prints, 3 acetate negatives, and 12 photographic postcards. It includes portrait, cityscape, news, publicity, fashion, and ethnographic photographs. Photographic prints measure 18 x 23 cm. or smaller. Some are cropped and in other cases panoramic views were created by taping two or more photographs together. "SIB Photoservices, Moscow" and "World News Services, 45 Avenue Road, Toronto 5, Ontario" are stamped on the versos of most photographs. Some are stamped: "Passed by censor, USSR".
Typed captions in English are attached to nearly 85 percent of the photographs, giving the series or feature title, photographer, date, location, and original reference number. Some captions are in Russian, Czech, French, and German. In some instances, the photographs are accompanied by a typescript of the story they were made to document. The photographs were taken chiefly by Soviet Information Bureau photographers, with more than 225 identified on the attached captions, including such notable photographers as Evgeny Khaldey, Georgy Zelma, Arkady Shaykhet, Yakov Khalip, and Max Penson.


Container List

Subject Index

Index of Additional Topics