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Author: Alexander Pozdeyev
Title: The History and the Computer in Russia
Publication info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
April 1999

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Source: The History and the Computer in Russia
Alexander Pozdeyev

vol. 2, no. 1, April 1999
Article Type: Work in Progress
PDF: Download full PDF [15kb ]

The History and the Computer in Russia

Alexander Pozdeyev

"The World of History"

The theme designated by the title is so vast that the volume of a single brief report doesn't allow one to illuminate it sufficiently. I shall, therefore, restrict myself to discussing only what are, in my opinion, important aspects of the current interaction between the elevated science of history and earthly technology.

There is no purpose, perhaps, in telling the story of the creation and development of the computer. It is important to know merely that it has become an integrated part of modern everyday life and consequently, has broken into the realm of historical science. The computer has settled comfortably down in its many spheres. I shall try to estimate below the practice of the use of computers in Russian historical science.

While the computer remained an expensive and thus not a fully accessibled artifact to the mass consumer, it couldn't spread broadly in those spheres of human knowledge where complicated calculation was not a vital necessity. The historical science belongs to this set of fields. But as the computer became very accessible, the sphere of its use significantly widened.

It is no secret that as the computer intruded into the sphere of historical knowledge, this knowledge received additional powerful impulses for its development. One specific direction of the historical science which has emerged is the use of mathematical methods in historical research. What are the main spheres of the computer use in historical science in Russia? I shall make no mistake when I'll say that they are quite the same as in most of other countries.

The use of computers as bases for the storage of tremendous volume of information are probably used the most widely used function. With the rapidly developing possibility to store not only texts but graphic information as well, it is now possible to convert a tremendous quantity of pictures and copies of unique documents which were, in former times, inaccessible for most researchers. Additionally computer technologies permit tus to so structure the information as to provide easy and free access. There is a huge quantity of unique documents in Russian archives which are waiting for their researchers. At present some archives have been digitized with modern computer technologies. Russia cooperates with other countries which are interested in wider access to our archives. The joint project of the Russian Centre of Conservation & the Study of Records for Modern History and a number of European Research Centres, suppoted as well by computer and software companies, can serve as an example of this process. This particular project is known as Comintern Archives.  [2]

Rationally structured easily accessible databases in their turn much increase the possibilities for historians, for students and for scholarship. Most of the higher schools in Moscow, e.g. Moscow State University ( founded in 1755, 21 years before U.S.A.) have their own computer nets which allow the students to get information and to publish their scholarly researches as well as to exange ideas with that additional important element which the computer provide us – the Internet. Of course due to the well-known limitations of the financial capacities of the country in general and of the sciences in particular, the Internet developement in Russia is still limited. But the process is going on.

Besides those mentioned above, there are some additional important spheres of the computer's use in Russian historical science.

For example, while archeologists in the past had to work hard on the restoration of the artifacts and the remains of ancient men or animals, now they have the computer with its enormous capacities for calculation. What demanded hard work and a lot of time in the past is now done by computer instead of man. Russian scientists are using these capacities with enthusiasm.

It is impossible not to note an additional sphere in which the computer is being used in Russia. As is true througout the world, the ability of multimedia to educate and entertain schoolchildren and students of history is important. In simple and,—which is important—easily memorizable form, we can visualize on the monitor with the help of advanced multimedia technologies the whole process of the development of mankind and its separate stages accompanied by fascinating pictures and intelligible texts. In addition, the use of the computer will become even more important because it allow us to accustom children to the world of history in forms which are very comfortable to them and yet provide programs with important content.

There are many original Russian multimedia programs, from games to popular encyclopaedias dedicated to significant historical events and themes. I can mention the CD "Weapon Treasures" or the CD "Napoleon and Alexander". Enormous attention is now being drawn to modern history on CD's produced in Russia. Widely popular is "The External Intelligence Service of the KGB" or "The History of Russia in the Twentieth Century".

As mentioned above, it is impossible to recount in detail all spheres of the use of computers in Russia. But in case it would be interesting for the readers of the JAHC, we can continue our acquaintance and provide yet more detailed information on the use, problems and future of the computer in Russia.

In conclusion I would like to inform our readers about the first Russian on-line magazine dedicated to History Studies, the first issue of which soon will appear on the World Wide Web. We shall advise you about its appearence by all means, although it is planned to produce it only in a Russian version at first, to which will be added English and probably additional versions.

Editor's Notes

1. In Volume I, 2, we published a communication from Professor Pozdeyev and solicited this review of the current status of history and computing in Russia. We look forward to publishing additional materials from Professor Pozdeyev and to announcing the posting of the "World of History" on the World Wide Web.

2. There is a reference to this project in the WWW pages of the Yale University Slavic and Eastern European collection at

Alexander Pozdeyev,
editor-in-chief, "The World of History".