Fonds NPPC - Novosti Press Agency photographic collection fonds

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Novosti Press Agency photographic collection fonds

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  • Textual record
  • Graphic material

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  • 1961-1991 (Creation)
    Novosti Press Agency

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  • 25 m

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Biographical history

The Novosti Press Agency (in Russian, "Agentstvo pechati 'Novosti'" or APN, i.e. "Press Agency News", a Soviet public information services was founded in 1961 with the stated aim of "aiding the development and strengthening of mutual understanding, confidence and friendship among peoples (to quote the translated Soviet Encyclopedia, 1973). Its founding members were the USSR Journalists' Union, the USSR Writer's Union, the Union of Soviet Societies for Friendship and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries and the Znanie (Knowledge) Society. For domestic and particularly for external use, through the press and other news agencies, publishing houses, and radio and television stations, Novosti prepared reports, interviews, commentaries, surveys and feature stories, with supporting photographs and other illustrative materials, on the domestic and foreign policy of the USSR and on a wide range of activities in the Soviet Union, notably in science, technology, medicine, sports, the arts, education, and in economic and social life. Novosti also supplied items reflecting Soviet official and public views of these spheres of life elsewhere in the world, and on major events as they occurred. Soviet anniversaries occasioned reprints of classic documents and photographs.

The resulting output from Novosti or from APN, as it was often cited, included at times during the Cold War at least six Bulletins, an English-language Daily Review (a survey of the Soviet press), seven newspapers, fifty illustrated magazines and outside the Soviet Union more than a hundred information bulletins. The Novosti photography service is said to have prepared more than 120,000 photo "reports" a year for the press (more than two million prints). Novosti's publishing house produced millions of books and smaller publications, in Russian and many other languages, for domestic and foreign distribution. Novosti also operated a television service to make films about the USSR for external use. Finally, the agency maintained bureau and news offices in all the Soviet republics and in many foreign countries. Since 1991 some of the functions of Novosti have resumed under the new name Russkoe Informatsionnoe Agentstvo (Russian Information Agency) or RIA, while TASS (Telegrafnoe Agentstvo Sovetskovo Soiuza), the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union, established in 1925 as the central news organ of the USSR, has evolved since 1991 into ITAR-TASS (informatsionnoe Telegrafnoi Agentstco Rossii-TASS).

Custodial history

The materials were offered as a collection to Carleton University Library in December 1991, when operations of the press office faced closure during the Soviet Union's sudden political disintegration. After a quick assessment, the collection was readily accepted as a unique and fleeting opportunity in support of several University academic programs and as having a documentary value, intended and unintended, that will grow with passing time.

Acquisition and processing of the Novosti Collection engaged various individuals whose role it is a pleasure to record. Mr. G. Pearson, free-lance journalist, most helpfully alerted the writer to the availability of the collection as a consequence of the Soviet crisis. Paul Filotas, Slavic and Eastern European languages specialist in the Library, accompanied the writer to the Embassy Press Office to assess the Collection at short notice. The transaction was sanctioned by Igor Lobanov, Chief (Consular) and Andrei Stulov (Second Secretary, Press and Information). Neil Brearley, University Librarian at the time, authorized immediate acquisition and payment of the modest cost. Al Mallon and Mike Wiles helped box and transport the files under urgent and wintry conditions. Valentina Mintchev applied her knowledge of the Russian Language and the Soviet scene to the disordered mass of the materials received, and brought coherence to the Collection. Trevor Smith is credited with completing the essential work on the files and on the finding aid. Users of the Collection owe much to the work of Valentina Mintchev and Trevor Smith.

Scope and content

The Novosti Press Agency Photograph Collection consists of approximately seventy thousand photographs and related documents previously assembled in the Press Office of the former USSR Embassy in Ottawa. The materials had mostly been generated by the Novosti Press Agency in the Soviet Union for overseas dissemination or staff use in such offices.

The materials generated and disseminated by Novosti provide a two-way mirror that is additionally useful when seen in historical perspective - both those materials used in Novosti's own periodicals and other publications, and those supplied to foreign wire services, newspapers and periodicals, notably through Novosti's overseas offices attached to Soviet embassies. Textual materials were buttressed with the enormous output of captioned photographs, and the collection acquired by Carleton consists largely of the photo files of the Novosti office in Canada, extensively supplemented by interfiled briefing notes, press releases, pamphlets and other generally short items.

Many of the photographs at Carleton have a caption of several typed lines, in English, or French or sometimes Russian, affixed to the verso; some bear a manuscript note written directly on the verso, and filed with many are relevant press releases, articles or working notes in these languages. Several files consist of textual material only (typescript or printed). The photographs are almost all black-and-white, and most are about 18 by 24 cms. Their condition ranges from predominantly good to excellent, and as some are in duplicate or even multiple copies, these factors suggest that Novosti photographs were mostly distributed rather then lent or used for reference. Separate accompanying notes sometimes show annotation and wear from repeated use.

The Collection offers not only an encyclopedic visual official portrait of the Soviet Union itself; the portraits of other countries and their cultures, especially that of Canada, are doubly valuable as records of the observed as well as of the observer. The USSR-Canada files are extensive and would be of great interest to a student of Canadian foreign policy, particularly with regard to trade and international relations.

This fonds is comprised of twenty-five series which include: State and structure of the USSR, Government structure, Parties in the USSR, Treaty of union and Referendum, Russian Revolution 1905, October Revolution 1917 (Early Soviet History), V.I. Lenin (founder of the Soviet Union), Soviet Army, Second World War, USSR-Canada, USSR-USA, Science, Industry, Architecture and Construction, Communications, vehicles, public transport, Agriculture-farming, Social aspects and services of Soviet Society, women and family, Religion, Education, Culture in the Soviet Union, Republics-Autonomous regions, Northern regions-Major cities and towns, Athletics, Soviet Russian Embassy in Ottawa-standard forms-applications and trivia, Late Soviet material.

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Organizing the Collection presented a challenge, partly because of the large number of individual items, but more particularly as a consequence of the speed and pressure of political events in December 1991, when the staff of Novosti, facing an uncertain future, were suddenly compelled to vacate their offices on the eleventh floor of an apartment tower near the Soviet Embassy. The Novosti files had been hurriedly emptied from their filing cabinets since their brief inspection by two Carleton librarians and were in considerable disarray on the floor when three Library staff members came to pack them as carefully as possible into forty-three large cartons for transport to Carleton. It has not been possible to ascertain the original classification scheme. It may be surmised that the scheme as applied broadly resembled the standard Soviet library classification, much modified for the medium of photographs and press releases and by heavy acquisition or usage of particular topics. (The library classification starts with Marxism-Leninism, construed as the science of the general laws of nature and society, followed in order by the pure, applied and social sciences, and the arts and humanities, to cite rough equivalents.)

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In every box photographs are combined with textual records and ephemera.

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