Russians in Italy
The ‘Russians in Italy’ project, financed by the Italian Ministry of Education (Ministero dell’Università e della Ricerca scientifica), was started by a group of scholars of Slavic Studies from four Italian universities (Antonella d’Amelia, University of Salerno; Elda Garetto, University of Milan; Stefano Garzonio, University of Pisa; Daniela Rizzi, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice). The aim of the project was to reconstruct and provide as thorough an overview as possible of the Russian contingent in Italy in the first half of the twentieth century and also to describe the relationship Russians had with Italian culture and society.
An attempt has been made to fill a void in the study of Russian emigres in Italy and also to create a website allowing online consultation. As much data as possible has been included in order to reconstruct a phenomenon which sporadically gave rise to the creation of autonomous groups of aggregation (associations, educational institutions, the Russian press, publishers, libraries etc.). With regard to the Russian diaspora, what happened in Italy was unlike what happened in other countries such as France, Germany or Slavic countries. In Italy, the migratory flux from Tzarist Russia first and the Soviet Union later, was extremely dispersive and somehow managed to be hidden by the events of 20th century Italian culture.
The aims of the research group are as follows:
• to give an accurate description of Russian emigration to Italy as a historical and cultural phenomenon and to analyze it internally as well as examining how it related to Italian society at the time;
• to define the role of Russian intellectuals and artists in Italy in the first half of the twentieth century thanks to their contact with Italian culture, the press and publishers, who were of prime importance in the diffusion and reception of Russian culture in Italy;
• to define the extent of the activities of the Russian presence in Italy in the world of literature, art, cinema, ballet, theatre and entertainment, in the first half of the twentieth century thanks to the identification of documentary materials and systematically working through historical records and bibliographical data;
• to trace a convincing overall outline of the entire phenomenon including both events and people of great importance (Gorky and his entourage in Capri and Sorrento; Vyacheslav Ivanov, the catalyst for the Russian presence in Rome; Aleksandr Amfiteatrov and his group of revolutionary Russians on the Ligurian Riviera, etc.) and to uncover forgotten pages and the less well - known aspects , that can be reconstructed only as a result of a deep investigation into a huge quantity of materials and new historical data;
• to compile a survey of the published works on Russian culture in Italy from 1900-1940, including any translations by Russian authors in the fields of history, literature, art etc. The basic research material consists of more than a hundred newspapers and reviews, selected from those that are the most significant for Italian culture during the period under observation;
• the digitisation of (1) the most important printed material (reviews, books, articles) both by Russian authors who were writing in Italy and by Italian authors on particular aspects of Russian culture and history; (2) historical records; (3) Twentieth century Russian works of figurative art produced and preserved in Italy; (4) films or photographs which recount episodes from the lives of Russians or about Russians in Italy, in order to preserve and pass on the historical memory of Russian emigration to future generations.
Starting from numerous studies which had already been carried out but were in no way systematic, the aim of the project was to map out details of Russians present in several Italian public and private archives described in the Sources section. The investigation concentrated on the most important public and private archives and libraries in certain regions (Lazio, Veneto, Lombardy, Tuscany, Piedmont, Liguria, Emilia and Romagna, Campania): State Archives, County Archives, National Libraries, Foundations and cultural associations, publishing house archives, etc. Research was aimed at individuals, organizations and institutions (those created by Russians in Italy as well as Italian institutions which involved Russian activity); the data collected was integrated with studies on periodicals from that time and by research on records in Russia, the US and other European countries.
In order to make the research results as widely available as possible, the website ‘Russians in Italy’ was set up with an interface both in Italian and Russian to which new elaborated material is constantly uploaded and updated.
The following sections are available on the website:
1. SOURCES (FONTI): this section contains the lists of the archives and libraries consulted and in many cases the detailed description of some unpublished correspondence.
2. RESOURCES (RISORSE): stored in this section are materials and documents related to all the activities since the beginning of the project (publications, conferences etc)
3. RUSSIANS IN ITALY: DICTIONARY (RUSSI IN ITALIA: DIZIONARIO): all information regarding intellectual, artistic and political figures who lived and worked in Italy in the twentieth century can be consulted in this section. The dictionary is made up of a nominal index of bio-bibliographical entries listed in alphabetical order. Individual lemmas are included respecting scientific transliteration currently in use in Italy, with possible graphical variations (which are very common in the sources) and which permit unequivocal identification of individuals. Included are both those who left Russia definitively, whether their departure was voluntary or imposed, and those who chose Italy as their place of residence. Russians who only lived In Italy for a certain period are also included. The names listed in the Dictionary belong to Russian men and women for whom traces have been found (archival, bibliographical or iconographical) and whose relations with (Italian and/or Russian) institutions based in Italy have been documented.
By ‘Russian’ we conventionally mean all nationalities which were previously part of the Russian Empire and subsequently became part of the USSR (in all official documents in this country, in fact, the subjects of the Russian Empire, and then of the USSR, are always called ‘Russians’), assigning the meaning of rossiyskiy to the adjective ‘Russian’ (citizen of the Russian/ Soviet state) and not russkiy (Ethnic Russian).
4. POLITICAL and CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS (ISTITUZIONI POLITICHE E CULTURALI): in this section you will find the political and cultural associations whose traces have been found in Italian archives.
5. RUSSIAN LOCATIONS (LUOGHI RUSSI): this is a kind of geographical map of where the Russian community settled and includes the most important meeting places for them.
6. CHRONOLOGY (CRONOLOGIA): alongside the historical-topographical map of Russian locations is a timeline of events highlighting the most important events involving Russians in Italy. Year by year, this timeline includes historical and political events, Russian-Italian initiatives, news, film and art exhibitions, musical and theatrical premiers, new publications and the daily lives of the Russian emigres etc.
7. Russia in the daily Press (1900-1940) (LA RUSSIA NELLA STAMPA ITALIANA): monographs and articles on Russian culture published in Italy between 1900 and 1940 can be found in this section (including possible translations of Russian authors in the historical, literary and artistic fields). By examining a hundred or more of the most important reviews of the period it was possible for the phenomenon to be mapped out and for the creation of more than 8000 bibliographical records which can be consulted thanks to a search engine which is available in this section. Bibliographical records include the following fields: Author, author form accepted, title of the article or the book, place of publication, publisher, publication date, number of pages and abstract. In the list of reviews included, there is a description of the publication with the most important bibliographical information and the contribution that the periodical has had in divulging information about Russia and the presence of Russians in Italy.
8. Virtual Library (BIBLIOTECA VIRTUALE): digitised monographs and articles published by Russians in Italy and studies of Russian culture from 1900-1940 are included in this section. You will also find visual materials alongside printed documents.
This website currently contains the first seven years of results obtained by the research group. The two sectors (Italian and Russian) are not yet homogeneous, given that a large part of the material collected is still being translated into Russian. We are aware of the many voids present in the website but we are convinced that the work we have carried out so far has produced a valuable patrimony of documentary data which are necessary for a precise historical reconstruction of the phenomenon of Russian migration and includes important moments for Italian culture in the twentieth century.
The material included in the site is protected by copyright and must not be copied, published or distributed without prior consent and precise reference to its source.
The illustrations on the homepage are of Russian public buildings by Giacomo Quarenghi (Valle Imagna, Bergamo, 1744 – St Petersburg, Russia, 1817), nominated in 1779 as architect to the court of Catherine II who made a significant contribution to the spread of Classicism in Russia. The other images on individual pages on this site or on pages in the database are taken from archives and specialist publications as indicated.