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Slavic and Eastern European Studies: Biographical Information

Describes research sources for Russia, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union.

Find Biographical Information

This guide is designed to help you find biographical information.

Wikipedia is a free, online encyclopedia.  An important thing to know about Wikipedia is that it is written by anyone who wants to contribute.  It can sometimes contain inaccurate information.  You should verify factual information from Wikipedia using another source.

The best thing about Wikipedia for doing research on Russian topics is that, if there is an article on the same topic in the Russian version of the encyclopedia, you can switch over to the Russian version.  This also works from the Russian version to the English version.  Look in the “in other languages” links at the bottom left-hand menu to see what other languages are available.  Note that the various versions are not direct translations of each other.  They are usually written by native speakers of the languages.  I often use the Russian version of the article to find the Russian equivalent of expressions and phrases.

If you are really lucky, the article will have links to other web sites about your person.  These will usually be near the end of the article.

At the beginning of the Russian-language Wikipedia article, they will usually have stress marks on the person’s name.  This is a great way to find out how to pronounce it.

Print Reference Sources (most are in main reference area): 

  • Новая российская энциклопедия:  Main Ref area, AE55.N69 2003 – The New Russian Encyclopedia (in Russian).   
  • Various biographical sources on Russia, USSR, and former USSR:  Main Ref area, CT1195 .W46 – CT1215 .R87 L663 – these are worth a try.  Just be sure to check the date on the book.  If your person is more recent than the date of publication you will have to try something else.
  • Dictionary of International Biography:  Main Ref area, CT100 .D5 – depending on how well known your person is, you might find something in here.
  • Encyclopedia of World Biography:  Main Ref area, CT103 .E56 1998 – again, if the person is well-known internationally, they might be listed
  • Dictionary of World Biography:  Main Ref area, CT 104 .D54 1998 – use the index volume for this one.  That is the easiest way to find out which volume to use.

There are other assorted biographical works in this same general section of the reference area, but these were the ones that I thought looked most useful.


Any time you are searching for a Russian name in English, remember that there are sometimes different transliterations of the name.  You may have to search on different forms of the name.  For example, I have found the name Дейнека spelled as Deineka and Deyneka in English sources.

Additonal Sources

  • Biographical dictionary of the former Soviet Union : prominent people in all fields from 1917 to the present
    • Vronskaya, Jeanne. (London ; New Jersey : Bowker-Saur, c1992).
    • Reference CT1213 .V76 1992 [non-circulating]
  • Who was who in the Soviet Union : a biographical dictionary of more than 4,600 leading officials from the central apparatus and the republics to 1991
    • München ; New York : K.G. Saur, 1992.
    • Reference DK290 .W49 1992 [non-circulating]
  • Who was who in the USSR; a biographic directory containing 5,015 biographies of prominent Soviet historical personalities.
    • Metuchen, N.J., Scarecrow Press, 1972.
    • Reference CT1212 .I57 [non-circulating]
  • Who's who in Russia and the CIS Republics
    • New York : Henry Holt, 1995.
    • Reference CT1203 .W46 1995 [non-circulating]
  • Who's who in the socialist countries of Europe : a biographical encyclopedia of more than 12,600 leading personalities in Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, German Democratic Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia.
    • München ; New York : K.G. Saur, 1989. In 3 v.
    • Reference CT1195 .W46 1989 [non-circulating]
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