The Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System Online

About the Collection

Materials in the Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System Online have been selected from a larger collection of materials and research data gathered in the Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System, also known as the Harvard Refugee Interview Project, and currently held in the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Collection of the H.C. Fung Library.

The Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System was developed by sociologist Alex Inkeles and social psychologist Raymond Bauer. To test the viability of the project preliminary interviews were conducted in Munich, in 1949, by Merle Fainsod and Paul Friedrich. From 1950 to 1953, several hundred Soviet refugees, residents in West Germany, Austria, and the United States, were contacted as prospective interviewees for the HPSSS; some 330 candidates were selected and given full-depth interviews by specialists prominent in the field of Soviet studies.

The interviews are of the following types:

A-Schedule interviews (Personal life histories)

Standardized interviews conducted according to an interview guide (A-Schedule) covering the individual's life history, his/her experiences in certain selected areas of Soviet life, and his/her attitudes toward a wide range of topics. Four versions of the A-Schedule were used for interviewing. They are identified as type A (American), type A2, type A3, and type A4.

B-Schedule interviews (Special topic interviews)

1) Interviews with qualified informants conducted on special topics within eight major areas: economics, family, government, stratification, nationalities, the German occupation during World War II, partisan movements, professions. The interview guides used for these topical interviews (B-Schedule) varied with the topics.

2) Clinical interviews and psychological tests.

The data contained in these interviews consist almost entirely of working interview notes, done in the field, mostly in Munich or New York. These notes are in English, with the exception of a few sections which are in Russian.

For purposes of administrative control of the records, prospective interviewees were assigned a case number. Many of these candidates were, for a variety of reasons, not interviewed. This accounts for omissions in the sequence of case numbers.

The Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System Online was created through a Harvard Library Digital Initiative funded project from 2005-2007. Previously disbound copies of the A-Schedule and B-Schedule interviews held by Widener Library, and manuals and guides from the Davis Collection of the Fung Library were scanned to produce page images. Pages images were then sent to a vendor for re-keying (transcribing). All characters legible to the keying technician were re-keyed. Characters which were not legible were not re-keyed. Since texts were re-keyed once and not corrected, there is no guarantee of 100% accuracy.

With the exception of the Qualitative File: A-Schedule category and the Qualitative File: Index of Special Non-File Categories, all interviews, manuals and guides are searchable individually and collectively.

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Working with the Online Collection

Searching and viewing

The Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System Online provides digitized page images of all interviews in the A-Schedule (Personal life histories, 343 interviews) and B-Schedule (Special topics, 362 interviews) as well as manuals and guides from the collection. The images are accompanied by text files for each page. It is possible to search the full text of all interviews, as well as to search the A-Schedule interviews only, the B-Schedule interviews only, or the manuals and guides. Search the Collection

When searching these materials, the user should bear in mind that the original data was not edited for grammatical or typographical errors, and that the re-keyed text is not always accurate due to the poor legibility of some of the original materials. The small number of transcripts in Russian are accessible online, but are not searchable.

Search results will return a list of citations linking to the interview and page containing the occurrence of the keyword/s. In the results list the search term will be highlighted and placed in context, with its surrounding words.

Clicking on the citation link will bring the user to a page of a specific interview delivered through Harvard’s Page Delivery Service (PDS). The user may then browse through the page images of the interview by using the arrow buttons. The user may also browse the text files corresponding to the page images by clicking on the “View Text” button. As the typed interviews were originally reproduced using ditto machines, there is a bluish/purple hue to the print. The text on some pages has almost entirely faded over the years, affecting their legibility. In cases where the text in the image is a faint, the user may prefer to view the re-keyed text. Search terms will not be highlighted when the page image or the text is viewed in the PDS.

When viewing an interview in the PDS, it is possible to search on the text of that particular interview by clicking on the “Search” button.

Access to eighteen of the B-Schedule interviews is restricted to Harvard ID holders because the name of the respondent is given in the interview.

Manuals and Indexes

Scholars conducting the Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System categorized the raw data (transcripts of interviews) by developing a number code which identifies different topics. Indices were created for these coded categories to reference where these specific topics are discussed in a given interview.

The following manuals and indexes have been included in the digitization project:

Finding Aids

For questions or comments, please contact the Davis Center library staff.

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Page Last Reviewed: July 30, 2020