The Digital Émigré: Russian Periodical Studies and DH in the Slavic Fields

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Natalia Ermolaev

    Princeton University

  2. 2. Philip Gleissner

    Princeton University

Work text
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Digital Humanities has seen slow adoption in the Slavic language and literature fields in North American academia. This issue frames our project, the Digital Émigré, a digital resource for exploring Russian émigré periodical literature. Our project has a threefold aim. As periodical studies scholars, we want to enable access to Russian émigré journals for new audiences. As digital humanists, we believe that DH tools and methodologies can facilitate new forms of knowledge about twentieth-century Russian, and more broadly diaspora, literary and cultural history. Finally, as Slavists, we hope our project will be a hub for discussion about the applicability of DH theory and practice for scholars working with Russian-language material.
At this pilot stage, Digital Émigré is a web-based searchable database of article-level metadata of Russian-language journals published outside of Russia in the twentieth century. Our pilot contains four titles (approximately 100 issues and 1,500 articles):
Novoselye and
Novyi zhurnal were published in the 1940s in New York, and
Sintaksis and
Kontinent, in the late 1970s and 1980s in Paris. Our pilot site provides insight into literary culture at both the beginning and end of the Cold War, bookending the twentieth-century Russian diaspora experience. Digital Émigré is intended to scale, and will eventually contain additional titles and new functionality.

We will highlight the main scholarly avenues that DH methods allow us investigate, such as mapping networks of co-publication, tracking evolving political, social and cultural concerns of émigrés over the course of the Cold War, demonstrating the increased opportunities for émigré women as editors and contributors, and highlighting the proportion of original vs. re-printed work in émigré publications. This way, our project encourages experimentation that will enrich the study of Slavic periodical culture: accessing journals through their data can challenge narratives that are often framed by retroactive canonization, close reading and focus on individual authors. Digital Émigré thereby bridges philological approaches and sociological questions about intellectual networks and communities of artistic production.
The poster address the project’s core technical design: our strategy for data modeling and management and database design.  We will also present our plans for next steps, which is to provide full-text access and to federate our titles with other digital periodical collections. For this, we are designing a TEI schema modeled on major periodical studies digital collections -  specifically the Blue Mountain Project at Princeton University ( and the Yellow 90’s Online at Ryerson University (  

We will also discuss the specific challenges of working with Russian language material and Cyrillic script, such as character encoding, transliteration, translation, and  tokenizing and stemming. These issues can be barriers to success when working with popular DH tools that are developed primarily for Western scripts and languages, and we will show our solutions for using some well-known tools for: data normalization (OpenRefine), text analysis (Voyant), network analysis (Gephi), visualization (Raw, Palladio), and topic modeling (MALLET).
Digital Émigré is committed not only to the exploration of the intellectual experience of diaspora cultural life. As a digital humanities project, it is itself invested in building intellectual communities around the engagement with this material and its afterlife. It aims to foster contact between scholars working with Russian and other Slavic languages internationally, especially through the discussion of issues of interoperability and creating multilingual digital research environments.

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Conference Info


ADHO - 2016
"Digital Identities: the Past and the Future"

Hosted at Jagiellonian University, Pedagogical University of Krakow

Kraków, Poland

July 11, 2016 - July 16, 2016

454 works by 1072 authors indexed

Conference website:

Series: ADHO (11)

Organizers: ADHO