New Collections at the Bakhmeteff Archive Have East European Roots

NEW YORK, April 07, 2005 - The Bakhmeteff Archive at Columbia University Libraries recently received three unique additions to its collection: the Halpern papers; the Princes Cantacuzene school books and diaries; and the personal papers of the founding editor-in-chief of the Prague Post.

“The majority of the Bakhmeteff Archive consists of Russian émigré collections, however these new additions illustrate how its east European holdings are developing, and will continue to grow,” commented Tanya Chebotarev, curator of the Bakhmeteff Archive.

Anthropologists Joel and Barbara Halpern donated a collection of materials based on their research of Sumadija, and the Serbian village of Orasac, where the first revolt against the Turkish rulers of Serbia begun. The Halpern Papers consist of about 15 linear feet of correspondence, transcripts of field notes, audio and video tapes, clippings, manuscripts of peasant autobiographies, and ephemera, spanning from 1953 to 1990. In addition, there are records from the Serbian State Archives which focus mostly on the 19th century, including the earliest population records that deal with individuals who were alive at the time of the Revolt.

The Princes Cantacuzene, a noble Romanian family of Greek origin, traces its descent from the Byzantine Emperor John VI. By the mid 17th century part of the family had settled in Walachia. A Russian branch of the family held high positions in the army and as governors of Bessarabia.

Alan Levy was the founding editor-in-chief of the Prague Post—the first English language newspaper in Prague. Levy graduated from Columbia’s School of Journalism before taking his first trip to Prague in 1967. He reported on the Prague Spring, the 1968 Reform movement, as well as Russian tanks in Prague. He was later expelled from the Czech Republic, yet continued to chronicle Czech events from Vienna. He returned to Prague after the Velvet Revolution and died in April 2004, after a brief battle with cancer. His collection consists of 20 linear feet of correspondence and manuscript materials which reflect his professional activities and personal contacts with many prominent intellectuals.

The Bakhmeteff Archive is the second largest depository of Russian émigré materials outside of Russia. The archive was named in honor of Boris Bakhmeteff, a Russian émigré and Columbia professor, in 1975. Established in 1951, the archive contains at least 1,680,000 items in more than 1,500 collections. The oldest item dates from the 15th century, though the main focus of the collection is 20th-century Russia and the Soviet Union, and Russian emigration after the 1917 revolution.

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top ten academic library systems in the nation, with 9.2 million volumes, over 65,650 serials, as well as extensive collections of electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, and other nonprint formats. The collections and services are organized into 25 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. Columbia Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff to assist faculty, students, and researchers in their academic endeavors. The Libraries’ website at is a gateway to its print and electronic collections and to its services.