From 2009 to 2011, the Nevzlin Center initiated a major international digitization project, supported generously by the Nadav Fund and coordinated by Ilya Dvorkin.
The goal of the project was to digitize a collection of several thousand visual and audio items that had been housed in the archive of the St. Petersburg Institute of Jewish Studies and to make this extraordinary material available to researchers and the general public. The archive in St. Petersburg constitutes an extremely valuable collection that was assembled in, and from, Jewish communities throughout the former Soviet Union. It contains extraordinary photographic and audio documentation and has the potential of revolutionizing our scholarly understanding of the status and identity of Soviet Jewry at the end of the USSR. The St. Petersburg Institute has been our full partner throughout this project.
The collection was created from the fruits of multiple research expeditions by Jewish activists from Petersburg during the 1980s and 1990s. For the most part, these activists were not professional historians; rather, they were enthusiastic, educated young Soviet Jews motivated by a desire to document this quickly fading part of the Jewish past. Their expeditions created a collection that contains an array of material. At first the expeditions were a private undertaking, and later benefitted from the sponsorship of the Jewish University in St. Petersburg (presently St. Petersburg Institute of Judaic Studies).
The expeditions documented Jewish communal life in Ukraine, Belorussia, Lithuania and Uzbekistan. In addition, the activists collected documentation on the life of the Jewish community in Petersburg starting from the end of the Soviet period into the post-Soviet era. The digitized collection includes approximately 7000 visual images, 170 hours of audio recordings and 74 hours of videotape.
During 2012, Nevzlin Center has reached an agreement with the National Library of Israel and the St. Petersburg Institute of Judaic Studies to present the digitized collection on the National Library's website. This agreement envisages free access to the material for scholars and the general public. This material will constitute a separate media collection on the National Library's website.
In the meantime, researchers interested in exploring this digitized archive are invited to contact the Nevzlin Center to coordinate their work.