Practical Beekeeping: Background Information

In addition to books, Mann Library's Special Collections holds a robust collection of Soviet beekeeping periodicals. As an archival resource, periodicals have a few interesting differences when compared to books. Periodicals provide a snapshot of Soviet culture, policy, and goals in each publication. They announce revisions to laws and state plans, changes in funding, and cultural milestones. Unlike books, the historic record provided by periodicals cannot be retroactively revised to fit a state-directed narrative.

Prakticheskoe Pcheolovodsvo (Practical Beekeeping) was a monthly periodical that was eventually merged with "Pchelovodstvo." Mann Library holds publications spanning from July 1925 through mid-1930. Unfortunately, the exact history of this publication after 1930 is unknown-- the latest edition in our collection does not include any announcements of mergers or changes in title.

Prakticheskoe Pchelovodstvo was published in the city of Kozlov. Kozlov was located in the Tambov governorate, which was dissolved in 1928 by Soviet land reform, and re-instated as the Tambov oblast' later on. This area is in the Central Black Earth Region of the USSR; it is as southeast of Moscow as it is northwest of Kharkov, Ukraine. In spite of the patriotic nature of the local publication, the Tambov governorate had a recent history of political unrest and anti-Soviet attitudes; between 1920-1921 the region housed a Communist, anti-Bolshevik revolt, led by Alexander Antonov (1888-1922). The revolt was organized in large part due to widespread starvation in the area caused by aggressive requisitioning of grain from the local peasants by the Soviet government. While the advent of Communism and the fall of the Russian Empire was received positively by most of the locals in Kozlov, the exploitation of peasant labor and resources by the government brought about suspicions of corruption and anti-Bolshevik sentiment. Thus, the revolt was not pro-Empire, but rather pro-Communist, anti-Bolshevik. The revolt was violently suppressed by Soviet forces. To learn more, a good resource is Seth Singleton's article: The Tambov Revolt (1920-1921). Pubished September 1966, in Slavic Review volume 25 (3), 497-512.

Kozlov was re-named Michurinsk in 1932, in honor of Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin (1855-1935). Michurin was a pomologist who studied selection and breeding of fruit crops. In January 1929, Michurin contributed an essay to Prakticheskoe Pchelovodstvo detailing some of his favorite varieties of fruit trees. Unfortunately, Michurin's name was corrupted by disgraced biologist Trofim Lysenko. Lysenko's legacy is described in more detail in the sub-section of this tab, "Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov: History and Cornell Connection."

This record of early Soviet history made its way to Cornell by way of E. F. Phillips. Phillips is known to have traveled to the USSR in 1932, and likely brought back much of our early Soviet beekeeping collection at that time. 

Reading Practical Beekeeping at Special Collections

Personal Insights from the translator, Anya Osatuke

Prakticheskoe Pchelovodstvo (Practical Beekeeping) contains a mix of scientific essays, anecdotes, personal experiences, product reviews, book reviews, poems, administrative updates, budget plans, announcements, governmental requests, and the occasional scandal.

While studying the history of beekeeping in the Soviet Union, I learned that over half of this publication's contributors were leading beekeeping authors and researchers in the USSR. Another, smaller portion of essays come from peasant beekeepers, including the woman beekeeper O. M. Lamonova, who was quick to become a regular contributor for the periodical. The remaining fraction of writing come from authors who choose to remain anonymous and go only by their first and last initials. 

My work with Practical Beekeeping remains unfinished. Mann Library has publications from 1925, 1929, and 1930 that haven't been summarized to date.

I started working with this periodical to summarize it for the catalog record. The resulting Archives contain the tables of contents, contributing authors, and publication information for each edition that I reviewed. Following the table of contents are my notes on anything out of the ordinary, historically significant, or relevant to the beekeeping collection in Mann Library. These archives don't contain any word-for-word translations of essays, and there may likely be items in the table of contents that seem very interesting yet have no further details provided. In retrospect, wish I had the foresight to translate in full at least one issue of Practical Beekeeping, to provide a reference for a "standard" edition of this periodical. Presently, I feel that these archives convey the gestalt of Practical Beekeeping without a corresponding depth of content. I hope that these Archives will be informative and perhaps even entertaining, but most of all, I hope that they can inspire further work to uncover and document the history of this charming periodical.