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YMCA Russian publishing work files

Identifier: Y.USA.55


Includes correspondence, photos, manuscripts, manuscript rejections, author information, desk diaries, lists, graphs, catalogue cards, minutes, financial and administrative reports, pamphlets, publicity and journal and newspaper articles recording the actions surrounding YMCA involvement in publishing for post-World War I Russian diaspora, including the Chekhov Publishing House, the YMCA Press,and Les Editeurs Reunis (United Publishers) depository and bookstore, primarily from the files of YMCA World Service Executive Secretary Paul B. Anderson. Lists included within this information consist of inventory and authors, as well as individual sites, regions and countries that were distribution areas. The majority of the collection refers to the Chekhov Publishing House. This material is focused from 1951-1959 during the time period when the Chekhov Publishing house operated through its liquidation into the stock of the YMCA Press. A large portion of this material includes publishing information from the Chekhov Publishing House as well as publication dates, contracts and biographical data of their authors. The majority of this information is exemplary of who and what was published and who was distributed to, though not incredibly descriptive of the details of the press's internal workings. A significant section of this collection is solely biographical data of authors and a brief description of their works submitted to Chekhov publishing House. Much of the correspondence and manuscripts within the collection are in the Russian language

The YMCA's Russian work is also referred to throughout the collection, as each press and business within the collection was involved in the YMCA's effort to preserve Russian Christian culture. The Ford Foundation and its subsidiary, the East European Fund, Inc. are also prominent in the collection, as the Chekhov Publishing House was a division of the East European Fund. The Ford Foundation Grant is also discussed, as it assisted with the development of this publishing house.

The history of the YMCA Press and its involvement with the Russian Student Christian Movement (RSCM) is also documented within the correspondence in this collection. Discussion of the needs of Russian exiles and refugees and the development of Russian Work in Paris also makes up a large portion of the collection, as these publishers were focussed on the interests and preservation of the culture of this group of people. The Russian Orthodox Committee in Paris and the Russian Orthodox community in general also contributes to this portion of the discussion within the collection.

The YMCA's World Service Building Program, the Tolstoy Foundation and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) among others, are also discussed throughout the correspondence within the collection in reference to potential funding opportunities for these presses. Vera A. Alexandrova, and Dimitry Atriaskin-Neumann are the primary authors of the Chekhov Press material, along with Paul B. Anderson, Charles T. Tidball and Donald A. Lowrie, of the YMCA Press and Les Editeurs Reunis.


  • Creation: 1951-1970s.


Language of Materials

English, Russian

Use of Materials:

This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright, ownership, and to obtain all the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.


The political, economic, cultural and religious turmoil in the Soviet Union followingWorld War I produced many exiles, both voluntary and involuntary. Among them were writers, artists, engineers and persons of all professions interested in the reconstruction of the country's national economy and education. The YMCA Press, launched in 1921 by the Young Men's Christian Associations of North America, and the Chekhov Publishing House, begun in 1951 by the East European Fund, both played a large role in the preservation of the cultural information and ideas that were stifled by the strict regulations on literature put in place by the Russian government at the time. Although these presses were connected with the North American YMCA, they were essentially a Russian undertaking with the purpose of preserving, developing and spreading Russian Christian culture.

The YMCA Press publishing house began its work in the year 1921. A small group of Russian men who found themselves in New York during World War I approached John R. Mott, General Secretary of the American YMCA, with a proposal for a press. Prague was selected as the most suitable place for the establishment of a Russian language printing plant and the YMCA Press (YMCAtisk in Czech) began turning out books. At this time the YMCA had several representatives in Russia who were able to provide a natural channel for the distribution of books sent there. In 1923 the Soviet authorities announced an embargo on the entry of literature. YMCA Press books in the process of production were rushed to completion and almost the entirety of the output of the Press was sent to relief work delegates in Russia ahead of the deadline set for the embargo.

he Press management decided that it was unwise to continue the plant in Prague. It was sold, the editors and technical personnel released, and the books remaining in stock were sent to the YMCA Center for Russian refugees, located in Berlin. Russian immigration there had produced many cultural organizations and institutions, among them the Russian Student Christian Movement Abroad (RSCM.) The YMCA movement collaborated closely with the RSCM, which turned to the YMCA Press with recommendations of topics for books and authors to write them.

In 1924 the German national economy was being reconstructed, opportunities for employment were reduced and government stipends for Russian refugee students were cut. At the same time in France, workers were being sought. Tens of thousands of Russian refugees moved from Berlin to France. The YMCA moved its Russian Center, Home Study Technical Institute, and stock of books and publishing activities from Berlin to Paris. Administrative activities of the YMCA Press was entrusted to two men from the American YMCA, Paul B. Anderson and G. G. Kullman, and two selected from the Russian community, N. A. Berdyaev and B. P. Vycheslavzev. In 1928 Kullman left and his place was taken by D. A. Lowrie.

In the immigrant community, scores of elite Russian Orthodox intelligentsia collaborated with and were published through the YMCA Press. Also published was series of brochures, textbooks, memoirs and some children's literature, though it was not as popular. When the Nazi Party threatened firms with Jewish administrations in the early 1930s, the YMCA Press received a portion of the stock of other booksellers in Paris on commission. The commercial side of the YMCA Press was strengthened and relationships with other Russian-language publishers and bookstores in Paris were considered. A loose society was formed with more than a dozen firms participating, and Paul B. Anderson was elected president. The group established "Les Editeurs Reunis" (in English,"United Publishers"), a unifying body intended to control this depository and run a bookstore for Russian Books published abroad. Wherease the YMCA Press restricted publishing to literature with a religious outlook, Les Editeurs Reunis was free in its policies to handle more literature and was established with Russian book dealers throughout Eastern Europe and Manchuria.

World War II interrupted all publishing by YMCA Press and reduced sales to the limited market of France and the War Prisoners Aid of the YMCA. Many authors and close contacts of the YMCA Press died during the war. Post war conditions created a new situation and many problems, along with a rise in production and a widening of the market in the west. In 1947, D. A. Lowrie became director of the Press and collaborated with the World Council of Churches for financial backing.

Meanwhile, in New York in 1951, sanctioned by the Ford Foundation, the Chekhov Publishing House was begun as a division of the East European Fund, Inc. This publishing house made it possible for Russians recently arrived in the United States from the Soviet Union to write and publish their work, increasing the volume of literature in the Russian language uninfluenced by the Soviet government. This publishing house, though important to the development of Russian literature, was short-lived. Upon its liquidation in 1956, the entire remaining stock of the Chekhov Publishing House was put in the hands of the National Board YMCA in New York. The National Board in New York supervised Chekhov Publishing house until 1958 and then commissioned the YMCA Press to handle the sales of Chekhov books and the reinvestment of the proceeds for books in the Russian language.

In 1955 Lowrie retired from active service and the American YMCA Committee began to mediate the transfer of authority of the YMCA Press and of Les Editeurs Reunis to the RSCM. At the same time a new consultative organ was set up for the RSCM to utilize, of which Paul B. Andersen and retired YMCA official, Charles T. Tidball were members. By this time the YMCA Press had published over 400 titles and for thirteen years had published the religious philosophical journal Poutas well as a quarterly journal,Novi Grad. They were also at the time publishing Orthodox Thought, the journal of the Orthodox Theological Institute of Saint Sergius in Paris.

By the 1970s, in spite of the Soviet embargo, a limited volume of YMCA Press books found their way into the USSR and in 1990 the YMCA Press was able to openly return to Russia.

[Historical information largely adapted and quoted from the collection.]


5.4 Cubic Feet (6 boxes)


Correspondence, photos, manuscripts, manuscript rejections, author information, desk diaries, lists, graphs, catalogue cards, minutes, financial and administrative reports, pamphlets, publicity and journal and newspaper articles recording the actions surrounding YMCA involvement in publishing for post-World War I Russian diaspora, including the Chekhov Publishing House, the YMCA Press, and Les Editeurs Reunis (United Publishers) depository and bookstore, primarily from the files of YMCA World Service Executive Secretary Paul B. Anderson.


Additional related material about YMCA work with the Russian diaspora and Russian publishing can be found in the records of YMCA Work in France (Y.USA.9-2-47) and the records of YMCA work in Russia and the Soviet Union (Y.USA.9-2-1), separately cataloged in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.

Processing Information:

Processed as part of Fast Processing Project II, May 2009, as collection FP070. Material has been minimally processed. Folder descriptions may be general and material has not been grouped into series. This collection was formerly referred to as the "Chekhov Press Records."

Catalog Record ID number: 6678830

An Inventory of Its Records
Finding aid prepared by Lara Friedman-Shedlov and Melanie Doherty.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area