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A gazetteer is a dictionary of place-names. It describes towns and villages; townships and counties; provinces; sizes of population; and rivers, mountains, and other geographical features. Gazetteers usually include only the names of places that existed at the time the gazetteer was published. The place-names are listed in alphabetical order, similar to a dictionary.
Use a gazetteer to find the places where your family lived and to determine the civil jurisdictions over those places.
The definition of the term gazetteer, when used in a geographical sense, is a "geographical index or dictionary." When used in atlases or map indexes, gazetteers are simply assemblages of alphabetically-ordered listings of places or physical/cultural features. More extensive gazetteers include brief descriptions along with the listings. The comprehensive gazetteer, however, is an encyclopedia of geographical places and features. The Columbia Gazetteer of the World is such an encyclopedia.
Russian Empire Gazeteers
Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, and the Baltics were previously in the Russian Empire. In 1797 each county (uezd) was divided into districts (volost) and villages (derevnya or selo; a selo normally had a church). A city (gorod) was independent of the county/district hierarchy. This organization remained stable throughout the 19th century, the number of provinces increasing to 50 in European Russian (excluding Finland and Poland). The Soviets used the term oblast for the highest jurisdictional level and created more of them. Records of modern states may be found in the archive of another state that was an imperial capital. They also instituted the region (raion) to replace both the county and district levels.
Spiski naselennykh Mest Rossiiski Imperii
(Lists of Populated Places in Imperial Russia)
The basic gazetteer for the Russian Empire is Spiski Naselennykh Mest Rossiiskoi Imperii [Lists of Populated Places in Imperial Russia]. S. Peterburg: Tsentralnyi Statisticheskii Komitet Ministerstvo Vnutrennikh Del, 1861-1885.62 vols. (Fiche 6,002,224 /420 microfiches).
These locality directories identify location and religious congregations. They are available on microfiche from the Family History Library. Copies of a few individual volumes can be found occasionally in major research libraries. Some of them are also available online. The text is in Russian. Each volume contains a locality index.
v. 1 Arkhangel'sk no. 1-5
v. 2 Astrakhan no. 6-8
v. 3 Bessarabia no. 9-12
v. 6 Vladimir no. 13-26
v. 7 Vologda no. 27-41
v. 9 Voronezh no. 42-49
v. 10 Vyatka no. 50-79 (Online version)
v. 12 Zemlya Voyska Donskago no. 80-85
v. 13 Yekaterinoslav no. 86-91
v. 14 Kazan no. 92-100
v. 15 Kaluga no. 101-109
v. 18 Kostroma no. 110-128
v. 20 Kursk no. 129-136
v. 24 Moskva no. 137-144
v. 25 Nizhniy Novgorod no. 145-152
v. 27 Olonets no. 153-162
v. 28 Orenburg no. 163-168
v. 29 Orel no. 169-179
v. 30 Penza no. 180-184
v. 31 Perm no. 185-208
v. 33 Poltava no. 209-216
v. 34 Pskov no. 217-237
v. 35 Ryazan no. 238-243
v. 36 Samara no. 244-248
v. 37 Sanktpeterburg no. 249-258
v. 38 Saratov no. 259-263 (Online version, requires DJVU Browser)
v. 39 Simbirsk no. 264-268
v. 40 Smolensk no. 269-289
v. 41 Tavrida no. 290-299
v. 42 Tambov no. 300-307
v. 43 Tver no. 308-321
v. 44 Tula no. 322-327
v. 45 Ufa no. 328-339
v. 46 Khar'kov no. 348-356
v. 47 Kherson no. 340-347
v. 48 Chernigov no. 357-367
v. 50 Yaroslav no. 368-383
v. 51 Yeniseysk no. 384-388
v. 60 Tobol'sk no. 389-401
v. 60a Tomsk no. 402-411
v. 65 Baku no. 412-419
v. 3 Bessarabia index (1 fiche GS 6001781)
Russisches Geographisches Namenbuch
The best comprehensive gazetteer of all localities in Imperial Russia is by Vasmer, Max. Russisches Geographisches Namenbuch [Russian Geographical Namebook]. Wiesbaden: Harassowitz, 1964-1981. Nachtrag (Supplement), 1988. 11 vols. (FHL INTL Book 947 E5r). Spiski naselennykh Mest Rossiiski Imperii were the primary source for much of the data. This set of books is referred to as the RGN and includes eleven volumes plus the Kartenband (maps).
Localities are listed in the Cyrillic alphabet but the gazetteer is still usable to non-Russian readers because the descriptions are in German. The pre-1917 administrative units of guberniya (G.) and uyezd (Kr.) are given. The German word for uyezd is Kreis. If there are several localities in the same guberniya, the guberniya is indicated only after the first locality in the guberniya. It is not repeated for each subsequent locality listed.
Soviet Union Gazetteers
Official Standard Names for U.S.S.R.
United States Board on Geographic Names. Official Standard Names for U.S.S.R. FHL INTL Book 947 E5u. 1959, 1970. Film 0928609,0928610 (Item 1-2),087455,087456, Fiche 6053504. These seven volumes list the localities for the entire Soviet Union, in English, giving a brief description of the kind of locality, the coordinates, and showing the administrative regions. The administrative region is represented by number. These numbers are explained in the beginning of each book.
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