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Big Read: The Death of Ivan Ilyich

A guide to online resources in English about Tolstoy's "Death of Ivan Ilyich"


Citing Sources

The University of Illinois Library subscribes to tens of thousands of academic journals -- many of them are electronic resources. Databases gather those electronic journals together, usually by subject, and allow you to search many journals for articles on specific topics or by particular authors.

What's a Database

  • RefWorks:A web-based citation management tool that is free for all students and faculty at University of Illinois. It works with databases and the online library catalog to import citations into your own personal database. You can organize your citations and easily print bibliographies.
  • APA Style from the UIUC Writers' Workshop: An online handbook showing how to cite print and electronic sources using APA style.
  • MLA Style from the UIUC Writers' Workshop: An online handbook showing how to cite print and electronic sources using MLA style.

Searching for Tolstoy

Spelling. Looking for information on Tolstoy has a few tricks. Because Russian is written with a different script, spellings in English are sometimes a little unexpected. The Russian (Cyrillic) in modern spelling looks like this:

Толстой, Лев Николаевич. Смерть Ивана Ильича

The following is what is referred to as a transliterated spelling of Tolstoy's name and the book's title in Russian:

Tolstoĭ , Lev Nikolaevich. Smert' Ivana Il'icha

It is probably not what you are used to seeing. The commonly used spelling is, of course,


Both spellings can be found, especially in databases with older materials.

Almost every database you search will have materials by or about Tolstoy. If you search a database like MLA and don't find any matches under the Tolstoy spelling, try the alternate spelling.

A similar problem exists with the title of this particular work, The Death of Ivan Ilyich. The other possible spellings really only involve one word in the title, "Ilyich". In some sources you will find it spelled Illich, Illych, Ilyitch, Il'ich, Il'ic, etc.

Other Tolstoys: Tolstoy came from a famous Russian noble family, and many of his relatives were also famous in literature, politics, etc. You may encounter books and articles by or about these other Tolstoys (especially his two cousins Aleksei Konstantinovich Tolstoy and Aleksei Nikolaevich Tolstoy) when you are searching. Make sure that the items you choose have to do with Graf Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoi, a.k.a. Count Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy, born 1828, died 1910.  His first name is sometimes also spelled Lyof!

Limiting: Tolstoy was extremely popular during his lifetime and has remained the focus of a great deal of research. This makes it essential that any search on his name be limited by another term to limit the search. For example, a search on just "Tolstoy" in MLA will return almost 3,000 hits. In Google, searching the same term will return over nine million hits. Even adding the term "death" to the search in Google will still return over two million links. "Tolstoy" and "Illich" returns more than 35,000. Google Scholar will return a much more manageable list of some 300 items.

This is a case where using some of the online databases available through the Online Research Resources (ORR) page might be very useful (see below). Some of the databases that you might find very helpful for this project are:

Database Searching

When looking for a specific journal, magazine, or newspaper article, most people prefer an electronic version, if it's available. The place to check whether UIUC has online access to a particular title is the Online Research Resources (ORR) page. Use the ORR to search for the title of the journal, magazine, or newspaper you need, not for the specific article. Here's an example of how to use the ORR to find an article.

Say you have the following article citation in hand, and want to find the full text:


The first step is to go to the ORR and click the Journals & Newspapers tab. Next, type in the first few words of the journal title and select Start of Title, like so:



Clicking Search brings up the following list of titles:

As you can see, there are multiple links for Russian Life; the one that works the best (as we have discovered through trial and error) is indicated with an arrow. The next thing to check is the date range covered for the title. In this case, articles from 1995-present are available. Since the article we need is from 1998, we should be able to find what we're after, so the next step is to click the 07/1995-Present in ProQuest Ethnic NewsWatch link.

What you see next will vary from title to title, but in most cases, you will be able to browse to the year and issue you need. Here is the initial screen for Russian Life:




Referring back to the citation, the article we need is from Volume 41, Issue 7, so click the link next to this issue to bring up the following screen:

Bingo! Here we find the article we need, with the full text link indicated by the yellow highlighting in the above screenshot.

If you don't find the article you're looking for online, check and see if we have the print version by clicking on "Quick Search" at and searching for the journal title as "Start of Journal/Magazine Title".


Subject Guide

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