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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Fedor Mikhailovich Dostoevskiĭ (1821-1881)

Surely someone wrote on ...?

This is the lament of the scholar we hear most frequently in Slavic and it is usually born of problems with transliteration.  For example, if you were seeking articles on Dostoevskii and epilepsy, you would find few in the standard literary bibiliographies.  However, Web of Science and Medline would both be richer sources for this topic. The issue you might encounter in these databases is transliteration. 

The three citations below all came from a Medline search for Dostoevskii and Epilepsy.  Each was returned as the result of spelling Dostoevskii with a slightly different transliteration. 

The epilepsy of Fyodor Dostoyevsky: insights from Smerdyakov Karamazov's use of a malingered seizure as an alibi
Author(s): DeToledo, J C
Source: Archives of neurology Volume: 58 Issue: 8 Pages: 1305-6 DOI: 10.1001/archneur.58.8.1305 Published: 2001-Aug

Title: The epilepsy of Fyodor Mikhailovitch Dostoevsky (1821-1881).
Author(s): Voskuil P H
Source: Epilepsia Volume: 24 Issue: 6 Pages: 658-67 DOI: 10.1111/j.1528-1157.1983.tb04628.x Published: 1983-Dec

Title: [History of the illness of F.M. Dostoevskii].
Foreign Title: K istorii bolezni F.M. Dostoevskogo.
Author(s): Evdokimov P P
Source: Klinicheskaia meditsina Volume: 65 Issue: 5 Pages: 145-7 Published: 1987-May

You might think that if you put in one search all relevant articles will somehow be pulled as "related" or with cross-referencing to different spellings but in this database and in Web of Science this is not the case.  As a result different transliterations produce different results

Topic=(dostoyevsky) AND Topic=(epilepsy) -> 7 results

Topic=(dostoevsky) AND Topic=(epilepsy) -> 33 results

Topic=(dostoevskii) AND Topic=(epilepsy) -> 6 results

 The moral of this story - if you are not getting any results on a search where you really believe you should find some literature, try different search terms or different transliteration.








Library of Congress Authorities:

This is a very useful tool for identifying the "correct spelling," Library of Congress style.  Unfortunately, the authority records and subject classification are used by public and university libraries for personal and geographic names.  Meaning, libraries use  the spelling set forth by the Library of Congress to organize their respective collections.  Therefore, when searching online catalogs, knowing this fact about personal and geographic names could prove to be very useful.   The images to the right show the difference in search results when using Library of Congress authorized heading for FMD.   

Russian spelling and Romanization Tables: Until online OPACs fully support  multilingual search interfaces, transliteration systems will continue to present challenges to researchers.

The way names of several important authors are spelled in library catalogs often widely differ from the modern, accepted practice of transliteration dictated by the Library of Congress.  Such is also the case of Dostoyevsky.  In many cases the old style spelling has been preserved for the sake of maintaining tradition.  Please note that in our own library catalog Fedor Mikhailovich's nephew, who wrote memoirs of great interest to FMD scholars, is entered using the standard Library of Congress transliteration, Dostoevskii, which may make him entirely unrelated to the famous writer.  In addition to the ALA_LC [American Library Associaton and Library of Congress] system of transliteration(Cyrillic Script), there are four other systems used by libraries in Germany, Russia, Finland, and the United Kingdom: ISO [International Organization for Standardization]; BSI[the British Standards Institution]; GOST [Gosudarstvennyi Standart_Rossii]; DIN [German Institute for Standardization].    

Генеральный алфавитный каталог книг на русском языке (1725 - 1998)

Russian National Library_General'nyi alfavitnyi katalog knig na russkom iazyke (1725-1998)

Shown above is an image capture from the catalog of the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg.  It illustrates the point that often to exhaustively research a topic, it is necessary to do so using the vernacular -- in this case Russian Cyrillic.  Many Russian (and other East European) catalogs are available in English or are searchable in transliterated versions in very limited capacity.  When searching in Cyrillic, the Russian National Library is a good example here, also please bear in mind that many catalogs in their fully electronic version (such as our UIUC's Voyager) contain only a fraction of the totality of holdings.  In many cases the majority of the holdings do exist in digital format, however one which is available by browsing through scanned cards of the card catalog.  After a bit of practice, browsing these types of catalogs can be done quite efficiently.  Slavic Reference Service staff would be glad to help you acquire proficiency in this research method.