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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Chekhov: A Bibliographic Research Guide: Search Strategies

Research sources and strategies for the life and literature of Anton Pavlovich Chekhov and their impact, 1860-present, including bibliographies, databases, encyclopedias, archives, search strategies and more

A rose by any other name...

One of the most frustrating aspects of studying anything Russian is what might be described as "spelling". Unfortunately, there is not one standard of transliteration (or Romanization, in some circles) for Russian Cyrillic. Depending on the country of origin of a given database, there are different rules for transliteration. And if the searcher does not know the difference, s/he will not get the expected number of results. To get an idea of what a challenge this can be, here are some of the possible transliterations of "Чехов":   Chekhov   Čechov   Čehov   Tchekhov   Tschechow   Tchekoff   etc.  (Yes, there are more.)

Transliteration systems

The following includes some of the major forms of transliteration, their rules and where to find more information about them. Other considerations of spelling are also discussed. A scholar of Chekhov might find there is a need to see scholarship on the author from a different perspective, i.e. from a non-Anglo point of view. This is when knowing about different transliteration systems will really come in handy

Library of Congress (LC) transliteration

LC guides the tranliteration rules for the United States and the UK, as well as other English-speaking countries. Here is the document that describes the transliteration system for Russian:

When to use it: Searching any U.S and UK library catalog, and when using WorldCat.

German Transliteration

Here is a table that shows German transliteration patterns (marked by the DIN column), and also compares them to the other transliterations systems ALA(LC) and ISO (described below).

When to use it: Searching with German transliteration on WorldCat will get you some results; use when searching in any German institution's online catalog and database including the Karlsruhe interface.

Finland, Eastern Europe and France

The German document above also shows a transliteration schema that most other European countries use. It is marked by the ISO column.

When to use it: Searching other European library catalogs on Karlsruhe; searching on the European Library interface; searching on individual library catalogs, such as HELKA, and the National Library of France.

Other considerations 

It may be the case that scholars from different countries will not transliterate Chekhov's name according to any official rules, but according to their language's own spelling and phonetic rules. For example, Polish scholars writing about Chekhov might spell his name "Czechow" which mimics the actual pronunciation of the name. Other examples include: Tschechow (German), Csehov (Hungarian), Tšehhov (Estonian). To see all the linguistic variations of Chekhov's name, search his name on Wikipedia and click through all the language options on the left-hand side. You might be surprised at how many there are! Although the scholar does not necessarily need to know all of these variations, it might be beneficial to at least recognize these differences. This becomes a more important issue when the scholar is interested in what is written by Chekhov in a different country; recognizing different spellings of Chekhov becomes essential, in this case.

The Library of Congress Authority file entry on Chekhov also illustrates the number of variations of Chekhov's name.

As you can see, among the different systems, many of the letters transliterate the same, but there are key letters that would result in different search results.

Catalog Search Tips and Tricks

UIUC catalog

The Classic catalog may be a little slow, but it offers some useful search options that VuFind does not have, including a call 

number search. If you know the call number for a book, choose that option to see the record and the location of the item. When searching the library's catalog for materials written by Chekhov, it is best to conduct an author search. As you can see in the image below, our library has more than 400 items by Chekhov in several different languages.

Unfortunately, the Classic catalog does not allow for narrowing down search results by language. If this is essential to you, the VuFind catalog has a very easy to use facet system from which search results can by narrowed. The image to the right is of a Chekhov search conducted in the VuFind interface- the highlighted area shows how you can narrow the search by language.  


WorldCat should not be an unfamiliar source for most students and scholars. OCLC and WorldCat provide access to bibliographic records from all over the world, and to actual items through Inter Library Loan.

As mentioned in the section on transliteration, there are multiple ways to spell Chekhov's name, depending on who catalogued the information, and what language the publication is in. WorldCat offers access to records from German and many East European libraries. If you are not getting the results you want, make sure you are using the correct transliteration system. 

Another note to make regarding WorldCat is about multiple entries. In some cases, the exact same item will have two entries in WorldCat, with different accession numbers. This is due to cataloguing procedures, where different institutions have different ways of cataloguing and classifying the same work. Although this does not always come up in searches, it is important to be aware of it, in case one institution will not lend the materials you need.



Karlsruhe is a meta-search engine that provides access to library catalogs from all over Europe and the world. The search interface has several fields to fill, and there is a list of countries and its libraries at the bottom of the page. In order to perform a search, the boxes next to each library need to be checked--at least one, or all. 

Remember that this is a German catalog, so when searching German libraries, German transliteration must be used. Using other transliteration systems is also a good idea, as different countries in Europe are also represented in the search. 


Online Databases


Specific online databases that are useful in the study of Chekhov are discussed further in other parts of this LibGuide, but there are some general things to know that will help in conducting searches. One of the biggest differences is full-text vs. citations databases. Many of the databases UIUC provides patrons access to have full-text capabilities. There is a link on the record's main page that leads to another database that has the article, or there is a simple "download pdf" link right on the record's page. Other databases, however, only provide bibliographic information for books and articles. It is up to the patron then to take the information and search the local catalog and/or WorldCat for holdings. The Slavic Reference Service has compiled a list of our most widely used full-text databases.

Subject Headings

When searching for materials about Chekhov in a library catalog or online database, subject headings can be particularly useful. Subject headings can be a little tricky, however, since they do not follow a natural language pattern. Searching with subject headings allows for both a general and very specific search. For example, the scholar who wants to learn more about Chekhov within the context of Russian literature in general might find a subject search Russian Literature to be particularly useful. Narrowing down this subject search only requires the addition of another subject: Russian literature--19th century or Theater--Russia--19th century.

In the case of Chekhov, a specific subject search might be the most useful search to a scholar. Below are a couple of subject entries for Chekhov. Notice that his full name as well as the time period he lived are included. As mentioned before, subject headings can be a little tricky and convoluted. But this extra information helps to disambiguate the name Chekhov; the information tells us which Chekhov we are talking about exactly. 

Chekhov, Anton Pavlovich, 1860-1904.

Chekhov, Anton Pavlovich, 1860-1904--Bibliography.

Chekhov, Anton Pavlovich, 1860-1904--Criticism and interpretation.