Scope and arrangement
George Kennan's papers, spanning 1856 to 1924, document his Russian travels and research, and his relationships with Siberian exiles and radical revolutionaries. His professional writings and lectures are well-documented within the collection, and to a lesser degree, so are his efforts to influence American foreign and economic policy towards the Imperial Russian government. One finds a small glimpse into Kennan and his wife Emeline Weld Kennan's personal life through their correspondence, in particular concerning their friendship with the family of Alexander Graham Bell.
Curiously, while this collection contains letters related to Kennan's 1865 and 1885 Russian expeditions, his travels through the Caucasus in 1870 are not mentioned.
Included within the collection are correspondence, lists of Siberian exiles and biographical sketches of several individuals, often anonymous accounts and official reports on the system and its many abuses, a number of manuscripts by both Kennan and Russian authors, newspaper clippings and a small amount of printed matter, and personal miscellany including several photographs and addresses. Also included are some Kennan family papers, consisting of his wife's personal correspondence, and his grandniece Jeannette Hotchkiss's collected research notes, manuscripts, and correspondence. As the family authority on the elder Kennan, Hotchkiss intended to write a biography of her uncle. Notable within her materials are a small number of the letters of artist George Frost, Kennan's friend and fellow Siberian explorer.
Many of the Siberian research documents and items of correspondence are identified by document numbers. While these numbers were present at the time of donation to the library, it is uncertain what they represent, and who assigned them. There are significant gaps in the numbering, and there does not appear to be a coherent organizing principle behind them. Nevertheless, the numbers and matching envelopes, many of which have a brief description of the document, have been retained.
In English, Russian and French.
The George Kennan papers are arranged in five series:
- 1866-1924, n.d.1 box
The bulk of Kennan's personal and professional correspondence is arranged chronologically. Following the chronological arrangement are separate folders for letters from Adam Bialoveski, Katherine Breshkovskaia, Egor Lazarev, and Russian exiles.
The letters at the earlier end of the date span are primarily family letters, including missives sent home by Kennan over the course of his first Siberian travels. Full of information on the sights, people and hardships he encountered, these letters also often express nostalgia for home. As with much of his correspondence, and indeed much of the tone of Tent Life in Siberia, these letters give one a sense of his wit and warmth, poking fun at misery experienced on the expedition. The letters here are addressed to his father John, sisters Jennie and Harriet, nephew Kossuth (father to George F. Kennan), and the young George F. Kennan.
There are also a number of letters written by Siberian exiles. Those addressed directly to Kennan are arranged within his chronological correspondence or by author, and those which represent third-party correspondence forwarded to him are arranged within the last folder of the collection, "Other exiles' correspondence." The majority of these last letters, sent largely for informational purposes, were sent to Kennan from his contacts Moises Shlikerman and Dr. Wollman.
Of interest are the May 11, 1886 letter to David McKee, in which Kennan discussed George Frost's mental illness during their travels through Siberia, and the May 22, 1917 letter to David Fairchild in which Kennan addressed Charles R. Crane's belief that the February revolution had been a bloodless one. Kennan predicted the waves of violence that would follow with the Bolshevik Revolution later that year.
Letters received from Baron S.A. Korf in July and August of 1918 indicate Kennan's influence on American foreign policy with regard to the new Russian republic. Korf criticized Louis Brandeis and Elihu Root for restraining the United States from providing aid, and asked Kennan to use his influence with Secretary of State Robert Lansing to come to the aid of the Russian people, as opposed to the Bolsheviks, whom he felt would eventually fall away.
A selection of letters written by Katherine Breshkovskaia are also present within Kennan's correspondence. The majority are copies that may have come to Kennan through his involvement with the Society of Friends of Russian Freedom. The letters addressed to such individuals as Alice Stone Blackwell, Lillian Wald, Isabel Barrows, Helena Dudley and Ellen Gates Starr discuss her life in exile in great detail.
Other correspondence relates to Kennan's work in Cuba, his efforts on behalf of the American Red Cross, and letters from admirers of his writings.
Prominent correspondents include: Lyman Abbott, Adam Bialoveski, Nikolai Chaikovski, Charles A. Dana, David Fairchild, W.D. Foulke, W.H. Gilder, Gilbert Grosvenor, George Frost Kennan, Baron S.A. Korf, Sergius Kravchinskii ("Stepniak"), Peter Kropotkin, and Egor Lazarev.
Letters are in English, French and Russian.
- 1856-ca. 1919, n.d.2 boxes
Kennan's research and publications on Russia are divided into four categories of material: biographical sketches on exiles; accounts of Russian prisons and the exile system; manuscripts of writings by Russian exiles; and other documents, which consist primarily of statistics, reports, and official communications.
Many of the items sent from Siberia are unattributed or written by anonymous authors. In addition, two of Kennan's correspondents, Dr. Wollman and Moises Shlikerman, appear to have collected many of the items and sent them to Kennan for his research. Their contributions are noted on the itemized list included in box 6, folder 6 of this collection, as well as on the numbered document envelopes maintained with the documents themselves.
There is some overlap of themes between the biographies and accounts of prison and exile, as materials in both pertain to the Yakutsk massacre, the Kara mines, and individuals associated with both.
In English, French and Russian.
- 1866-1922, 1963, n.d.2 boxes
A selection of Kennan's writings, both fiction and nonfiction, texts for his speeches, and notes are included in this subseries. The materials collected, however, by no means constitute a complete representation of his work.
Pertaining to events in Russia, Cuba and China, the writings include his first submission of Russian news analysis to a newspaper. Also present is one folder of miscellaneous incomplete manuscripts which appear to represent three different stories. The bulk of these are double-sided, with different stories on each side of each page. Many pages are numbered, but it is nonetheless very difficult to establish a coherent sequence of pages for any of the three stories.
One folder of "writings by others" includes profiles written about Kennan, as well as other miscellaneous articles.
- 1863-1924, n.d.0.5 box
The personal miscellany consists of Kennan's address book, his lecture tour schedule documenting the busy tour seasons of 1889 and 1890, the official documents permitting him to travel in Siberia, and a small number of photographs and other images.
The photographs portray Kennan variously bundled against the Siberian cold, sailing, and in academic garb; his parents John and Mary Ann Morse Kennan; his wife Emeline Weld Kennan as a young child and an adult; their vacation home and the interior of their house in Washington, D.C.
- 2 boxes
The collection of Kennan family papers consist of materials collected by George Kennan's grandniece Jeannette Hotchkiss as research for an intended biography of him, Emeline Weld Kennan's correspondence and personal miscellany, and a small amount of papers belonging to other family members.