Finding Slavic/EE Films in the Library Catalog

[Fragment of Czechoslovak film poster]. Part of The James Howard Fraser poster collection


All films in the Harvard Library system are cataloged and searchable on HOLLIS, the library's online catalog. 

A film’s HOLLIS record will direct you to the library or libraries where physical copies are housed, or else (in the case of networked resources) to the webpage where the film can be viewed. The HOLLIS record also provides information on an item’s availability and borrowability. (Some items circulate – i.e., can be borrowed from the library; others are for in-library use only.)

The online catalog currently exists in two versions: HOLLIS and HOLLIS Classic (please note that as of June 30 2018 HOLLIS Classic will retire!). The two versions are largely interchangeable, but each one has certain unique capabilities.

1. If you know the exact film you are looking for, you can search by Title, Keywords, or director’s name (under Author), either in HOLLIS Classic or in HOLLIS+.

2. To browse a list of all Slavic videos at Harvard:

  1. Open HOLLIS catalog (Advanced Search)
  2. Under Search Filters select: Code: MARC language. Keep the contains qualifier. 
  3. Enter the MARC code for the language you are interested in, for example: rus (for Russian) or ukr (for Ukrainian), etc. The complete MARC Code List for Languages by the Library of Congress can be consulted here
  4. Set Resource Type as Videos/Film.
  5. Press the Search button.

This search will produce a full list of video recordings in that language, which you can then sort using various facets available on the right side of the screen.

3. To find videos in a certain language or from/about a particular country or region:

Sometimes, researchers want to find all the films in a particular Slavic language – for instance, Polish. Although HOLLIS records contain a “language” field, it is unfortunately not possible to search by “language” only. A HOLLIS search requires that at least one Keyword, Title, Author, or Subject word be entered, in addition to specifying a language.

Fortunately, HOLLIS records almost always contain additional notes listing the language(s) featured in a film and the country or region constituting the film’s main focus. Therefore, it’s best to search by several full or partial keywords that refer to the region or language you have in mind.

For example, if you want to find all films in Polish or about Poland, you might take the following steps:

  1. Open the HOLLIS catalog (NOT Hollis Classic)
  2. Click on the HOLLIS tab (you don’t want to include articles in your search)
  3. Click on Advanced Search
  4. Enter the following search criteria:

keyword = poland OR

keyword = polish

materials (limit to) = Video/Film

location = anywhere

This search will bring up all film materials whose HOLLIS record descriptions contain the words “Poland” or “Polish.”   (You may choose to limit your search further at this stage by also selecting a language, location [i.e., owning library at Harvard], and/or publication date.)

After you hit “Search,” a list of all search results appears. The column on the left of your screen allows you to refine the search results by location (owning library), date, language, form/genre (for instance, by excluding “Televised plays” and “Videotapes”), etc.

If you want to make sure that your search picks up all references to Poland and the Polish language IN POLISH, you may include “Polska” and “polski” as possible keywords in your search:

keyword = poland OR

keyword = polish OR

keyword = Polska OR

keyword = polski

materials (limit to) = Video/Film

location = anywhere

Or you may use search for keyword = polsk*, where the asterisk (*) serves as a wildcard symbol, signifying the several possible endings that can follow the characters “polsk” in your search. 

Your final search settings might look like this:

Film search screenshot

You can combine author names, keywords, and title words with the * character and the Boolean operators AND/OR/NOT to refine your search as necessary.

The string of characters to which you append * can make a big difference.  Placing * after the character string “pol” (and not “polsk”) would render too broad a search, yielding results for such keywords as “polar,” “poll,” “polymer,” and “politics.”

In HOLLIS records, DVD’s are sometimes referred to as videodiscs or optical discs.

Locating Physical Copies at Harvard

Your HOLLIS search will direct you to physical copies of films – in DVD, VHS, or 35/16 mm print format. The majority of Slavic DVD’s and videocassettes are housed at Widener Library (Harvard Depository) and at Lamont Library.  Other libraries on campus – some circulating, others not – contain smaller collections of Slavic films, also in DVD and VHS format. Harvard Film Archive houses Slavic films on 16 mm or 36 mm film. At most circulating libraries, videos may be checked out for a period of 1 week, with up to 5 renewals. (Films and all other materials may be renewed online, via the My Account portal in HOLLIS+ or HOLLIS Classic.) Lamont as well as non-circulating libraries offer equipment for viewing DVD’s and videocassettes on-site. This section gives an overview of these libraries, their locations and circulation policies.

  • Widener Library, located in Harvard Yard, is Harvard University’s flagship library. Its holdings, which include works in more than one hundred languages, comprise one of the world’s most comprehensive research collections in the humanities and social sciences. Widener is also home to over 2,000 Slavic films in DVD and VHS format. These holdings are housed off-site in the Harvard Depository (HD). All HD items must be ordered online by logging into the My Account portal in HOLLIS with a Harvard ID and PIN. Upon delivery, the item will be held for the patron at the Widener circulation desk for 8 days. During term-time, HD items are delivered overnight; between semesters, delivery may take longer. Videos can be checked out at the circulation desk upon pick-up.
  • Lamont Library, also located in Harvard Yard, mainly supports the undergraduate curriculum in the humanities and social sciences, but is open to all members of the Harvard scholarly community. Lamont’s collection of Slavic DVD’s and a few videocassettes is located along with other audio-visual materials in the Morse Music and Media section, on Level A. Morse DVD’s are arranged according to call number. Patrons can browse the shelves and check out desired items at the circulation desk.  Films being held on reserve for an ongoing course can be borrowed for 3 or 5 hours at a time at the circulation desk. The Morse Music Section contains computers specially designated for the viewing of DVD’s; there are also facilities in the library for viewing VHS tapes.


Other circulating libraries that hold Slavic films:


Non-circulating libraries containing relevant films:


See also this useful list of all the major film collections at Harvard – including but not limited to those held at the Harvard Film archive.

Occasionally a Slavic film will be held at a small/specialized library or sub-library not listed above. See here for a complete list of libraries and collections at Harvard.  

Streaming video resources at Harvard

In addition to the physical video formats the library now offers thousands of feature and documentary films through various streaming video resources, which include (among many others):

New World Cinema 

Socialism on Film: The Cold War and International Propaganda

To learn more please consult the LibGuide Streaming Video @ Harvard.

Beyond Harvard

If a video you are searching for is not currently held at Harvard, you have several additional options: 

Watch and Download Online:

Large collections of films by formerly Soviet film studios are now freely available online via dedicated Youtube channels or/and directly on the studios' websites. (Please note that as any web-based resources, these may become obsolete or change address):

Purchase Request 

Harvard library patrons may request that the Harvard library system acquire a given item. The purchase request form can be accessed here.

Other library networks

If a film you are searching for is not in the Harvard library system, it is recommended that you browse the online database of the Minuteman Library Network (MLN), a consortium of 43 public and academic libraries in the greater Boston area.  To serve the large Russian-speaking community in Eastern Massachusetts, MLN’s libraries now house an extensive collection of Russian-language DVD’s and videocassettes.  A patron card can easily be obtained at no cost from any participating library, including Cambridge Public Library and its branches. Video materials from any member library may be requested online with a library card number and PIN, and will be delivered for pick-up to the library of your choice. Films can be checked out for 1 week (no renewals possible).

You may also search the online database of the Boston Public Library system, which, in addition to the main library in Copley Square, contains a number of branches in Downtown Boston, Allston/Brighton, South Boston, and Jamaica Plain.

*Please note:  Although Harvard has an Interlibrary Loan (ILL) system, interlibrary borrowing privileges do not extend to video materials. 

Film Screenings and Related Events

At Harvard:

  • The Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies holds film screenings and Russian/East-European culture seminars throughout the academic year. See the Davis Center’s events calendar for more information.
  • During the semester, the Harvard Slavic Department holds weekly Russian film screenings.  Its course offerings also include a significant film component.
  • The Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute offers film screenings, seminars, and other events.
  • The Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies hosts films in addition to lectures and seminars.
  • The Harvard Film Archive offers a public cinematheque program, presenting films Friday through Monday nights year round. During the semester, course-related films are also screened in the middle of the week. All screenings are held in the Archive’s 200-seat theater located on the lower level of the Carpenter Center for the Arts. Special events include in-person appearances by contemporary directors and live accompaniment for silent films. For a calendar of screenings and descriptions of curated series, see  In 2014 and 2015, the Archive presented several film series showcasing the works of Andrei Tarkovsky, Jan Nemec, Corneliu Porumboiou, and Sergei Loznitsa, respectively.
  • The Archive is closely affiliated with the Harvard Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, which offers a large array of courses on the history and analysis of cinema.

Beyond Harvard:

Art-house theaters nearby: