Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Boris Rabbot Papers, 1930-2012

Summary Information


The Boris Rabbot Papers consist of the writings, lectures, notes, correspondence, personal documents, post-doctoral dissertation, photographs, research and reference materials related to the professional activities of Boris Rabbot—one of the first Soviet sociologists employed at the pioneering Institute for Concrete Social Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (IKSI) and an influential intellectual who tried to introduce a policy of liberalization within the Soviet system in the mid-1960s - early 1970s. The collection reflects Rabbot's professional life both in the USSR and USA. The collection gives an unprecedented insider's view into the workings of the Politburo and also traces the early development of a previously banned social science discipline, sociology, in the Soviet Union.

At a Glance

Call No.: BA#0538
Bib ID 9558917 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Rabbot, B. S. (Boris Semenovich), 1930-2011
Title Boris Rabbot Papers, 1930-2012
Physical Description 5.42 linear feet (13 document boxes, 1 oversize folder)
Language(s) Russian , English .
Access You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection has no access restrictions.



This collection is arranged in four series.



The bulk of the collection comprises Boris Rabbot's professional writings, documents and publications related to his academic work both in the Soviet Union and in the United States. There are also some personal documents, biographical materials, photographs, lectures and interviews.

Boris Rabbot served as a ghostwriter to Rumiantsev, authoring opinions on Soviet economic and political liberalization anonymously or in his supervisor's name; he also occasionally wrote speeches for Brezhnev. The collection contains several of these ghostwritten pieces.

Rabbot's writings in the United States include a number of texts about the Soviet Academy of Sciences and the Politburo. Some of these were published as newspaper articles—most notably, "A Letter to Brezhnev," The New York Times Magazine, Nov. 6, 1977, which challenged the hardline course that Soviet leadership had taken—while others remain in the collection as unpublished manuscripts.

  • Series I: Correspondence, 1976-1990

    The series consists of Rabbot's professional and personal correspondence with various people and organizations and includes letters of recommendation and support. Correspondence includes various related materials, such as proposals and clippings.

  • Series II: Professional Activity, 1960-1998

    This series is arranged in three subseries: Subseries II.1: Professional Activity in the USSR, Subseries II.2: Professional Activity in USA and Subseries II.3: Post-Doctoral Dissertation "Problemy Eksperimenta v Sotsial'nom Razvitii." Comprises materials related to Rabbot's work in various organizations and his independent scholarly projects, his published and unpublished works, including articles, monographs, talks. Also included are notes, drafts, documents, interviews, and various publications.

  • Series III: Personal Documents and Biographical Materials, 1930-2012

    This series comprises Boris Rabbot's personal documents and biographical materials, including certificates, IDs, immigration papers, travel documents, passports, CVs, financial and legal documents. There is also a memorial volume published after Rabbot's death that serves as an important source of biographical information for the researcher: Visson, L. and Arkanov, V. Boris Rabbot: An Unheeded Voice of the 1960s. Moscow: R. Valent, 2012.

  • Series IV: Photographs, 1938-2010

    This series contains copies of Rabbot's individual and group photographs with family and friends.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection has no access restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Boris Rabbot Papers; Box and Folder; Bakhmeteff Archive, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.


Additional materials are expected.

Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact rbml@columbia.edu for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2012-2013-M017: Source of acquisition--Lynn Visson. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--7/21/2012.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Summer 2018: Collection-level record describing unprocessed material made public as part of the Hidden Collections initiative.

Papers processed 12/10/2018 by Katherine Tsan, Queens College, CUNY (under supervision of Katia Davidenko)

Finding aid written 12/10/2018 by Katherine Tsan, Queens College, (under supervision of Katia Davidenko)

August-December 2018: The collection was fully processed. Materials were rehoused into archival-quality folders and boxes. Original folders were preserved when possible. Some folders were discarded due to poor condition but metadata was preserved. Three folders were sent to conservation due to mold suspicion. Preservation photocopies of newspaper clippings were made. Brittle materials were placed in mylars and enclosures.

Revision Description

2018-09-01 File created.

2018-12-10 dsc added

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Akademii︠a︡ nauk SSSR Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Brezhnev, Leonid Il'ich, 1906-1982 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Emigration and immigration -- United States -- Russians -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Institut filosofii (Akademii︠a︡ nauk SSSR) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Institut konkretnykh sot︠s︡ialʹnykh issledovaniĭ AN SSSR Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Rabbot, B. S. (Boris Semenovich), 1930-2011 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Rumi︠a︡nt︠s︡ev, A. M. (Alekseĭ Matveevich) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Russian Americans -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Russians -- United States Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Sociology -- Soviet Union -- History Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Tvardovskiĭ, A. (Aleksandr), 1910-1971 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Visson, Lynn Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Boris Semenovich Rabbot was born on September 18, 1930 in the city of Kostroma, Russia, USSR and moved to Moscow at an early age. In 1948, Rabbot was admitted to Moscow State University's Department of Philosophy, where he studied until 1953. From 1954 to 1956 he was a graduate student at Moscow State University's Department of History of Western European Philosophy and Sociology. From 1958 to 1959 he worked as the managing editor of the journal V pomoshch' lektoru of the Vsesoiuznoe obshchestvo Znanie (All-Union Knowledge Society) and, from 1959 to 1965, department head and traveling correspondent for the magazine Nauka i religiia (Science and Religion). From 1965 (official appointment 1967), he held the position of Executive Secretary and Chief Researcher of the Sector for Social Sciences of the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, led by Academician Aleksei Rumiantsev. In the years 1969-1972, he served as Head of the Sector for Experimental Research of the recently founded Institute for Concrete Social Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (IKSI), led by Rumiantsev.

Following the anti-Soviet protests in Prague of 1968 and demonstrations of support for them—some from IKSI researchers, as documented in the archive—the Brezhnev regime cracked down on détente and IKSI was disbanded. Rabbot, whose 1970 post-doctoral dissertation raised controversy by dealing with the Soviet experiment from a sociological standpoint and was banned from defense, had to curtail his intellectual work and hence worked as senior scientific researcher at the N. I. Vavilov Institute of the History of Natural Science and Technology.

In 1976, Rabbot gained legal entry to the United States as a Jewish refugee, having applied for his exit visa two years previously. Joined by his wife, he settled in New York City and, after a separation, got married for a second time, to Lynn Visson. Visson's father, a Russian émigré to France and then the United States, had been the director of exhibitions at the Wildenstein Galleries in New York (see Vladimir Visson Papers at the Bakhmeteff Archive of Russian & East European Culture at Columbia University).

Upon immigrating to the United States (1976) Rabbot's activities changed to those of a freelance consultant, independent scholar and lecturer of Russian. He also worked on several unpublished manuscripts that straddled academics and politics, including a translation of his dissertation on the "Problems of the Experiment in Social Research" and popular analyses of Brezhnev-era Soviet politics and society. The most important of these were an unpublished manuscript on the private lives of the Politburo members and a series of lectures on the consequences of the American approach to détente. Rabbot's controversial position was that the Carter Administration's tactics of forcing the human rights issue by passing the Jackson-Vanick Amendment backfired by bringing hard-liners to the fore in the Politburo. Boris Rabbot died on February 3, 2011.