Collecting Russian and related materials began in 1919, when, at Herbert Hoover's instigation, Professor E. D. Adams from the history department at Stanford University went to Paris to gather documentation on the First World War and the ensuing peace conference.
The first materials on Russia came from members of the Russian political conference, in which two prominent politicians and diplomats, Vasilii Maklakov and Sergei Sazonov, played leading roles.
In September 1920, Professor Frank Golder, a specialist on Russian history who had lived in Russia before and during World War I, was sent to Eastern Europe as a roving acquisitions agent for the Hoover Library. He and Professor Harold Fisher of the American Relief Administration acquired quantities of material: books, pamphlets, periodicals, newspapers, and archival collections dealing with Russia and its former provinces of Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine.
An additional trip by Golder to the then independent Caucasian states produced further documentation.
Golder obtained the greatest amount of published matter concerning Russia when he participated in the American Relief Administration mission to Soviet Russia between 1921 and mid-1923.
With funds provided by Herbert Hoover, Golder acquired more than 40,000 valuable items, aided by Anatolii Lunacharskii, who was the Soviet People's Commissar for Education. Along with the previously gathered documentation, these acquisitions from Russia served as a solid foundation for further developing the Hoover Library collection.
The appointment of area specialists as curators for particular area collections guaranteed a high level of scholarly attention to the selection and organization of the materials. In 1924 Dimitry M. Krassovsky, a Russian-trained lawyer and a graduate in library science from the University of California at Berkeley, became the first curator of the collection. Former General N. N. Golovine became the acquisitions agent in Europe. Both men, particularly Krassovsky (1924–47), contributed substantially to the growth and quality of the collection. Succeeding curators and their dates in office include Witold Sworakowski (1947–64), Karol Maichel (1964–74), Wayne Vucinich (1974–77), Robert Conquest (1981–2001), Joseph Dwyer (2002–07), and Anatol Shmelev (associate curator 2006–10, curator 2011– ).
For more than eight decades, the collection on Russia and related areas has been systematically expanded. Gaps that emerged during World War II and in the late Stalin period, when acquisitions from the Soviet Union were limited, have been filled in with original materials or microfilms. Since Witold Sworakowski wrote the first survey of Hoover's Russian and Eurasian Collection in 1954, the collection has grown more than tenfold.
The fall of communism and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 have brought about another great period of growth for the Russian/CIS Collection.
Twelve Years of Cooperation With the Russian Archives (PDF) discusses Hoover's various microfilm, oral history, and publishing initiatives involving Russian archives since the 1990s.