The Hoover Institution Library & Archives has acquired the papers of George Synnerberg (1882–1957), also known as Georgii Georgievich Siunnerberg, who was a Russian Imperial Army officer and trade representative of Swedish-Finnish origin. The numerous documents and photographs that form this archival collection reflect his fascinating life story—representative of many aspects of Russian history—beginning with his education in the elite officer’s school, the Corps de Pages in St. Petersburg and the first steps of a promising military career (his father was a general) in the elite Life-Guard Semenovskii Regiment, a career that was curtailed for health reasons. The next chapter of his life as a Russian commercial attaché in Shanghai, China, came to an end following the Russian revolution. Synnerberg then took up Finnish citizenship, becoming a Finnish consul in Shanghai, and later entered private business. After leaving Shanghai in 1946, he moved to the United States, where his two daughters had already taken up residence, and devoted his free time to the Semenovskii regimental association, the Corps de Pages alumni association, and family.

This collection is an excellent resource for researchers for a variety of reasons. It contains Synnerberg’s detailed diaries of his education at the Corps de Pages, beautifully handwritten and illustrated by the author in multiple leather-bound volumes. Synnerberg describes daily events, educational conditions, and the life of an elite young member of Russian society at the end of the 19th century. The later history of the Life-Guard Semenovskii regiment is represented by ultra-rare handwritten copies of the regimental veterans’ association in emigration. Synnerberg’s life in the years before the revolution are also well represented by numerous photographs and photographic albums illustrating his family, fellow pages and officers, and travels around the Russian Empire. 

After the revolution, Synnerberg participated in signal events in the Russian Far East and China. He met with the Russian ambassador in Tokyo, Vladimir Krupenskii, to discuss the role and position of the Russian diplomatic corps in the absence of a recognized government. He also met with Admiral Alexander Kolchak in 1918, before Kolchak set off for Siberia to become supreme ruler of Russia and lead the Siberian anti-Bolshevik armies. The memoir and documents Synnerberg left from this period detail the complex situation in Siberia and the Russian Far East. Having been Russian commercial attaché and later Finnish consul in Shanghai, he was extraordinarily sympathetic to the newly formed Russian émigré community there, helping the destitute and assisting with the maintenance of Russian cultural and social institutions in Shanghai. This period is also well represented in photographs and documents.

As a whole, the collection provides valuable insights into prerevolutionary Russia, the story of the revolution and civil war in the Far East, and the fate of Russian émigrés in interwar China and the United States. This collection is an extraordinary compliment to the papers of Pavel Shkurkin, Valentina Chelishcheva, Konstantin Semchevskii, and numerous other collections on the Corps de Pages, the Russian Civil War, Russians in China, and the Russian Imperial Army in the Hoover Institution Archives.

Below are a few images of some of the materials from the George Synnerberg papers, housed at the Hoover Institution Library & Archives.

Synnerberg group photo with Russian diplomats in Shanghai
Synnerberg and other Russian diplomats in Shanghai with Admiral Kolchak (seated, second from left) in 1918.
Synnerberg handwritten page from report
Synnerberg's report on the situation in the
Russian Far East in 1918.
Synnerberg page from diary
Synnerberg’s diary for 1902.
Synnerberg photo of building Corps de Pages
Corps de Pages, St. Petersburg.


Anatol Shmelev Hoover Headshot

Anatol Shmelev

Robert Conquest Curator for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia / Research Fellow

Anatol Shmelev is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Robert Conquest Curator for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia at Hoover’s Library & Archives, and the project archivist for its Radio…

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