The Hoover Institution Acquires The Papers Of Sergei Kovalev—New Sources on Russians In The Asia-Pacific Region

Monday, November 8, 2021
Black and white photo of Sergei Kovalev

Black and white photo of Sergei KovalevSergei Petrovich Kovalev was born in Russia on the banks of the Volga River in 1899, but he grew up in Harbin, China, where his father had obtained work on the Chinese Eastern Railway, that was built and controlled by Russia. Sergei completed his education at the Commercial School in Harbin and moved to Tomsk, in Siberia, to further his education at the Tomsk Technological Institute, but was caught up in the Russian Civil War, where he joined the White Army. Captured by the Reds near Krasnoyarsk, he was drafted into service for the Bolsheviks thanks to his knowledge of radio and telegraph communications. This allowed him to eventually escape back to Harbin. In 1922, he departed for the United States as the leader of a group of stateless Russian students that were accepted by UC Berkeley and other American universities.

Naturalized in the United States as Serge Kovaleff, Kovalev received his degree in engineering from UC Berkeley in 1926, finding employment for most of the rest of his life with Enterprise Engine and Foundry Co., based in San Francisco, where he eventually rose to the position of vice-president. Aside from his career as an engineer, Kovalev was also very active in the Russian community in the Bay Area, as treasurer for the Ivan Koulaieff Foundation, member of the board of Russian Center, author of articles for the local Russian-language press and supporter of many children’s organizations and Russian Orthodox parishes. He died in 1949.

This collection (covering the period from 1904 to 1947) consists primarily of personal documents illustrating Kovalev’s life (education, military service, immigration and career) and a number of his writings, many of which are autobiographical in character, describing various events and impressions from his life in Russia, China and San Francisco.

The collection is currently undergoing preservation processing. Future access to this collection will be available in the Hoover Institution Library & Archives reading room. Please contact hoover-library-archives [at] for information concerning access.


Anatol ShmelevAnatol Shmelev PhD

Robert Conquest Curator for Russia and Eurasia / Research Fellow

Anatol Shmelev is a research fellow, Robert Conquest curator of the Russia and Eurasia Collection, and the project archivist for the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Collection, all at the Hoover Institution.