Hoover Institution Acquires the Vilenskii-Brontman family papers

Wednesday, January 5, 2022
Selection of papers and documents from Vilenskii-Brontman collection

The Hoover Institution Library & Archives has acquired the papers of the Vilenskii-Brontman family. These papers consist primarily of personal documents belonging to and reflecting the life of old Bolsheviks, Leonid Semenovich Vilenskii, his wife, Rukhlia Gershkova Taratuta and other family members: Viktor Konstantinovich Taratuta and David Konstantinovich Brontman. The earliest documents date from 1914 and the latest from 2002.

Leonid Semenovich Vilenskii (1880–1950) was a delegate to the Second Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party that was held in 1903. The presentations, discussions and outcomes from the Second Congress were a crucial turning point that broke the party into two groups: the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, with Vilenskii supporting Lenin’s Bolshevik faction in the split. Vilenskii had previously been active in party work in Kiev and other cities of South Russia (which is known today as Ukraine). He was often arrested and in 1907 he was exiled to the Turukhan district of Siberia, a favored place of political exile. After the 1917 revolution, Vilenskii held various positions in the government, primarily in the areas of economy and financial planning (Peoples Commissariat of Finances, Prombank (Industrial Bank) and Gosplan, the State Planning agency).

Vilenskii’s papers contain his police registration card (with mugshots), a brief memoir and curriculum vita, as well as other documents detailing his career and life. Vilenskii’s wife, Rukhlia Taratuta, is also reflected in the papers in the form of her own police registration card and passport, issued in 1916, as well as a clipping relating to her brother, Viktor who lived abroad between 1909 and 1919. After his return, he served in various government and party positions, including laying the foundations for the Foreign Trade Bank of the USSR.

This collection also includes papers and artifacts that derive from David Brontman (1915-2002), a Soviet engineer specializing in aviation and space technology. Brontman spent most of his career with the Lavochkin Aviation Bureau, working on such projects as Luna-21, Mars-2 and the Venera and Vega spacecraft. This material includes biographical information, as well as a collection of rare metallic pendants (vympels) dedicated to the various craft planned and constructed by the bureau. These pendants were produced in very limited numbers for distribution among top scientists and engineers, and serve as markers of the successes of the Soviet space program. Text accompanying the pendants describes the history of the space exploration craft.

The Vilenskii-Brontman collection, which also includes digital media (CDs and USB drives), 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] stanford.edu for information concerning access.

Selection of papers and documents from Vilenskii-Brontman collection

Vilenskii’s police registration card (with mugshots), and other documents.

rare metallic pendants (vympels) from the Vilenskii-Brontman collection

Brontman's rare metallic pendants (vympels).

rare metallic pendants (vympels) from the Vilenskii-Brontman collection

Brontman's rare metallic pendants (vympels).

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.