Keston Archive and Library

Archive and Library

Keston's Archive and Library are housed in the Keston Center for Religion Politics and Society at Baylor University, Texas (


The library is currently estimated to hold 13,000 books. They include complete sets of Keston publications, including "Religion in Communist Lands" from 1973 to 1991 (when the journal was re-named "Religion State and Society), "Religion State and Society" from 1992 onwards (the journal was sold by Keston to Taylor & Francis in June 2006), and "Frontier" from 1987 until 2006 (when it ceased publication). Sampling indicates that languages of books are represented in the following proportions: English 50%, Russian 32%, German 8%, French 2%, Polish 2%, Italian 2%, other 4%. The library contains several hundred titles of eastern and western church publications and most major works by western scholars in Keston's area of specialisation.

An exceptional area of richness of the library is religion in Russia including the collection of atheist and anti-religious books published in the Soviet Union, Russian publications on Orthodox theology and spirituality. While holdings on Russian and East European church history since the Second World War form the core of the library there are also a significant number of items in the area of religious persecution under non-European communist regimes.

Books and most periodicals are included in the Baylor University Libraries' online catalogue.


The institute is currently holding more than 100 journal titles. They include complete sets of Keston publications, including Religion in Communist Lands since 1973 (Religion, State and Society from 1992), Frontier since 1987.

Samizdat Documents

Keston's archive is renowned for its rich collection of samizdat, or self-published, literature, a phenomenon which developed rapidly in the mid-1960s and remained the intellectual mainstay of Soviet believers right up to the collapse of communism. In our archives samizdat means anything from handwritten scraps of paper, through the most primitive form of cyclostyling, to typing with a number of decreasingly legible carbon copies underneath, as even photocopiers in private hands were banned during the communist period. It consists of more than 4,000 items including correspondence, petitions, symposia and memoirs. They also include appeals to the authorities against the closure of churches, petitions to free prisoners of conscience and dossiers on their crimes, transcripts of court proceedings against believers, spiritual testimonies and stories of conversion, prayers and Bible commentaries, and whole volumes of church history. Among the religious groups and individuals represented are Adventists, Baptists, Jews, Pentecostals, Roman Catholics and Russian Orthodox. A catalogue of samizdat documents can be consulted at the institute. The catalogue includes English language summaries of the documents and index entries for all persons mentioned. A select bibliography of documents of religious samizdat in the archive has been published in the journal, Religion in Communist Lands. The latter includes listings of Czech, Polish and Romanian samizdat holdings.

Other Documents

In addition, Keston's archive includes:

  • 450 documents relating to religious policy have been obtained from Soviet archives in the form of photocopies. These include documents from the Archives of the KGB, the State Archives of Russia and regional archives of the Council for Religious Affairs. Of special interest are documents relating to the controversy of the confiscation of church valuables in 1922 and documents relating to the closure of churches during the 1960s.
  • Western and Eastern European press items, pamphlets and reports on religious communities and church-state relations under communism. It is arranged thematically by country, by subject, by religion and by denomination. The main emphasis is on information relating to religious belief and practice. Sources include newspapers from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Soviet and East European official religious press, religious publications from East European sources, religious and secular newspapers in English and other European languages, magazines and newsletters from missionary societies, academic journals and religious news agencies.
  • Records of Soviet citizens imprisoned for religious activity.
  • Information on current religious developments in Russia and Eastern Europe, including texts of the 1997 Russian religious law and regional laws restricting religious activity.
  • Thousands of photographs of believers, clergy, church buildings and religious life in the Eastern bloc.
  • Video clips and Television Programs.

Keston's archive and library contain information of interest to theologians, church historians, political scientists, sociologists, human rights activists, observers monitoring the Helsinki Agreement (now the OSCE or Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) and private researchers. Enquiries should be addressed to the Keston Center's archivist, Larisa Seago

About Keston

About Keston Institute

Keston Institute specialises in the study of all religions and all forms of religious expression in Communist and formerly Communist countries.

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Keston Encyclopaedia

Religious Life in Russia Today - seven volumes covering all the religious denominations which exist in Russia.

Read more about the encyclopaedia