Colored Books

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Colored Books


(Russian, tsvetnye knigi), in Russian, a general term for certain collections, usually official, of political documents relating to a single subject. Such collections are published in various countries. The term “colored books” derives from the practice of binding the collections in a cover of a particular color.

Parliamentary papers and diplomatic documents in the form of colored books—blue books and, later, white papers—first appeared in England in the 17th century. In France the systematic publication of yellow books began in 1861, as did the publication of green books in Italy. In 1868, Austria-Hungary began printing red books, as well as brown books on questions of foreign trade. In 1870, Germany began publishing white books, most of which were devoted to colonial questions.

The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw the publication of red books in Turkey and Spain; green books in Bulgaria, Rumania, Mexico, and Brazil; gray books in Belgium, Denmark and Japan; white books in Portugal, Greece, Poland, and Bohemia; orange books in the Netherlands; and blue books in Serbia and Sweden.

After the beginning of World War I, the belligerent nations issued several colored books, such as the two orange books of the tsarist government. The term “orange book” is sometimes applied to 18 tsarist government publications that appeared from 1905 to 1915; they included a “mauve book,” which was a collection of documents relating to the negotiations with Japan in 1903 and 1904. The practice of releasing colored books has become widespread in the 20th century. The official colored books issued in capitalist countries can be a valuable source for historians but require critical analysis, since the selection of documents is often biased and the documents may have been edited.

From 1920 to 1922 the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs of the RSFSR published a series of red books, including Red Book: A Collection of Diplomatic Documents on Russo-Polish Relations, 1918–1920, which appeared in 1920. The government of the Hungarian People’s Republic published a number of documents under the title White Book: Counterrevolutionary Forces in the October Events in Hungary (parts 1–2, 1956–57). Numerous white books have been published by the German Democratic Republic (GDR), for example, White Book: The German Democratic Republic and the UN (1969).

Also classified as colored books are certain collections of documents put out by nongovernmental organizations, such as the Brown Book of the Hitler Terror (1933), published by the World Committee for the Victims of German Fascism, and the white books prepared by public organizations in the GDR and the Federal Republic of Germany in the 1950’s and by similar organizations in Vietnam in the 1960’s and 1970’s.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.