Genealogy is always about a battle between frugality and extravagance, and passionate obsession and getting a life. When you're obsessed, get dictionaries and language texts as soon as possible and learn as much of the languages you might need as possible before you give up. Whatever odds and ends you learn will come in handy.
BELARUSIAN -- Ushkevich, Alexander, and Zezulin, Alexandra, Byelorussian-English English-Byelorussian Dictionary with Complete Phonetics, Hippocrene Books Inc., 1992. Frankly, this is not a very good dictionary, and it won't help much with the scientific, historic or archaic Belarusian works that you might come across while doing genealogy. But it's just about the only Belarusian-English dictionary I've ever seen, and it might help you more if you really learned a lot of Russian first. To Amazon.com
BELARUSIAN -- Symaniec, Virginie, and Goujon, Alexandra, Parlons bielorussien:langue et culture, Editions L'Harmattan Inc., Paris, 1997. This is a pretty good Belarusian textbook, and it has a pretty good little glossary at the back. The main problem, if you speak English, is that it's in French. But French is so much easier for an English speaker than Russian or a Belarusian that this shouldn't be that big of a deal. You should be able to learn enough French in a couple days to figure out roughly what the textbook is getting at. To Alapage.com French ordering info
POLISH -- Stanislawski, J., McKay's English-Polish Polish-English Dictionary, Random House Inc. 1988, New York. I have smaller dictionaries, but I always end up looking in this one. To Amazon.com. (See out-of-print ordering information.)
RUSSIAN -- Belovinskij, L.V., Rossijskij Istoriko-Bytovoj Slovar, Studiya Trite Nikita Mikhalova, Moscow, 1999. This is in Russian, so it's hard to use if you don't know much Russian. But it does have a lot of obscure, useful Russian words in it, so, if you try to do hard-core translations, you might find it useful to learn enough Russian to make out the entries, or find someone else to help you figure them out. There used to be a lot of copies at Russian bookstores Brighton Beach, in Brooklyn.
RUSSIAN -- Howlett, Colin, "The Oxford Russian Desk Dictionary, Oxford University Press, New York 1997. This isn't as good as the Wheeler dictionary, but it's very good and it's a lot smaller. The 1997 hardcover version I have is tough enough to stand up to a fair amount of use.
RUSSIAN -- Wheeler, Marcus, The Oxford Russian-English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, New York, 1992. I think you might be able to get the same Russian-English part bundled together with an English-Russian section, but, so far, I haven't found another Russian-English dictionary I like as much. I end up going to this one for all the hard words, but it's a little it too big to carry around all the time. The paperback version I have has held up fairly well, given how much I've used it. To Amazon.com
I found all of these books in either the New York Public Library or Russian-language bookstores in Brighton Beach, in Brooklyn, or both. Most have illustrations that might be interesting even if your Russian, Polish, etc. is as limited as mine.
Arkhealogiya i Numizmatyka Belarusi Entzyklapedyya (The Archaeology and Numismatics of Belarus), Imya Petrusya Brovki, Minsk, 1993.
Birka at the Silk Road, http://home1.swipnet.se/~w-14723/birka/indexe.html
Bondarchik, V.K., Grigoreva, R.A., and Pilipenko, M.F., Belarus': Narod i Kultur (Belarus: People and Culture), Nauka, Moscow, 1998. This is a serious, academic ethnographic book that has a lot of great black-and-white photos and drawings in it. It deals with the culture of Belarus from prehistoric times to the present and has a fair amount of information about the southeastern section of the country.
Gomel, Minsk, 1978. This is the edition I happen to have of an official book about the city of Gomel, which is the biggest city in the Gomel oblast (the political jurisdiction that includes Rechitsa, Loev and Bragin). It includes many nice photos of Gomel, along with a short history that's presented in English as well as Russian, Polish, French and German.
Gomel Oblast, Minsk, 1988. I think this is an official guidebook to the Gomel oblast -- the political jurisdiction that includes Rechitsa, Loev and Bragin. It includes many nice photos of the region, along with a fairly extensive history written in Russian.
Gomel: Entziklopedicheskij Spravochnik (Gomel: Encyclopedic Handbook), Imeni Petrusya Brovki, 1991. This seeems to be an official or semiofficial handbook that includes many wonderful articles and pictures. The handbook seems to focus mainly on the city of Gomel, but some of the articles deal with topics of regional interest.
Sulimierki, Filip, Slownik Geograficzny, Naklad Wladyslaw Walewski, Warsaw, 1884. (Available on microfilm through the Mormon Family History Center system.)
Ausubel, Nathan, Pictorial History of the Jewish People, Crown Publishers Inc., New York, 1954. If you can find it, this book is a pretty good, cheap substitute for one of the adult Jewish encyclopedias. To Amazon.com (See out-of-print ordering information.)
Brook, Kevin, The Khazaria Info Center.
Channon, John, The Penguin Historical Atlas of Russia, The Penguin Group, London, 1995. To Amazon.com
Gilbert, Martin, The Illustrated Atlas of Jewish Civilization, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1990. To Amazon.com (See out-of-print ordering information.)
Hamm, Michael, Kiev: A Portrait, 1800-1917, Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J., 1993. To Amazon.com
Hammer, M.F., et al., "Jewish and Middle Eastern non-Jewish populations share a common pool of Y-chromosome biallelic haplotypes," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, May 9, 2000. To article
Jones, Gwyn, A History of the Vikings, Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom, 1984. To Amazon.com
Kachuro, Alina, Gomel: Then and Now
Kakahashi To Chernobyl Charity Page Hokkaido, Japan.
Khazaria.com, historic maps.
Magocsi, Paul Robert, and Matthews, Geoffrey, Historical Atlas of East Central Europe, University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1998. To Amazon.com (See out-of-print ordering information.)
Magocsi, Paul Robert, A History of Ukraine, University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1998. To Amazon.com
McEvedy, Colin, The Penguin Atlas of Ancient History, Penguin Books Ltd., Hong Kong, 1983. To Amazon.com
Medvedev, Zhores, The Legacy of Chernobyl, W.W. Norton, New York, 1992. Read all about the most famous power plant in southeastern Belarus. To Amazon.com
Minsk: A Guide, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1980. This book includes some good pictures of Minsk and includes a history of the city of Minsk that occasionally refers to southeastern Belarus.
Pollak, Michael, Mandarins, Jews, and Missionaries: The Jewish Experience in the Chinese Empire, The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, 1980. To Amazon.com
Rambaud, Alfred, Russia, Collier, New York, 1900. To excerpt
"From Our Rechitsa Correspondent," Minsk Vedomosti, Nov. 29, 1880, p. 766.
Vernadsky, George, Kievan Russia, Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 1976. To Amazon.com
Zelenko, Sergei, et al., "Underwater Archaeology of the Black Sea: Crimean Coastal Survey 1997," Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, 2000. To paper
Frankly, I find that a lot of fiction from the Isaac Bashevis Singer cheder-and-goniff school of literature is useless for genealogical background purposes. Writers like I.B. Singer tend to deal with eternal truths; I want to know what the characters did for a living, and how they traveled from one village to another, and whether they were cousins of my great-grandfather. /p>
Here are a few books of fiction for a Jewish genealogists who wants to know "what it was really like," free from a sepia-toned haze.
Babel, Isaac, The Complete Works of Isaac Babel. (1934) This book tells you what it was look to serve in the Russiam army. To Amazon.com, for the edition published by W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2001.
Gogol, Nikolai, Dead Souls. (1842) This book tells you a lot about what it was really like to live on a country estate in Russia in the early 1800s, and it also tells you a lot about the mechanics of keeping census and revision lists. The book, is basically, "Russian Empire Census Lists: The Novel." The translation I actually own, which is wonderful, was done by Andrew MacAndrew and published in 1961 by the New American Library. To Amazon.com, for the edition published by Vintage Classics, New York, 1997.
Singer, Israel Joshua, The Brothers Ashkenazi. (1936) A novel about the life of a Jewish businessman in Poland in the first half of the 20th century, as told by someone who lived in Poland who happened to have been Isaac Bashevis Singer's older brother. (Other I.J. Singer novels and stories are also helpful. To Amazon.com, for the edition published by Penguin USA, 1993.