Encyclopedias are extremely handy sources for biographical information as most contain entries for significant individuals. With the mindset that encyclopedias are sources for young people or the general populace, scholars often overlook them to their detriment, because many of the encyclopedias produced in Russia and Eastern Europe are scholarly endeavors with bibliographical references for further reading. Since encyclopedia articles are summaries of accepted knowledge on a topic with bibliographies of recommended resources, they can answer your basic questions and also be the beginning of more in-depth research.
Some encyclopedias have the word "dictionary" in the title, but they are still alphabetically arranged treatments of general knowledge or of a particular subject. Don't let this confuse you. Below are links to descriptions of some of the most famous general and subject encyclopedias as well as some newer, more specialized ones from the countries of the Former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Biographical encyclopedias/dictionaries are covered on a different page in this guide.