This note describes how I constructed a reliable database on Russian banks in early transition. I describe in detail data sourcing, data verification and the representativeness of the resulting database. The note makes available for research a database that captures the genesis of a commercial banking system and is therefore very interesting. Moreover, the note suggests that the availability of data in Russia might in practice be better than generally perceived. Often the data do exist, but it takes a lot of time and effort to find them and turn them into a user-friendly format. Mastering the Russian language and a fair portion of perseverance are a great help in this respect.