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Russian Archives in Transition: Caught between Political Crossfire and Economic Crisis

Patricia Kennedy Grimsted
The American Archivist
Vol. 56, No. 4 (Fall, 1993), pp. 614-662
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40293772
Page Count: 49
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Russian Archives in Transition: Caught between Political Crossfire and Economic Crisis
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Abstract

This article results from the author's experience in Russia during 1992, where, under IREX sponsorship, she was working collaboratively with the State Archival Service of the Russian Federation—Rosarkhiv (until the October 1992 presidential decree took effect in December 1992, the Committee for Archival Affairs of the Russian Federation—Roskomarkhiv), the State Public Historical Library (GPIB), and the St. Petersburg Branch of the Archive of the Russian Academy of Sciences establishing a computerized database (ArcheoBiblioBase) for a directory and bibliography of finding aids for archives and manuscript repositories throughout the Russian Federation. In addition to the sources cited, coverage of many issues comes from a multitude of discussions with Russian archival leaders. Particular appreciation is due to the several friends and colleagues on both sides of the Atlantic who critiqued earlier drafts. A slightly variant form of the present article appears as the introduction to Russian Archives 1993: A Brief Directory, Part 1: Moscow and St. Petersburg, Preliminary English Version, edited with an introduction by Patricia Kennedy Grimsted; foreword by Vladimir Petrovich Kozlov (Washington, D.C.: IREX, February 1993). A Russian translation of this article will appear in Novaia i noveishchaia istorii, 1994, no. 1. An earlier version of this text, together with prefatory commentary by Vladimir Kozlov, Deputy Chairman of Rosarkhiv, appeared in the July and September editions of that directory. The article continues the Grimsted series published in the American Archivist and distributed by IREX: Patricia Kennedy Grimsted, "Glasnost" in the Archives? Recent Developments on the Soviet Archival Scene," American Archivist (AA) 52 (Spring 1989): 214-36; see also comments by two Russian specialists in AA 53 (Summer 1990): 468-75, and the present director of the Estonian archives in A4 53 (Fall 1990): 576-81; Grimsted, "Perestroika in the Archives? Further Efforts at Soviet Archival Reform," AA 54 (Winter 1991): 70-95 (a pamphlet reprint is available from IREX; describes conditions in Soviet archives to the end of 1990); "Beyond Perestroika: Soviet Archives After the August Coup," AA 55 (Winter 1992): 94-124 (an expanded preprint is available from IREX; continues the story to the end of 1991). See also the booklet, Intellectual Access to Soviet- Area Archvies: What Is to Be Done? (Princeton, N. J., March 1992; IREX preprint). The article remains as it was revised at the end of January 1993. Although the present version (15 September 1993) is edited slightly due to publication delays in the American Archivist (especially in regard to temporal references and a few factual errors), it does not take into account the important developments on the Russian scene in the subsequent months of 1993. To be sure, revelations from declassified secret contemporary files continue. Scandals in connection with the sale of publication rights to sensational unclassified documents have occasioned the firing of most of the leadership and the closing for several months of the Center for the Storage of Contemporary Documents (TsKhSD) at the former Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) Central Committee headquarters at Staryi Ploshchad. Budgetary deficiencies forced most central archives to close for the month of August, and maintenance problems kept the elevators shut down in the stacks of the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GA RF) for most of the year. A conservative parliament has held up the restitution of captured records. Most important, on a more positive note, on 7 July 1993 parliament passed the Law on the Archival Fond of the Russian Federation and Archives ("Osnovy zakonodatel'stva Rossiiskoi Federatsii ob Arkhivnom fonde Rossiiskoi Federatsii i arkhivakh"), and it was subsequently signed into law by President Yeltsin, giving Russia its first comprehenisve archival law in history. The new law replaces the series of Soviet- style decrees, but considerable opposition can already be heard about various provisions of the new law, especially the lack of respect for private archives. An initial decree of implementation—"On the Realization of State Policy in Archival Affairs" ("O realizatsii gosudarstvennoi politiki v arkhivnom dele"—Postanovlenie SMRF)—was issued by the Council of Ministers on 23 August 1993, and additional plans for implementation are being being drawn up. Economic and administrative remedies to other archival problems are still being considered. The Presidential Archive is being moved to Staryi Ploshchad, while controversy continues about the extent of transfer and access that will be possible to KGB files of various categories. Discussion of these and other developments on the Russian archival scene will require a new essay, which is now being prepared as introduction for the published edition of the collaborative directory resulting from further updating of ArcheoBiblioBase. Archives in Russia 1994 is now planned for publication in parallel Russian and English editions in 1994.

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