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Update on Russian archives

BLITZ Home Page

St. Petersburg, September 2008
The Archive is ready to be opened for researchers, but is still closed anyway. According to last information, the Archive library and finding-aids department must be opened in October. The term of opening the reading hall is not fixed, but it is known that the Fonds will be opening by parts and not all together.

St. Petersburg, February 2007
Exclusive Access to Finding Aids

At this time all files have been moved to the new building. Their repacking and shelving is going on now. In general, researchers do not have access to the work with these files, however BLITZ has exclusive access to finding-aids (catalogues, inventories). The authorities affirm that the Russian State Historic Archive will be reopened in the Autumn 2007.

Update on the Russian State Historic Archives, RGIA. March 2006

RGIA is moving as quickly as possible to the new building.

This building was originally constructed to be a bank, but the bank refused to be housed in it, because of cracks, which had started to appear on the walls. It was then decided to seal up the cracks and adapt this building for the Archive. New blocks for depositories were added very fast, and the construction was finished this past summer. There was no safety inspection before the archive was given the clear to begin moving in. This building is located in a distant new-buildings district of the city, on marsh land. A varnish-painting factory and several other enterprises, which are not secure for the Archive, are nearby.

The files are being placed in special "compactuses" installed on rail cars. The compactuses are containers with many rows of shelves. There is not much breathing room in these containers. The archivists wonder if the rail cars might become warped because of settling the building on the marsh land. In such a case, the tightly packed files may become impossible to extract. The doors of the depositories have been shifting due to the settling land and need to be fasten with special wedges in case they start to warp. In addition, since there was no expert inspection undertaken, no one has made sure that the ceilings may hold the weight of the tremendous load of files. So, many archivists fear future working in the depositories.

The files are being placed in special "compactuses" installed on rail cars. The compactuses are containers with many rows of shelves. There is not much breathing room in these containers. The archivists wonder if the rail cars might become warped because of settling the building on the marsh land. In such a case, the tightly packed files may become impossible to extract. The doors of the depositories have been shifting due to the settling land and need to be fasten with special wedges in case they start to warp. In addition, since there was no expert inspection undertaken, no one has made sure that the ceilings may hold the weight of the tremendous load of files. So, many archivists fear future working in the depositories.

The move is going by several cars each day, but the number of cars will be increased because of a shortened term of moving requested by the authorities. Officially, the Supreme Court are to move to the buildings of Senate and Synod from Moscow after the Archive has completely moved. The Court just will discuss this at its meeting in the near future. We will see if the President Administration will reconsider the decision to move the Archive out of its building in order for the administration to use the buildings. The mass media opposes this move because it cares about the environment of the national property (the Archive).

St. Petersburg, May 2005

"Russian State Historic Archive (RGIA) - Blitz has special access to files after closure"

Due to fortunate circumstances and many years of working in the Russian State Historic Archives, Blitz has been able to maintain access to files thru internal channels. We are grateful for this opportunity and welcome research inquiries for this archive.

St. Petersburg, March 2005

Work in the Russian State Historic Archive will continue for some time:

As we have been informing our clients as well as those visiting our website, the Russian State Historic Archive has been officially closed since April 4 because of moving to other buildings. The new building is not yet ready and storage of files has not been started. Due to our many years of working with this archive, BLITZ has a possibility to work with documents through our various contacts at the archive. The terms of such a possibility is not known exactly but we are hoping for at least several more months up to the real move. In addition, there are many other sources convenient for different searches, such as other Archives and Libraries. BLITZ continues its activity as we have been and is ready to discuss the possibility of each specific search with clients and those interested in taking on a search.

Please feel free to contact us with your inquiries.

St. Petersburg, March 2005

UPDATE ON RUSSIAN STATE HISTORIC ARCHIVE CLOSURE ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA

By Elena Tsvetkova and Kristin Nute of Blitz Information Center (enute@igc.org)

The Russian State Historic Archive in St. Petersburg, which holds over 7 million files, will be closing this April because it is being moved to another building. At this time the length of closure is unknown.

This archive has only been open to the public since the early 1990ís. Its closure will be a loss for private as well as commercial researchers.

At a special meeting at the archive on Monday, February 21, 2005 Russian Archive Minister V. Kozlov told the staff that the closure would take effect on April 4, 2005. It was previously thought that the Utilization Department could continue to work after the closure. However, it now appears that this department will be broken up and some of the employees will be let go.

It was reported that the archive will start to move files once the new building is definitely ready and the temperature-humidity system is stable. When Minister Kozlov stated that there was already a plan to reopen the archive next year there was a loud guffaw from the archivists attending the meeting.

Everyone hopes that the files will be quickly and efficiently packed and moved so that access will be restored soon after the move. However, with the much reduced archive staff and 7 million files to move it is a big unknown as to how this process will play out.

Many people have petitioned the Russian Supreme Court against this move. All petitions were denied. Sergey Kovalev, Deputy of the St. Petersburg Council, resent several of these petitions to the International Court. There has not been an answer yet.

Blitz will continue to monitor this situation and will be working with the archive authorities and with the archivists to find ways to minimize the disruptions to research in this precious archive. For further information please contact us at enute@igc.org.

St. Petersburg, 27 Jan 2005

UPDATE ON CLOSURE OF THE RUSSIAN STATE HISTORIC ARCHIVES

It has been officially announced that the Russian State Historic Archives will be closed sometime in April. This archive has been a valuable source of information. We are very saddened to see this closure take place.

Blitz will continue to be resourceful and offer suggestions for client research. Smaller libraries and archives will also continue to provide important materials for research.

Please contact Blitz with any questions regarding this closure.

St. Petersburg, 18 March 2004

RUSSIAN STATE HISTORIC ARCHIVE TO CLOSE

The Russian State Historic Archive (RGIA) located in St. Petersburg is planning to close in order to move to another building. This is the largest Russian Archive and houses about 7 millions files with documents pertaining to the entire Russian Empire, since Peter the Great's time up to the year 1918.

The current building of the Archive was the Ruling Senate and the Holy Synod prior the Revolution. At this time it is being returned to the Government. The Presidential Administration is going to occupy these two buildings as well as the Laval house where the Archive administration and the reading room are currently located for purposes which have not been declared to the public.

The history of this problem is as follows:

According to a governmental decision on December 17, 2002, the buildings of the former Senate and the Synod were passed to the Presidential Administration as well as several other buildings located in St. Isaac square. According to the decision of the Ministry of Economics Development, of February 12-13, the Archive was required to select one of four buildings to house a temporary depository and to begin moving inventory to the new buildings as soon as possible.

The following buildings were considered:

The former Leningrad Party Archive;

The Russian State Navy Archive on Serebristy boulevard;

The Military School of Communication;

A hospital.

Of course, the idea of temporary storage of such a large and precious Archive provoked many public actions of protest, publications and appearances. This decision was revoked but then it was decided that RGIA will be moved to another building which should be constructed especially for this purpose.

The competition of projects was not arranged. Since the President Administration needs these buildings very urgently, it was decided to use a building already under construction for a bank. However, the bank refused this building because of cracks, which had started to appear on the walls. It was then decided to adapt this building for the Archive and to continue construction. The building remodel is going quite fast - day and night, and it is almost completed. This building is located in a distant, new district of the city, constructed on marsh land. A varnish-painting factory and several other enterprises are nearby. This is not a secure location for an Archive. There are also other considerations. One is the relocation of about 7 million files in an extreme hurry using unsecured transportation. The question from a cultural standpoint, is that these documents, so precious not only for Russia but the entire world, should not be subject to such a serious risk. The Russian Archive authorities and the Director of RGIA who were formerly against this, rather unexpectedly, changed their opinion. Now they claim that it is very good for the Archive because the older buildings had not been repaired for a long time. However, according to the opinion of an UNESCO Commission, there is a unique microclimate in RGIA, which is very favorable for the preservation of papers. Of course repair is necessary, but there could be a possibility of reconstructing this Archive using the inner court and a neighboring building of a former printing house for temporary depositories. It would be possible to undertake this work step by step.

At this time it is very difficult to publish an article or show a program on this subject in the mass media. It is as a restricted area for the media. To attract attention to this problem many people have applied to the Supreme Court with statements and claims against the decision to move the Archive to another building in such a way. The Court refuses to examine these claims. As many new statements of claim are submitted to the court, there are as many refusals to examine previous claims and nothing changes.

At the same time, the new Prime Minister started activity with Ukaz from March 4 concerning transferring the buildings housing the Archive to Federal property. So, we (in a global sense) are on the threshold of the loss of this Archive for many years. Irreversible losses are inevitable under such conditions. We are at a loss as to what person or institution may be able to influence this situation.

3/18/04 Written by Elena Tsvetkova in the Blitz Information Center, St. Petersburg office. Please contact Blitz for more information about this situation or if you would like to send a letter. Blitz is also encouraging clients and potential clients to consider research in these archives sooner than later because of the changing situation.

Contact: Blitz, Information Center:
Kristin Nute, USA Coordinator, San Rafael, California. enute@igc.org
Elena Tsvetkova, St. Petersburg, Russia, rublitz@gmail.com


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