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> From: Martin Ryle <[log in to unmask]>
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: REVIEW: VAN ROSSUM ON _GOSUDARSTVENNYE KHRANILISHCHA_
> Date: 23 March 1999 20:33
> H-NET BOOK REVIEW
> Published by [log in to unmask] (March, 1999)
> _Gosudarstvennye khranilishcha dokumentov byvshego
> arkhivnogo fonda KPSS: Spravochnik_. Novosibirsk: Sibirskii
> Khronograf, 1998. 330 pp.
> Reviewed for H-Russia by Leo van Rossum <[log in to unmask]>,
> International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam
> A First Survey of all CPSU Archives
> This directory provides basic data about all archival repositories
> throughout the Russian Federation that before 1991 had
> constituted the privileged network of central and regional archives
> of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The failure of the
> communist coup in August 1991 brought an end to the exclusive
> position of the party archives; documents, buildings and staff
> were all taken over by the Federal Archive Service of the
> Russian Federation (Rosarkhiv) and were rather abruptly integrated
> into its operational services. This did not mean the liquidation of
> these party archives, but their adjustment to the document
> processing and availability procedures practised by the
> Federal Archival Service. The integration policy allowed the
> former party archives a modest degree of autonomy, for
> apart from their guardianship of the communist past, the new
> status of these "centers of documentation of social organizations"
> also accorded them a second task, namely the documentation
> of the new political parties and social organizations. 
> One reason for this apparently liberal attitude on the part of
> the authorities was the enormous quantity of documents
> involved. The confiscation of the "Archival fond of the CPSU"
> had increased the volume of documents held by Rosarkhiv by
> a third, and certain provincial party archives had more documents
> - and space! - than did the parallel provincial archive which had
> control over the newcomer. These aspects precluded the possibility
> of complete physical incorporation (although in the first weeks
> after the coup, pleas for this complete integration could be
> heard). On the other hand, the great majority of the party
> archives' staff, often including the director, succeeded in
> retaining their old positions under the aegis of Rosarkhiv.
> The present guide, then, can be seen both as an important step
> in the movement towards integration and as a tribute to the
> communist party archival network that has since formally been
> closed down.
> The directory reviewed here surveys all former communist
> party archives that had existed until 1991 within the boundaries
> of the present Russian Federation. The editors have organized
> the information per individual repository; thus, aside from a
> short introduction, the directory comprises 78 entries: 5 entries
> on federal repositories in Moscow and St. Petersburg and
> 73 entries on repositories in the republics and provinces
> ("Subjects") of the Russian Federation.
> Each entry provides the official name of the repository in
> question, the address, the telephone number "to make
> inquiries" (p. 7), the overall number of record groups ("fondy")
> and files, the years covered by the documents, the number
> of visual and audiovisual documents, 5 to 10 lines of
> information about the organizational history of the repository
> in question, and finally the main body, a characterization of
> the holdings of the repository in 5-10 pages, for federal
> repositories, or 3-5 pages for provincial ones. All data reflect
> the situation as of 1 January 1997 and were edited by an
> editorial group of VNIIDAD (Vserossiiskii
> Nauchno-Issledovatel'skii Institut Dokumentovedeniia i
> Arkhivnogo Dela) in Moscow on the basis of information
> provided by the repositories.
> All this is very elementary information, but most welcome,
> simply because such a survey has never been published
> before. The listing alone of all official institutional names,
> addresses and telephone numbers (without, unfortunately
> the area code) of all former party archives is a great help
> for the Russian and foreign researcher. But it is first and
> foremost the summary of the holdings of each repository
> that makes the publication so worthwhile. Surveys of holdings
> of party archives have so far been rare indeed.
> Of course, the average space available for each entry does
> not allow for very detailed descriptions of the holdings. This
> problem is aggravated by a tendency in many entries to use
> rather broad and indefinite qualifications; for example, the
> State Archive of Contemporary History and Social-Political
> Movements of the Oblast of Perm refers to its documentation
> of the 1920s as "characterizing the economic restoration,
> the industrialization and collectivization of the oblast" (p. 200).
> The Center of Documentation of Contemporary History of the
> Belgorod Oblast qualifies its documentation between 1954
> (when the oblast was formed) and 1991 as mirroring
> "questions of organizational-party and ideological-educational
> work, of political leadership, of selection and distribution of
> cadres and social-economic and cultural development" (p. 71).
> In fact, such empty statements are to be found on nearly
> every page. Worse, some qualifications seem to be taken
> directly from a more glorious past. The leading role of the
> communist party in the economy is referred to without
> reservation (Voronezh, p. 91; Dagestan, p. 94; Samara,
> p. 219). References to documentation about the Great Purge
> sometimes suggest that what occurred in those terrible years
> was in accordance with the established procedures of
> _chistka_ (Moscow, p. 31, Tver', p. 211).
> There is no reference whatsoever in the directory to the
> problem of declassification, and this is strange indeed. Since
> 1993/1994 discussions about which documents could be
> made available to researchers has come to a standstill, or
> even a retreat. Different repositories apply different policies,
> and some hints about the actual situation per individual
> repository might have been in order.
> Information about reference aids is incomplete. True,
> the directory mentions some nine published guides on
> individual repositories (see note 4), but the (occasionally very
> elaborate) internal reference systems remain unmentioned.
> The question of the destruction of party archives in 1991 is
> ignored. Information on this vexed problem is of course
> essential to the evaluation of the relevance of any existing
> The repository has not been promoted very vigorously by
> Rosarkhiv after it had been passed for printing late March
> 1998. During my stay in Moscow in October 1998 I was
> entirely unable to trace the publication. Even the Russian
> State Library had no copy available. Western distributors have
> so far overlooked the volume altogether.
> With a press run of only 500 copies, a second edition of
> this useful reference would seem necessary. Might this not
> be a good occasion to insert some amendments into the text?
>  Names and status varied: more often than not, provincial
> documentation centers had an autonomous status under the
> _oblast'_ archival administration agency. A minority had the
> more subordinate status of _otdel_ or _arkhivokhranilishche_
> and was incorporated in the state archive of the _oblast'_ in
> question. The three federal documentation centers in Moscow
> that cover the former Central Party Archives (Russian Center
> for the Preservation and Study of Records of Modern History),
> the current administration of the Central Committee (Center for
> the Preservation of Contemporary Documentation), and the
> Central Komsomol Archives have the same status as the
> traditional Federal State Archives. The editors have placed the
> Communist party archives of the city and _oblast'_ of Moscow
> and St. Petersburg in the section of federal repositories, because
> of their volume and historical relevance. The Presidential Archive,
> which contains many records generated by the Politburo, does
> not fall under the competence of Rosarkhiv. Its (Communist)
> holdings are not treated in the directory.
>  In Eastern Europe, too, no substantial transfer of Communist
> party archives took place, except in Poland. See Leo van Rossum,
> _The Former Communist Party Archives in Eastern Europe and
> Russia: A Provisional Assessment_. International Institute of Social
> History Research Papers, number 27. Amsterdam, 1997.
> This research paper can be downloaded at
>  The repository of Magadan oblast' was the only one not to
> participate in the project.
>  By January 1997, the closing date of the directory, nine guides
> had been published by the former party archives (from 1992 onwards).
> Two guides had been published by the "Russian Center" in Moscow,
> one guide each by the Central Komsomol Archives and the provincial
> repositories in Krasnodar, Sakhalin, Sverdlovsk, Tatarstan, Tver' and
> Tomsk. For titles, see pp. 18, 27, 148, 234, 238, 256, 260, 263.
>  More appropriate qualifications in the entries on Vladimir (p. 81),
> Volgograd (p. 83), Rostov-na-donu (p. 211) and Samara (p. 219).
>  For the most up-to-date treatment of this problem, in fact of any
> aspect of recent archival developments in Russia, see Patricia
> Kennedy Grimsted, _Archives of Russia Seven Years After:
> 'Purveyors of Sensations' or 'Shadows of the Past'_, Cold War
> International History Project, Working Paper # 20, September 1998.
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