Russian Archives

On February 28, 2005 the Head of the Russian Archives Administration (Rosarchiv) Dr. V.P. Kozlov was reporting to the board of senior officers of the Ministry of Culture and Mass Com-munications about the results achieved in 2004 and the plans for the year 2005. (Note that Rosar-chiv is not an independent agency, it reports to the Ministry of Culture).

Dr. Kozlov emphasized a number of factors influencing the situation in Russian archives.

The first factor is the new archival legislation, especially the federal Act on archiving in Russian Federation. The Act had brought about the changes in the distribution of the rights and responsi-bilities with respect to archives between federal, regional and local governments. Even more im-portant, there was redistribution of property.

Dr Kozlov assured that the Act would allow preserving the unified statewide archives and re-cords management system because it contained corresponding declarations of good intentions. (Unfortunately, the analysis of the regional legislation enacted in the wake of the federal Act shows that each region interprets the Act and modifies its provision as the region sees fit.)

The Head of Rosarchiv said that the additional regulation was necessary to set the same policies and practices for both state (i.e. federal and regional) and local (now considered “non-state”) ar-chives.

There is an urgent need to determine how regional and local archives will be compensated for the storage of federal records, and local archives – for the storage of regional records. Previously the records of the field offices of the federal agencies were transferred to the corresponding re-gional and local archives as a matter of fact. Now federal agencies are either to pay for the stor-age services or to take their records to federal archives (most of which are in Moscow and St. Petersburg).

Rosarchiv suggested arranging a number of meetings for state officials and archivists to develop the best practice for the new circumstances. It asked the Ministry of Culture fir the money since nowadays Rosarchiv has very limited funds and authority of its own.

Ongoing administrative reform was named as the second major factor. The reform doesn’t go well, and even senior government officials can see that – but they are trying to placate their own consciousness by mumbling, “maybe in 20 or 100 years the reform will deliver some positive results”.

The reform started with closing down a number of ministries and agencies. The archives were hard pressed to process half a million of extra files before the end of the FY 2004. Some 400 ar-chivists were engaged in this work. As could be expected, the gross negligence in the manage-ment of the archives by the agencies was revealed.

New ministries and agencies established during the reform refused to accept the custody of the records and archives of the perished ones. Now all these records should be transferred to federal archives that have no free storage space. Federals has got no new facilities during last 10-15 years.

Also, according to Dr Kozlov, there were the “chaotic changes” in the regions, in the wake of the changes at the federal level. Regional archives became isolated from the federal center, espe-cially since Rosarchiv now has no authority over regional archives, and the Ministry of Culture doesn’t consider the problem as high-priority.

The third factor is the insufficient salaries and social protection of Russian archivists. Dr. Kozlov said “at least the situation isn’t as bad as it was in 90’s when all state archives went on strike”. Nevertheless he described the state of federal archives as “catastrophic”: the average monthly salary is below 200 US dollars while federal archives are situated in the very expensive cities. Average age of the employees is about 60 (in Russia retirement age is 55 years for women and 60 for men).

In 2004, 79 employees left the largest archive in Europe – the Russian State Historical Archive, for which modern archive facilities are being built in St. Petersburg. “Who will work in the new building?”, Dr. Kozlov asked. Few of the remaining specialists are able to read ancient Russian scrolls or hand-written documents of XVII-XVIII centuries. 30% payment increase promised by the Ministry will solve nothing. Head of the Rosarchiv suggested giving the federal archivists the status of the “civil servants” (i.e. to increase their salaries 2-3 times).

http://eos.ru/eos/150074


Autor: Klaus Graf

Historiker und Archivar, Blogger

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