Date: Mon, 2 Feb 2004 11:44:13 -0500
Reply-To: Maarja Krusten <KrustenM@GAO.GOV>
Sender: Archives & Archivists <ARCHIVES@LISTSERV.MUOHIO.EDU>
From: Maarja Krusten <KrustenM@GAO.GOV>
Subject: Followup info: Closing of the Russian State Historical Archives
Hello, all. I did not receive a reply from my friend who is active in international archives matters. However, I have obtained some fragmentary info on the closing of the Russian State Historical Archives, which may shed some light on some of the issues covered by Dr. Graf’s original posting. Apparently the questions are two-fold: (1) closing of the Russian archives in its present location and (2) future access to materials in the Russian archives. The first issue relates to real estate values in the neighborhood in St. Petersburg where the Russian archives is located now. Apparently it is a good neighborhood with good real estate values and properties are coveted are by developers. Some parties of interest believe that the building now housing the archives is better suited for a hotel or some other money making venture. Some observers wonder whether a campaign centered on hanging on to that particular building for the archives has much chance of succeeding. Some European archivists have pointed out on their e-mail Lists that in some countries where buildings have been sold to private developers, decisions on future use have centered solely on cost issues. In some European countries, these factors have led to closing of museums and cultural institutions. It is unclear whether the committee for Russian archives and the directors of the state archives have exhausted all avenues for acquiring a suitable building to relocate the archives. Whether this all will lead to dismantling of the archives, or decreased access to its holdings, I do not know. I lack information on that aspect of the question. Anyway, that’s all I know! Maarja Krusten
President Vladimir Putin’s administration has confirmed that it will move the offices of government agencies into four historic buildings in central St Petersburg this year in defiance of a ruling by Russia’s Supreme Arbitration Court. The current tenants will be evicted.
At the end of 2002 Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov signed a decree handing over the administration of four historic buildings in and near St Isaac’s Square to the Presidential Property Department (PPD) so that it could relocate federal agencies from Moscow, “and provide effective State control over the use of unique historical monuments in St Petersburg.”
The tenants that are being moved out include the Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry, home to the world’s oldest and second-largest plant gene bank and the Russian State Historical Archives, located in a huge 19th-century building on the English Embankment that was once the headquarters of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The government’s plan has been met with strong protest from employees, city politicians, and human-rights activists who took their case to the Supreme Arbitration Court. In October, the court ruled in favour of the Vavilov Institute but President Putin has dismissed this decision. The irony is that the government intends to move the Supreme Arbitration Court itself from Moscow into the building now housing the Vavilov Institute.
Another case filed by local historians who use the State archives and say their rights have been violated, is expected to be heard by the Supreme Arbitration Court this year according to Alexei Kovalyev a City Communist politician leading the fight.
Even if the court were to rule in favour of the historians, the decision would be unlikely to sway the increasingly autocratic Putin who is expected to forge ahead with the plan regardless.
“The building now holding the archives will be a centre for local offices of federal agencies,” said Viktor Khrekov, press officer for the PPD.
The government says that current tenants will be given accommodation elsewhere and, according to Mr Khrekov, construction is beginning on a new building for the State archives.