The typology of archives

The typology of archives

This article presents the typology of Russian archives, shows who they come under and which laws they are subject to, as well as how they differ from each other.

There is governmental archives, archives of a particular agency, municipal archives and non-governmental archives. The activity of all archives is regulated by the federal law On Archival Matters in the Russian Federation that was adopted in 2004. Apart from this there are about 50 legislation acts that concern the archival sector. Only documents that have been evaluated by an expert are included in the Archival Fund of the Russian Federation and are therefor subject to permanent keeping. All archives are divided into those who can keep documents of the Archival Fund temporarily and those who can keep them permanently.

Federal archives and regional archives (archives of the subjects of the Russian Federation) belong to governmental archives. Federal archives as well as regional archives are divided into two subtypes: historical archives that are not being completed anymore and specialized archives that are still being completed.

There are in total 15 federal archives. The federal archives obey Rosarkhiv, which is the Federal Archival Agency of Russia that keeps track of the documents of the Archival Fund of the Russian Federation. The regional archives obey the regional administration and Rosarkhiv gives them recommendations as a methodical center. However, sometimes there is a double subordination: it might turn out that an archive obeys not only the regional but also the federal authorities. For a researcher this is important to know, since every level of the management might impose limitations on the access to specific documents.

Municipal archives are divided into regional and city archives. Among them we find archives of the local administration and co-operation archives, in which documents about local institutions, organizations and private companies are kept.

Archives of a particular agency can be divided into three types: archives operated by institutions, archives that are part of institutional systems, and specialized archival funds of a particular agency. Archives of a particular agency are a structural subdivision of the agency to which they belong and at first hand obey. This means that the administration of the archive is free to allow or not to allow access to the documents.

Archives of a particular agency can keep documents only temporarily or depositary. By the termination of the period the documents have to be given to Rosarkhiv, where they will be kept permanently. The time and the conditions of the depositary storage are defined in the agreement that has to be made between the archive and Rosarkhiv, but there is no free access to information about these agreements.

Documents about mass repressions and declassified documents of Cheka-OGPU-NKVD-MGB-KGB as well as archival criminal files about rehabilitated and non-rehabilitated citizens were created by security organs whose assignee today is FSB. It is in their archives that the overwhelming majority of these files is being kept. There is no documented proof of whether these documents now belong to Rosarkhiv or not. The period for temporary storage of such documents is 15 years, defined by the first article of the 22nd law On Archival Matters.

Non-governmental archives can be very different, but it is possible to identify three main categories: archives of private individuals, archives of privatized companies, institutions and organizations, and archives of public communities. To the archives of public communities belong for example archives of political parties and religious organizations.

Every natural and legal person has the right to create his own archives, but according to the law he is also responsible for the condition and preservation of a valuable document. The main document that defines the relationship between the owners of non-governmental archives and the Governmental Archival Agency is an agreement in which the rights and duties of each side are written. For example, if the director of an archive does not fulfill his obligations concerning correct safekeeping and usage of especially valuable documents they can be removed from the archive on the basis of a court decision. Non-governmental archives can keep documents of the Archival fund only temporary.