Archives of Russia on the Internet: Present State and Development Tendencies

Archives of Russia on the Internet: Present State and Development Tendencies

"Archives of Russia on the Internet: present state and development tendencies"


Elena Romanova,


Deputy director

The All-Russian Scientific and Research Institute for records and archives management (VNIIDAD)

82 Profsoyuznayastreet, Moscow 117393 Russia

tel. 007495334 81 14

Nowadays, the Internet resources are widely used in Russia, like in all the other countries of the world.

According to the statistics, the number of Internet users in Russia in 2016 almost reached 84 million, or 70,4 % of population. It’s less than the average European, but much higher than the worldwide average.

Among the young people (16-29 years old) the percentage of those using Internet is 97 %.

The advantages of use of Internet by archives are obvious. And now the archivists are not only the active Internet users, but also the creators of Internet resources.

In this report we will tell about the Internet resources of Russian archives of the federal, regional (state) and municipal levels, how they are structured, what information can be found there, what search tools are made to help Internet users looking for archival information. We will also present some projects which are in progress and will speak about certain problems which are urgent today.

The archives of Russia started to create their Internet sites at the end of the XX-th century. The sites of that period were rather simple, containing about 2-3 hypertext pages with the contact information of the archives and the short description of their funds. For instance, in January 2000 there were only 20 sites of Russian archival institutions in the World Wide Web.

But the topicality of this question was evident, that is why in 2001 the Federal archival agency prepared the Recommendations on creation of an archive’s site on the Internet. The Recommendations covered different aspects of creation and support of a site, its contents and structure. It was recommended for archives to place the following informationat the website: contacts of the archives, reading room working hours, history of the archives, texts of normative and legal documents related to the archives, information about programs the archives participates in and provided services, electronic finding aids and information about finding aids available in the reading room of the archives, general description of archival funds, lists of recent acquisitions and declassified documents, etc.

In 2001 the Web portal “Archives of Russia” ( created, which is now the basic Internet resource on Russian archives.This portal is of great importance for consolidation of the existing archival sites, electronic finding aids, copies of archival documents and so on into a common information space.

The portal has seven parts:

  1. News
  2. System of archival institutions of the Russian Federation,

where the short information about all the archival Authorities and the archives of Russia (state (federal and regional) and municipal) is given, their contacts, including web addresses, descriptions of funds, etc.

  1. Archival matters

Here the texts of laws, normative legal acts, methodical recommendations, instructions, and manuals are placed, as well as information about deliberative bodies in the field of archives and different professional competitions.

  1. Archival fund of the Russian Federation

Here the Central catalogue of funds, State register of unique documents, database “Guide books to Russian archives”, Electronic inventories of Federal archives, and database of declassified documents of Federal archives can be consulted.

  1. Expositions and Archival online projects

In this part there are the links to the expositions of archival documents and other archival projects presented online.

  1. Periodicals and Publications

Here the information about professional archival journals, electronic library, and bibliographic indexes is placed

  1. Services

The list of services provided by Federal archival institutions, requisition forms,and information support to the users can be found in this part of the portal.

The Federal archival agency is responsible for the reliability and actuality of data presented at the Portal.

It’s the most representative and reliable Internet resource, where you can find not only information provided by the Federal archival agency, but also the links to the interconnected sites of federal and regional archives and regional archives administrations.

The registered users can also participate in discussions on different subjects related to archives on the “Forum” page.

As for the archival institutions themselves, they are also represented on the Web.

The Federal archival agency (Rosarchiv) has its site where the main activities of the agency are presented (plans, reports, statistics and so on). You will also find there all the normative documents on the archivesand records management, as well as methodical recommendations, instructions, analytical surveys, and other results of studies conducted by VNIIDAD and other institutions for the Federal archival agency. Rosarchiv has all the rights to the results of scientific research if it was its customer.

All the state federal archives have their websites.

  1. RGADA
  2. RGIA
  3. RGVIA
  5. RGAE
  6. RGALI
  7. RGVA
  10. RGA in Samara
  11. RGAFD
  12. RGAKFD ;
  13. RGASPI
  14. RGANI
  15. GARF

Another organization under the Federal archival agency is VNIIDAD. Its site is

As for the regional level, we must mention first of all that the Russian Federation constitutionally consists of 85 federal subjects, among them republics, territories (Krai), cities of federal importance, autonomous districts, and autonomous regions. All the federal subjects have their ownregional archives administrations (committees on archives, archival services or special divisions of the Ministries)and state archives (there can be from 1 to 7 state archives in a federal subject).

Nowadays all the regional archives administrations have their own websites or webpages on the portals of the regional bodies of state power (or the both variants).

Asfortheregionalstatearchives, 39 % ofthemhavetheirownwebsites, 42% hold a part of a website of their archives administration. The others are presented only at the Portal “Archives of Russia” and you can find some contact information about them on their regional archives administration webpage.

Alongside with the archives of state federal and state regional levels, there are archives of municipal level. There can be municipal archives as separate institutions or archival departments of municipal administrations.

Contact information about municipal archives can be found at the portal “Archives of Russia”, as well as at the websites of regional archives administrations and at the websites of municipal administrations.

But only a few of them have their own websites.

In some regions there are also created special sites for automated archival information retrieval systems, for example in the Pskov region, the Sverdlovsk region and in some others.

When we overview the system of websites of the Russian archives we first of all notice that they are mostly oriented at the Russian speaking users. Some domains even have addresses written in Cyrillic, for example , and itis rather inconvenient for foreign users. Only a few sites have their English versions, for example website of the Russian state archive of literature and art .

The websites of Russian archives may have different design, and this diversity is a positive factor, but their structure, the main principles of systematization of information, etc. need to be unified in order to help users in their search. There are some basic recommendations on creation of websites, the other recommendationswere prepared specially for archival institutions, for example the above mentioned Recommendations on creation of an archive’s site on the Internet (2001), Recommendations on creation of Internet expositions and Internet catalogues (2012), Recommendations on allocation of finding aids of archives on the Internet (2015). There are also some articles in the professional journals on this subject. But many websites of Russian archives still need to be improved (I don’t speak about technical aspects, but mostly about their contents and the principles of systematization of information within the websites).

We must admit that technical aspects and design are very important for all the websites, but the most important for the users is the informational potential of a website. And that is first of all electronic finding aids and copies of digitized documents (or native born digital documents).

We need to realize that it’s impossible to digitize and to present online all the documents of Russian archives. The Russian Federation possesses one of the largest archival systems in the world. More than 530 million files and other units of storage are preserved in our archives. The size of the Archival fund of the Russian Federation, the complexity of its structure, the great distances between different regions of the Russian Federation require first of all the development of effective and modern electronic finding aids, accessible via Internet. Thus, we are giving the users the instrument which will help them to look for information. So the great attention today is paid to the process of digitalizing of inventories and to the creation of different databases and multilevel information retrieval systems.

VNIIDAD has already prepared a set of manuals on creation of traditional finding aids, but now the most topical questions are problems of creation of electronic finding aids, based on the principle of multilevel description. In 2008 there was made the Classifier of information of the Archival fund of the Russian Federation, which was accepted to be the main scheme for thematic classification of archival information in catalogues and other finding aids.

Today the system of electronic finding aids of Russian archives is just in the process of formation. There is a lot to do in this area.

Via the portal “Archives of Russia” you can get the access to the database “Central catalogue of funds” there the descriptions on the fond level are presented. Today there are almost 830 thousand funds presented in this database.

The other database at the portal is the “State register of unique documents” where the detailed descriptions of 549 the most precious documents of Russian archives together with their digital copies are presented.

The XML database “Guide books to Russian archives” includes 135 guide books of Russian archives published from 1987 to 2011, presented both in Russian and in English version.

The database of declassified documents of Federal archives includes 91250 titles of files declassified from the year 2007 to the present days. Previously declassified documents are presented in the special bulletins which were scanned and can also be consulted online.

Though the portal “Archives of Russia” we can pass to the “Electronic inventories of the Federal archives”. Actually these are electronic finding aids placed at the websites of federal archives, and not only inventories, but also catalogues, thematic databases. Most of them are already integrated into the multilevel information retrieval systems with diverse searching tools, where the images of archival documents can be also attached.

Every year a great number of inventories are scanned, both by federal and by regional archives. Some regions are very advanced in this process, the others are just starting (it depends on the financing which can vary a lot in different regions). Today in 19 federal subjects there are information retrieval systems in the scale of the region, five of them includes information about funds and documents stored in the municipal archives of the region.

But the new technologies set new requirements to the archival description and to the system of finding aids of archives.

Often it is not enough just to scan old inventories, they need to be revised and improved. The titles must be informative enough, legible and well structured so that it was possible to present them in the form of a database.

The other special feature of automated systems is that they do not admit of literal and other errors. That is why the archives must continuously control the quality of information included in the databases.

The electronic finding aids must be relevant, convenient and linked together. That is why the standards of archival description are so actual. Today the rules have fixed the sets of elements of description for each level of description (fund, storage unit, document). The strict requirements are imposed to the accounting data bases, so the information retrieval data bases also follow these rules in order to ensure harmonization of these two interconnected systems.

The archives of Russia are also preparing internet expositions of archival documents and realize projects called “electronic archives”. One of the most important projects – the site “Documents of the Soviet epoch”, which presents the electronic copies from the fund of Stalin, fund of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party, of the National committee of defense and the archives of the Comintern. The digitized copies of documents are available online and free of charge.

But the archives are also providing some services which require payment. For example, the current exposition at the State federal archives “The last Empress. Documents and photos” has its online version and the access is for a fee.

Digitization of archival documents is one of the main activities of Russian archives today. It is very important to ensure that the original documents were not damagedin the process of digitization, that the produced copies were of good quality, that the process was well organized in order to avoid unnecessary expenses and so on. To help archives, in 2012 VNIIDAD prepared recommendations on creation of electronic copies of archival documents.

In order to facilitate the access of users to the services provided by the archives, both free and those which require payment (for example, making electronic copies of documents by the orders of users, or search of documents on different thematic, including genealogical research, etc.), the archives are realizing projects called “electronic reading rooms”. Today electronic reading rooms exist in 19 federal subjects, but there are still a lot of problems there, connected with the software, personnel resources, protection of money transactions, etc. On the important factors is that not all the inventories are digitized for now.

The Federal archival agency is in the process of testing of the new Information system “The electronic reading room of federal archives”. It will be connected with the state system of identification and authorization and with the Portal of state and municipal services.

Presenting electronic finding aids and the copies of archival documents on the Internet, development of electronic forms of communication of archives with the users, creation of electronic archives and electronic expositions of archival documents by Russian archives are in the interests of Russian and foreign users.

There is still a lot to do in this area, but there are also some interesting achievements of Russian archives which were presented in this report.

Thank you for your attention!