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Archives of the Soviet Communist Party and Soviet State

Entirely new access to the documents of Soviet history

The State Archival Service of the Russian Federation (Rosarkhiv), the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and Chadwyck-Healey concluded an agreement in April 1992 to microfilm the records and opisi (finding aids) of the Communist Party of the former Soviet Union, as well as other selected holdings of the State Archives. We are pleased to present to the library and scholarly communities the project catalogue, which lists microfilms produced by the project and made available to date.

The project has three components: (1) the development of an archival and scholarly exchange program to benefit Russian studies; (2) the preservation of approximately 25 million sheets of archival documentation on microfilm; and (3) the distribution of the microfilm for scholarly research. Rosarkhiv is producing the microfilm with financial resources provided by the Hoover Institution. The microfilm is being published by Rosarkhiv and the Hoover Institution and distributed by Chadwyck-Healey.

Rosarkhiv and the Hoover Institution have established an Editorial Board of six scholars, which has made the selection of materials for filming. Board members include three persons representing Rosarkhiv (Prof. Rudolf G. Pikhoia, Prof. Nikolai N. Pokrovskii, and Col. Gen. Dmitri Volkogonov) and three scholars representing the Hoover Institution (Dr Robert Conquest, Dr John Dunlop, and Prof. Terence Emmons). Professor Pikhoia, who is chairman of Rosarkhiv, also chairs the Editorial Board. Dr Jana Howlett, University lecturer in the Department of Slavonic Studies at Cambridge University, is the project consultant, and serves as an ex officio member of the Editorial Board.

The selection of materials for filming is based on two principal criteria. First, the project is giving priority to the records of the highest policy-making organs of the Communist Party. Second, the project is filming record series in their entirety, rather than disparate files or documents selected on the basis of subject content.

The project is intended to enhance access to the newly opened Russian archives as well as to preserve them for future research. Complete sets of the microfilm will be deposited with Rosarkhiv for use by scholars in Russia, and at the Hoover Institution for use by scholars in the United States. In addition to this catalogue, a list of materials included in the project will be posted electronically with frequent updates on the Hoover Institution's World Wide Web server.

The agreement also establishes an archival and scholarly exchange program. In exchange for microfilm of the former Communist Party archives, the Hoover Institution has made a commitment to give to Rosarkhiv a microfilm copy of all its Russian archival holdings. To the extent that resources permit, microfilms of the Communist Party archives will be deposited at the U.S. Library of Congress and the Novosibirsk Regional State Archives.

It is a pleasure to note that this entire undertaking has been made possible by the timely and generous financial support of several major donors. We gratefully acknowledge these donors and extend to them - on behalf of all scholars who now and in the future will benefit from their generosity - our appreciation and thanks. They are: The Margaret W. and Herbert Hoover, Jr. Foundation, The Sarah Scaife Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The John M. Olin Foundation, The Jaquelín Hume Foundation, and The Estelle Buel Simon Trust (Alice Phillips Rose, Trustee).

Rudolf G. Pikhoia, Prof., Dr.
Chairman, State Archival Service
of the Russian Federation

Charles G. Palm
Deputy Director, Hoover Institution,
Stanford University

March 1995

Preface to the Third Edition of the Printed Guide

It is worth noting at the outset that two of the archives featured in this catalogue have recently been renamed. The Centre for the Preservation of Contemporary Documentation (TsKhSD) has been renamed Russian State Archive of Contemporary History (RGANI), while the Russian Centre for the Preservation and Study of Documents of Most Recent History (RTsKhIDNI) has become the Russian State Archive of Social and Political History (RGASPI).

A great deal of additional material has been filmed since the publication of the First Edition of this catalogue in March 1995, with over 10,000 reels currently available. The situation with regard to the Opisi or Finding Aids remains essentially the same as in the original catalogue, the notable exception being the release by TsKhSD/RGANI of Fond 89 which contains documents from several archives which were specially declassified to be used as evidence for the so-called 'Trial of the Communist Party" in the Constitutional Court.

The filming of the Dela or Documents has continued, with more than 8,000 additional reels released since the publication of the original catalogue. These derive for the most part from the same sources as before. Notable additions from GARF are a number of Fondy containing a wealth of material pertaining to the history of the GULAG and its role in Soviet society. The publication of this material will facilitate objective analysis of this major theme of Russian historiography of the twentieth century.

March 2002

Participating Archives

The three archives represent the key archives of the Soviet State and the Soviet Communist Party.

a)Archives of the Soviet State

The State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF) was created in April 1992 from the Archive of the October Revolution (TsGAOR SSSR) and the Central Archive of the RSFSR.

The Archive of the October Revolution (TsGAOR) was set up in 1920 in order to collect documents on the history of the October Revolution and the establishment of Soviet power in the RSFSR. The core of the present collection was therefore formed from documents issued by the Military-Revolutionary Councils (MRCts), the first Congresses of the Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, the Central Executive Committee (VTsIK), the Council of People's Commissars (Sovnarkom), the Council for the National Economy (VSNKh), the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD) and other government institutions of the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic.

In 1992 TsGAOR was merged with the Central State Archive of the RSFSR. The latter had been since the early sixties the repository for the papers of the government of the RSFSR (the largest republic in the USSR) and for materials on the economy and industry of this republic. The new archive was named the State Archive of the Russian Federation.

As the list of the collections of this archive in the opisi section shows, the result is an immense wealth of political, economic, statistical and other information about the highest echelons of State administrations together with a fascinating collection of personal archives.

In 1995 a decree from President Yeltsin gave GARF the status of an 'exceptional monument of culture'.

b) The former Soviet Communist Party Archives

The Russian Centre for the Preservation and Study of Documents of Most Recent History (RTsKhIDNI) and the Centre for the Preservation of Contemporary Documentation (TsKhSD) are the two main Communist Party archives which came under the jurisdiction of Rosarkhiv in 1991.

The Centre for the Preservation of Contemporary Documentation came into being in the autumn of 1991. The core of the archive's collections consists of the working papers of the current archive of the General Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. It contains the documents of the Secretariat, departments and apparat of the Central Committee from 1953 onwards (from the XXth Party Congress). It also includes the more than 200 archives which were kept by the Central Committee in its many departments and buildings. TsKhSD is therefore a unique collection of documents on the activities of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR during the last four decades.

The Russian Centre for the Preservation and Study of Documents of Most Recent History - formerly the Central Party Archive of the Institute of Marx-Engels-Lenin attached to the Central Committee of the Communist Party - is well known to all Sovietologists. It was created in 1928 from two archives as a repository for documents tracing the history of communism as a world movement. The Archive for the History of the Communist Party (ISTPART) was formed in 1918 as an archive for documents of the October Revolution and the Civil War, as a department under the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks). The Lenin Institute and the Institute of Marx and Engels were separately founded soon after the Revolution. In 1928 the two were merged as the Institute of Marx-Engels-Lenin (IMEL) and the collections of the ISTPART were transferred to IMEL.

Organisation of material in Russian archives

Russian archives subdivide their holdings into fondy, opisi and dela.

The term fond roughly corresponds to the term collection or record group. Each fond is divided into opisi (opis=singular, opisi=plural) or record series. The material in each opis is linked by date or subject or both. Each opis contains between one and several thousand dela (delo=singular, dela=plural) or files, with 150 dela being the average.

a) Finding aids

The Russian term for finding aids - opisi - is, somewhat confusingly, identical to the term describing the first subdivision level of a fond.

The finding aids are usually introduced by information about the organisation or person which is the subject of a given collection. The information in the opisi themselves depends on the nature of the material contained in the collection. Opisi for working documents of central organisations, such as the protocols of the Politburo, contain only information about dates of sessions and numbers of pages in each protocol. In the case of protocols of subdivisions, such as subcommissions, the opisi are more informative, giving a general idea of the questions discussed.

Opisi for all other types of collections are far more detailed, providing information about the date and provenance of the material in a given collection, together with an abstract of the documents filed.

b) Documents

The NKVD fond in GARF contains nearly 5 million pages on the work of this organisation from 1917 to 1930. The NKVD is known primarily as 'Stalin's secret police', but such a description does not do justice to the extraordinary scope of the organisation's jurisdiction. The NKVD papers provide information about virtually every aspect of the life of Soviet society. The NKVD oversaw the work of local Soviets, and therefore the fond contains protocols of these organisations. Through its registration bureaux the NKVD collected materials on the issuing of passports for travel abroad, permissions for marriages between Soviet and foreign nationals, applications for Soviet citizenship, changes of name and marital status. Its policing duties including supervision of prisons, labour camps, constructions sites using forced labour, as well as the better-known counter-revolutionary and counter-intelligence duties.

Classified material

All the material microfilmed under the present project has been de-classified in accordance with the laws of the Russian Federation. Where a fond or opis contains material that has not yet been de-classified, this is stated in the list of microfilms and in a target on the microfilm itself. Material de-classified at a later date will be added to the series as it becomes available.


The Editor owes a debt of gratitude not only to Rosarkhiv and the directors of the three archives, but also to the archivists who have generously provided the information on which this catalogue is based. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mrs Liudmilla Kosheleva and Mrs Larissa Rogovaia of RTsKhIDNI, Mr. Ivan Shevchuk of TsKhSD and Mr. Evgenii Lunacharskii and Mr. Oleg Nitseevskii of GARF. I would also like to thank Mrs Natalia Volkova, who provided the original translations of most of the 2,800 titles listed in this catalogue.

Dr Jana Howlett
Jesus College

March 1995

Other collections of interest: Fond 89: The Communist Party on Trial

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