Central Archive of Historico-Political Documents of St Petersburg
- Location and Contact Details
Address: 191015, Saint Petersburg, Tavricheskaia ul. 39
The nearest metro station is Chernyshevskaia, on the red line, though this is actually not very close. On exiting the metro onto the street, turn right and walk onwards until you reach the final street you can turn right onto before you would end up on the riverfront. Walk along this street (that is, parallel but not on the riverfront) for about 15 minutes and as the Smolnyi begins to hove into view, you will find a hideous building appear on your right, with an open courtyard in front of it featuring a head-and-shoulders bust of a military looking man with a fine moustache. This is the archive. The building, not the moustache.
Phone: (812) 271-39-73; Reading Room: (812) 274-10-66
Archive director: Vladimir Vladimirovich Taradin
Chief archivist: Natalia Viktorovna; there are two Natalia Viktorovnas, in fact, which makes things easier on the name-remembering front.
Opening Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday: 1000- 1600
Sanitarnyi days are not entirely predictable, but the archivists display a sign on their desk for a few days before one happens – keep your eyes peeled! The archive is closed in August.
- How to Register
Speak to the guard at the desk next to the entrance. Explain that you want to work in the reading room and they will phone up to the archivists. Someone will then come to meet you, take you up to the reading room, read your letter and speak to you about your research. Your propusk will be left for you to collect at the guard’s post at some point – it might take a couple of weeks to appear, so up until then you have to ask the guards to phone the reading room each time you want to work there, or (more likely) they will recognise you and just let you through.
- How to Order Material
Order forms are on the archivists’ desk at the front of the reading room. If you order on Monday, your files arrive (probably) on Thursday. If you order on Thursday, probably Wednesday and so on. You can order about 10 files a day, though the archivists tend to get vexed if these are large files which means more work for them reading through each file before giving it to you.
- Reading Room Practices, General Hints and Tips
To reach the reading room, you walk across the circular entrance hall and up the stairs opposite the main door. At the top of the steps you turn right and it’s the first door on your right, labelled with opening hours, etc. The reading room is quite large and there are sockets for laptops, though you often need a good amount of cable to reach them (the archivists will give you an extension cable if you ask nicely). The atmosphere is quite relaxed in this archive and nothing is overly formal. However, this is combined with a rather lethargic approach to work – no one is in a rush in St Petersburg except you. The reading room is very easy to fall asleep in. The archive is extremely restrictive in what you can, or rather can't, see. This archive is essentially the former Party archive of the Leningrad region, but unlike its equivalent in Moscow (RGASPI), this archive seems to have tightened up a lot more since the early 1990s, and if you intend to work with the special sector/NKVD materials (fondy 24 and 25), you will face significant access problems. By default, if something is not marked as 'declassified', then it is probably classified and you won't be able to see it. The archivists may simply deny you access or will cover certain pages which paper and paperclips, making them utterly impenetrable. Much of these restrictions relate to a rolling 75-year classification rule, so if you are researching the 1930s, this should theoretically all be open by 2016. This archive building also houses a large collection of photographic and film material. There is no stolovaia in the archive, but on the other side of the road, near to (believe it or not) the water museum, there is one. It isn’t very attractively priced, but ask one of the archivists to explain how to get there. Otherwise, take a packed lunch!