Russian State Archive of Social and Political History
- Location and Contact Details
Address: ul. Bolshaia Dmitrovka, 15
Metro: Okhotnyi riad/ Tverskaia Located in a conveniently central location, the nearest metro stations are Okhotnyi riad or Tverskaia.
If coming out of Okhotnyi Riad, turn right as you exit (turning your back to Red Square), and walk up the gradual slope of Bolshaia Dmitrovka. You will pass a theatre and even a Louis Vuitton on your way, and RGASPI will appear on your left. It’s a suitably ugly building, but is more recognisable for having massive carvings of the faces of Lenin, Marx and Engels on the façade.
Phone: (495) 629-97-26
Fax: (495) 692-90-17
Archive director: Andrei Konstantinovich Sorokin
Chief archivist: Irina Nikolaevna Selezneva
Opening Hours: Monday: 1200 – 2000
Tuesday and Thursday: 1200 – 1700
Wednesday: 1000 – 1730
Friday: 0930 — 1600
The archive is closed in August, and sometimes a few weeks before and after that month.
- How to Register
On your first visit, enter the main lobby and walk to the far end of the room, to the right of the steps, where there is a small table with an ancient telephone on it. You must phone reading room number 1 (the number should be written there. You will then, for reasons unknown, be asked not only your name, what university you’re from, but also your tema. You then need to attract the guard’s attention in the glass box (shouting/waving etc) who will pick up the extension handset and receive instructions to let you through the turnstile. Once through the turnstile you will be faced with an exciting statue of Lenin! Turn right and walk into the next room. Then turn left and through a door and you will come to a lift on the left wall. In days past, this was a thrill-ride of a lift, with clunking buttons and safety instructions addressed to ‘Comrades!’. However, there is now a new lift, which is shiny but slow; the lack of speed may perhaps be forgiven, as you’re more likely to not to die in this lift than you were in its predecessor. Go up to the 5th floor, and upon exiting the lift turn right and you’ll reach the reading room. Sign your name in the large book immediately in front of you, on a low table. You will be given questionnaires to fill out. For reasons known only to themselves, this archive wants the number of your registration in the city, but if you don’t have it to hand you can do it next time. You will be directed (with some force) through the rest of the procedure. A propusk should then be issued to you right away; this, in future, is what you show to the guard.
- How to Order Material
Ask Misha in the reading room for an order form (trebovanie). Fill it in being careful to write the dela numbers in ascending numerical order or Misha will make you do it again. There is an example trebovanie which you can ask to see, just to be on the safe side. The average wait is 3 days; sometimes files arrive sooner. The maximum order is 10 files, or whatever Misha decides on that day (if you’re ordering microfilm the limit seems to be practically infinite). If you are ordering dela from Stalin’s fond (f.558), you should be able to see this immediately on one of the computer terminals; on those same terminals, you can access the archive of the Comintern. Needless to add, Misha will show you how to use the system, no matter how many times you may have used it before.
- Reading Room Practices, General Hints and Tips
The tables near to the archivists are for consulting the opisi. To see any of the opisi you must ask Misha, who will bring them to you. If you want to read what each opis’ is, it is advisable to do this online because standing near the cabinets of the opisi considering the information sheets makes Misha nervous. RGASPI’s website includes a list of fondy and opisi which will give you some sense of where to begin. The raised platform in the reading room is where you consult hard copies of files, and the lower level is where you can find the microfilm readers. There are no sockets for laptops on the upper level, unfortunately, though there are, of course, in the microfilm room. The process for collecting your files is quite intricate. Firstly, every time you arrive in the reading room you must take a numbered key (from a basket on the archivists’ desk) for a locker in the corridor outside. You must sign this key out using the ledger provided, and sign the key back in at the end of the day. The locker is for your bag and coat. After you’ve made your first order and have files to collect, you must ask the archivists what the number of your lichnyi konteiner is and then take the correspondingly numbered key from the glass-doored cabinet on the wall next to the archivists’ desk. You must then ask them for the ‘kubik’ – a plastic red cube to which is attached the key to the storage room. This room is immediately to the left as you exit the reading room, wherein there are various numbered cabinets. Find yours and take your files - then, Misha prefers you to immediately return both the kubik and your cabinet key. You will then have to show the archivists what your files are, and they will write them down in a ledger. You have to sign your name next to each of these to show you’re using them. Each time you finish a file you should hand it back to them, whereas files you want to keep for another day should be returned to the lichnyi konteiner (this is different to other archives, where they only want you to return things once you have used all items in the original order).
Once you have got to know Misha you can easily learn to work with him and he is extremely knowledgeable about the archive and its holdings. When you first arrive he will present you with some opisi related to your tema, in his opinion. Don't dismiss his suggestions until you've looked through these opisi as he can often provide you with some unexpected avenues of enquiry, however bizarre it might seem at first. Misha will also guide you carefully through all the admin processes necessary when you first arrive. You will be guided through the process on subsequent occasions too, even though you may remember the process - and this is simply how it is done at this archive.
The toilets are to the left as you exit the lift. They're actually fine and sometimes even have toilet paper in(!). There is a stolovaia, which you can access either by leaving the main building and walking around the side of it (if you're facing the building, this is the road to the left of it), or by asking for an access card from the archivists. In exchange for your propusk, they will give you a plastic card which opens a connecting door between the archive and this stolovaia-cum-restaurant. Said door is to the left as you walk through the turnstile by the guard post; follow the corridor round until you see a door with a few steps leading up to it. Use your card, and enter the unexpected opulence of the stolovaia. This place is quite expensive for a stolovaia, however (expect 300r. or more for lunch). The benefit is that it's rather fancy and shows classic Soviet movies on a big screen. In the entrance lobby of the building there is a ROSSPEN bookshop. This is a brilliant little shop full of published document collections, monographs and so forth. It’s definitely worth a look, and prices for their own range are effectively 50% lower than in ordinary bookshops. Payments are cash only.
Have you visited this archive?
Have you visited this archive?
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