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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Archives of Russia, Eastern Europe & Eurasia: Procedures

General introduction to archival resources and terminology, with links to numerous archival institutions, descriptions of procedures, and details of guides specializing in information pertaining to archives and primary source documents in print and online

How do I request a document?

If you are interested in finding out what the working conditions are like in an archive the best thing you can do is talk with someone who has worked there recently.  Individuals file reports on working conditions, transportation, technology and many other topics.

There are a couple of websites that supply this information. For example, there is a great deal of very valuable information for preparing for your archival research trip to Russia, at the following site http://www.iisg.nl/~abb/index.php. Additionally, the following information may prove useful to researchers preparing for a trip to Russian archives. 

Research Inquiries

ArcheoBiblioBase and the Russian archival website, Portal Arkhivy Rossii, both have information on the process as does the excellent site of the School of Russian and Asian Studies.  The latter provided a sample letter for requesting access to the archives.

This same site has a section of information entitled "Field Notes" describing working conditions and preparations http://www.sras.org/library_russian_archives#Field .  This is very useful with a couple of caveats.  In most cases they advise looking at the archival guides in Russia.  This is exactly the opposite advice we would give here.   A large number of the guides can be viewed here and should be carefully examined before you ever leave the countrly.  Also pay close attention to the dates on the reports here.  The postings here are now several years old and given the rapidly changing circumstances of research in Russia, perhaps outdated.

Now how do I read this??

If you have not worked with archival materials you might want to come prepared.   Olga Glagoleva has published a book that can help you with handwriting and it can be a real problem.  Take a look at the samples she provides at http://pages.interlog.com/~moslon/olga/samples.htm

Working in the Archives

If you are planning to work in any archive be sure you have done your homework first.  Part of this is learning as much a possible about the working conditions, restrictions, necessary permissions, etc as possible in advance of your arrival.  Searching the publications of an archive can be very helpful.  It is possible and very helpful to identify published finding aids before your trip. 

It is also useful to write to the archive in advance of your trip.  You can usually find the contact information for individual archives from the regionarl archival portals available through each country's national archives page.  So for example, if you look at the home page for the national archives of Romania and click on the link for "Directii Judetene" you will see a page from which you can choose from a list of local archives.  Click on a link and you will be provided with information on the archives holdings and contact information.   The information on the holdings for most archives is presented in a pdf file.

Subject Guide

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