INSTITUTIONS OF MEMORY:
ARCHIVES AND LIBRARIES IN PRESENT-DAY RUSSIA
This special issue of the New Literary Review focuses on the profound institutional crisis in Russia’s archive and library systems, its social and cultural significance and consequences. This is a unique project. Over the last few years, Russia has seen a wealth of studies into collective historical memory, yet the institutional aspect of this problem has never yet been the subject of extensive analysis.
The issue opens with a ▒Chronicle of Recent Events’ compiled by Tatiana Volovelskaya (Russian State Library, Moscow) and Abram Reitblat (New Literary Review magazine, Moscow) with the assistance of Grigory Smolitsky (New Literary Review, Moscow). Looking at what the last ten years have brought Russian libraries and archives, the authors conclude that disasters including thefts, fires, floods and evictions by far outnumbered positive occurrences such as donations, the construction of new buildings or renovation of existing premises.
MEMORY — POWER — RESEARCH
Turning to the state of the humanities in Russia, Victor Zhivov (Institute of Russian Language, Moscow, and University of California, Berkeley) claims that the present situation is entirely different to that under the Soviet regime and in the years immediately after its demise. The Soviet authorities supported the humanities as an important ideological tool, at the same time considerably restricting the scope and freedom of research. Perestroika brought the academic community freedom and an entirely new role in society. Academics were credited with the potential to discover Russia’s true destiny and legitimise the new life and new history. The author claims that this period has ended. Having no further need of humanitarian research, the current leadership accords academia ornamental status only. In these circumstances, leading intellectuals must re-evaluate their relationship with the authorities, increase their exchange with society and create a new paradigm of survival.
In his article ▒Archives and Simplicity’, Alexei Levinson (Moscow’s Levada Centre) outlines two tendencies prevalent in contemporary Russia. The first is to be observed among the cultural minority, who tend to develop more sophisticated social communication and concepts of society, in particular, its past. The other tendency is apparent in the majority irrevocably producing increasingly primitive forms of social life and images of the past. This encourages the emergence of a mythologized history, alien to all knowledge and experience based on reliable sources such as archives.
Alexander Khryakov’s article ▒Historians under National Socialism: Victims, Sympathisers or Criminals? On the Contemporary Debate in German Historical Studies’ is devoted to the complex and ambiguous development of modern German historical disciplines. The author, a lecturer at Omsk University, examines the heated debates which blew up in the 1990s around the Nazi past of historians such as Theodor Schieder, Werner Conze and Otto Brunner who created some of the most promising schools in post-war German historiography.
In her article ▒Constructing Cultural Memory: ▒Our Past’ in Russian History Textbooks’ Galina Zvereva (Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow) examines the growth of quasi-scientific historiosophic ideas in teaching materials published over the last few years. Analysing numerous sources, Zvereva shows that, in their treatment of Russian history, liberally inclined authors as well as nationalistic writers tended unquestioningly to accept ▒Russian tradition’, ▒Russia’s unique path of civilisation’ and the dichotomy between Russia and the West as basic premises.
THE IDEOLOGY OF THE INSTITUTIONS OF MEMORY:
A SOCIOLOGICAL VIEW
This section examines Russian archives and libraries from a comparative historical perspective. Besides extracts from Peter Karstedt’s classical monograph ▒The Historical Sociology of Libraries’, this section contains the articles ▒The Birth of Public Libraries: The Politics of the Liberal Archive’ by Patrick Joyce of Manchester University, ▒Archival Action: The Archive as ROM and Its Political Instrumentalisation under National Socialism’ by Wolfgang Ernst from the Humboldt-Universität, Berlin and ▒Two Revolutions — Two Fates for Archives: On the French Revolu-tion of 1789 and the Russian Revolution of 1917’, by Yevgeny Starostin (Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow).
SOVIET HERITAGE AND THE NEW ORDER
This section opens with Lev Gudkov and Boris Dubin’s article ▒Russian Libraries and the System of Reproductive Institutions: Background and Prospects’. The authors, both from Moscow’s Levada Centre, examine research information and statistics on the current state of Russian libraries. The educated community and society at large passively adapt to the current situation in the country, with deplorable consequences. Whilst intellectuals remain heavily dependent on the state, their attitude towards the Russian authorities is one of suppressed aggression.
The main thrust of Marietta Chudakova’s article ▒In Defence of Double Standards’ is that it is vital for Russia, with its 75 years of totalitarian experience, to make widely accessible all information related to the Soviet period. This would naturally require the very principles of the archive and library systems’ functioning to be revised: these systems are still largely run using Soviet approaches and criteria. In Russia today, the application of Western standards, limiting possibilities for the disclosure and publication of 75-year-old archive materials, will serve to protect not the rights of the individual, but the ▒information security’ of the state. This is tantamount to declaring a moratorium on the competent and honest study of twentieth-century history. Chudakova, from Moscow’s Literary Institute, claims that without pressure and support from the public, Russian archives will not be made sufficiently accessible.
The section opens with Alla Keuten’s article ▒Russian Archives: On the Anatomy of Crisis’. Analysing Russian mechanisms of access to archive sources, the author, a specialist from Bremen, focuses on the conflict between historian, or user, and archivist. Within the current system, the latter is not a guide, but a kind of usurper of history. Keuten also examines the negative consequences of this approach to historical memory and its possible alternatives.
▒The task of a cinematographic museum is to fill lacunae’ — such is the title of an exchange which took place between the director of Moscow’s Cinema Museum Naum Kleiman and member of the New Literary Review editorial board Abram Reitblat (Moscow). Mr. Kleiman spoke about the aims pursued by his museum, which is simultaneously a cinema archive containing manuscripts, sketches, photos and other documents. He also touched on the legal complications which may force the museum to leave its current premises.
In her ▒Note from an Insider’, Marina Sorokina, of the Russian Academy of Sciences Archive, Moscow, explains that Russian archives are currently managed not by state bodies, but by their directors. Running the archives in accordance with the neo-conservative political market, they are frequently interested in the re-banning of declassified material.
In his article ▒Another Reflection on a Set Topic’, Nikolai Bogomolov addresses the problems facing researchers in Russian archives and libraries. A literature his-torian from Moscow State University, Bogomolov also examines the difference in attitudes towards archive work which he believes to have existed across generations of researchers.
In her article ▒To Preserve Forever?’ the director of the Russian State Archive for Literature and Art Tatiana Goryaeva (Moscow) analyses the current state of Russian archives, based on the reality of the archive she herself heads.
Margarita Samokhina’s article ▒On the Life of the Russian Libraries of Today: Notes of a Librarian and Sociologist’ examines forms and methods of modernising Russian libraries to include them in the new socio-cultural context. The author is from Moscow.
Writing for the New Literary Review in St. Petersburg, Boris Witenberg heads a memoir column. In this issue, his article ▒The Soul of the Archive’ focuses on the fate of the Russian State Historical Archive. Housed in a historic building in the heart of Russia’s former capital, the archive is due to be transferred to a St. Petersburg suburb — although the new premises have not yet been built. The present building will then be occupied by government authorities. The decision to move the archive aroused heated public debate.
THE POLICY OF OBLIVION
Vincent Duclert’s article ▒The French Archive Policy Crisis’ examines an example of public influence on France’s archive policy in the 1990s. The author, from Paris’s Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), stresses the link between the opening of the archives sensibles and the spread of discussion around some of the most difficult and painful moments in French twentieth-century history such as French people’s participation in the deportation and murder of Jews under the Vichy government and the use of torture in the Algerian struggle for independence. The problem, according to Duclert, concerns not only ▒sensitive’ archives. The legal base underpinning all archive activity in France requires revision, and administrative reform is vital. Archives should be made more transparent to promote democratic consciousness in society.
Nikita Petrov’s interview to New Literary Review editors entitled ▒An Archive Counter-Revolution’ deals with the issue of access to political history archives of the Soviet period. Petrov, of the International History and Human Rights Society ▒Memorial’, Moscow, recounted that the de-classification of documents relating to the activities of top Soviet governmental bodies was begun in the early 1990s. Soon afterwards, this process was slowed and partially halted. Many documents were briefly made officially available, only to regain their classified status — ▒temporarily’. Petrov ponders on public influence on archive activity, explains why some archivists are interested in having their documents classified and examines the shift in ▒historical consciousness’ and public opinion regarding the Soviet past throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Why is it, for instance, that the Soviet era, and Stalinism in particular, have never prompted widespread public debate with the participation of academics, as Nazi history has done in West Germany over the past few decades?
Georgy Ramazashvili (Moscow) presents his pamphlet article ▒Secrets-Shmecrets and the Battle of Kulikovo’. Ramazashvili reveals that the Defence Ministry Central Archive in Podolsk contains around 8 million archive files on the Second World War which are still classified and inaccessible to researchers. If the process of their de-classification proceeds in accordance with current legislation, it will take experts some 80 years to go through the entire corpus and make it available to researchers. Meanwhile, time is running out. Before long, all possibility of comparing archive information with eye-witness accounts will be lost forever. Thus, the author believes that the management of the military archives and Russia’s Ministry of Defence are simply not interested in a competent and detailed reconstruction of the events of World War Two.
In his article ▒A Measured Memory’, Abram Reitblat of the New Literatury Review magazine, Moscow, reviews two new books from Vladimir Kozlov — archive researcher and head of Russia’s Federal Archive Service.
OTHER REALMS OF MEMORY
The section opens with a dialogue between Moscow film critic Zara Abdullaeva and the well-known cinema and television director Vitaly Mansky. Entitled ▒We: On Chronicle and History in Documentary Film’, the debate focuses on images of history created in documentaries. Mansky and Abdullaeva discuss modern views on Soviet and Nazi documentary aesthetics, looking at Leni Rifenstahl’s work, and talk about the transformation of events when identical material is used in films with different ideological aims.
Evgeny Gruzdov, of the ▒Art of Omsk’ city museum, and Anton Sveshnikov from Omsk University present their contribution entitled ▒Going To the People-2: Working on The Dictionary of Omsk Mythology’. The article deals with areas of modern urban culture rarely researched by scholars: only occasionally do folklore experts and anthropologists delve into such matters. The starting-point for this piece was the authors’ work on the Dictionary of Omsk Mythology. This semihumorous project pins down the familiar signs of daily routine with stunning accuracy, drawing on the historical memory of townspeople as registered in the city’s toponymy, legends, symbols and signs. All this feeds the authors’ ironic reflections which fluctuate between academic study and ▒actual’ art. The appendix of course features selected articles from the Dictionary of Omsk Mythology.
Pavel Krylov, of Smolny College, St. Petersburg, devotes his article ▒Finding Historical Pitch: Paradigms of Unofficial Memory Research’ to two new areas of Russian historical science: oral history and the study of historical memory. Rather than focussing on opposing the conservative academic mainstream, as is the case with Western oral history and in many Third World countries, the author turns instead to layers of historical experience ignored and suppressed by the previous regime and ideology. Particular attention is paid to the study of memory within ethnic minorities and religious groups.
Dmitry Sporov from the Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow, presents his article ▒Voices of Bygone Days: the Collection of Viktor Duvakin’. In the late 1960s, philologist Viktor Duvakin began to collect oral reminiscences from leading figures in the arts and sciences of the first half of the twentieth century. Duvakin (1909—1982) worked at Moscow State University. His experience was truly unique. An expert on the poetry of Vladimir Mayakovsky, he involved in his project a great many famous figures of his time who, due to the constraints of that era, were unable, and did not wish, to publish or even record their memoirs: Mikhail Bakhtin, Anna Akhmatova, Roman Jakobson… The author looks into Duvakin’s biography, his choice of interlocutors and ways of working and communicating with them. The appendix contains a bibliography of the publications forming part of Duvakin’s collection, which is now kept in the Scientific Library at Moscow University.
In his article ▒The Fates of Jewish Archives in the Twentieth Century’, Leonid Katsis, from the Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow, describes the history and typology of home, or family, archives of famous twentieth-century scholars and artists, and ordinary people who wished to preserve their family history. Katsis focuses in particular on the various ways and methods of publishing and studying Jewish family archives.
Sophia Chuikina, from the St. Petersburg Centre for Independent Social Research, presents her article ▒National History and Twentieth-Century Literature Museums in Present-Day Russia: Reworking the Soviet Experience and Crisis Management Strategies’. Studying the museums of St. Petersburg and the Volga area, Chuikina looks at the different ways of working with the public adopted by formerly Soviet museums. The Soviet past is dealt with in various ways: occasionally, it is absorbed into an area’s ▒local memory’; at other times, it is shown in the everyday habits of ordinary people; sometimes, it is granted epic status through unique heroes such as Chapayev, Gorky or Sakharov or special events such as the Leningrad blockade.
NEW TECHNOLOGIES OF MEMORY
The section opens with an article by Elena Bobrova, Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow. ▒Archives via the Internet’ offers a general analysis of existing archival information resources and detailed descriptions of the most interesting archive projects in the Russian Internet. The author concludes that archive sites are not only a convenient means of communication within the archive corporation, but also an effective tool for popularising the documentary resources of a country. They can not only demonstrate these riches to any user, but also help to form the right attitude towards archives and their functions within society.
Galina Lisitsyna (European University, St. Petersburg) submits her article entitled ▒How an Archivist Can Be Modern’. This piece is devoted to the work of the Archive Training Centre at the European University in St. Petersburg, founded in 1999. The author stresses the special nature of the centre’s activity, as distinct from that of historical archive institutes and state documentation bodies. The centre works in close collaboration with civil society organisations such as Memorial and Civil Сontrol, as well as foreign colleagues and regional organisations.
Cultural sociologist Dmitry Ravinsky from the Russian National Library, St. Petersburg, writes about changing social attitudes towards libraries in the time of computers and the Internet. In his article ▒Library Prospects’, Ravinsky claims that changing circumstances have caused an exodus of readers from libraries. In these different times, the author suggests, librarians need to set different social objectives.
Ruth Wallach (University of Southern California, Los Angeles) has contributed her article ▒Out Of The Box: Current Trends in American Academic Libraries’. This essay looks at the role of libraries in preservation and access to knowledge due to changes wrought on these concepts by technological advances. It sets up a framework for the post-modernist unbundling of research hierarchies within contemporary hybrid libraries and summarizes how technologies have affected the notion of library collections and their function in a born-digital age.
Sergei Soloviev of UniversitéToulouse 3 and the Institut de Recherche en Informatique de Toulouse (IRIT) is the author of thearticle ▒The World-Wide Library and Culture of the Ephemerides’. Volatility, loss of access and corruption of data in electronic form is considered in connection with the problem of preservation of cultural heritage and the creation and management of electronic archives.
The article ▒Total Archiving Methods’ was written by two artists, Anna and Mikhail Razuvaev (Moscow). This avant-garde essay classifies the methods of archiving used when working with the Internet — e-mail, photo archives, chat rooms, blogs, and so on. The article is rounded up with a humorous utopian section, in which the authors predict the appearance of possibilities such as archiving behaviour, archiving habits and, finally, archiving all radio waves in a specially created new layer of the Earth’s atmosphere.