Author(s): Ruslan Mitrofanov (2018) – last update: 2018-04-26
The Российский государственный исторический архив (Rossiyskiy Gosudarstvennyy Istoricheskiy Arkhiv) / The Russian State Historical Archive (RGIA) is the largest archive in Russia and one of the largest in Europe. It holds more than seven million items documenting particularly the history of the Russian Empire. The RGIA is the object of UNESCO’s attention and the heritage of all humankind. By the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of November 6, 1993, the RGIA is included in the state code of particularly valuable objects of the cultural heritage of the peoples of the Russian Federation.
A large number of archival depositories include state correspondence between the administrative and state institutions of the Russian Empire for 300 years of its existence. This is a tremendous amount of information on the implementation of institutional projects in the empire; the functioning of state institutions (depositories of collegiums, ministries and their departments; zemstvo (self-government) and district institutions; municipal dumas; welfare and medical institutions; congresses of political parties, scientific organizations, charities and more; and their history. Geographical coverage includes the former territories of the Russian Empire: the governorates of Western and Central Europe, Siberia, Far and Middle Asia dominions. The archive contains thematic catalogs on depositories of personal origin, geographical areas, state institutions, photo and audio documents. All thematic catalogs are presented only in the reference library of the archive, and not all of them are available online.
Российский государственный исторический архив (РГИА) / Russian State Historical Archive (RGIA)
Заневский проспект, 36 /
Zanevskiy Prospekt 36
195112 Санкт-Петербург /
195112 St. Petersburg
Российская Федерация /
Archival information: tel. +7 (812) 438-55-20 / reading room: +7 (812) 438-55-54
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org / reading room: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Office hours: Monday to Thursday 10:00-17:15, Friday 10:00-16:15 (closed every last Friday of the month)
How to find the Archive sites
To access specific directions and explore an interactive map, visit Maps & location sketches.
How to plan and to prepare a visit
Before visiting the Archive, it is necessary to familiarize yourself with the “Procedure for the Use of Archival Documents in the Reading Room of the RGIA,” approved on October 31, 2014 (in Russian): http://fgurgia.ru/file/655358577?attrId=10251&serialNum=1
All depositories of the archive are available to researchers, except the following listed here: http://fgurgia.ru/file/1588570584?attrId=10251&serialNum=1 (last updated on 03/07/2018)
In order to gain access to archival sources in the reading room, you need to obtain a pass to the archive. The pass is registered in the Information Center of the archive (1st floor, room 111). To receive a pass, you should bring with you the official letterhead of the institute directing you addressed to RGIA’s present director, Chernyavsky Sergey Vladimirovich/Чернявский Сергей Владимирович, as well as the deputy director, Miletin Evgeniy Mikhailovich/Милетин Евгений Михайлович. The letter should consist of your data (name, surname), your institutional/working position, a topic of study and the title of scientific research (if applicable) and the purpose of visiting the archive.
In order to obtain a reader’s pass, you need to bring following documents:
- Official letter from the sending organization (as graduate student)
- Color photograph (3 x 4 cm).
In the reading room, there are two spacious halls. The first one is located on the first floor and the second on the balcony. The rooms can accommodate about 100 – 150 people. In the reading room, there is also a separate room of microfilm designed for 20 people, but in the general reading room microfilm machines are available for readers as well. There is also the smallest hall for 8 to 10 people, designed for special unstitched sources. Finding out what kind of sources you have (unstitched or ordinary) is possible only when they are received in the reading room. Keep in mind that usually after lunch the hall for unstitched sources is completely occupied, so if you have them, it is better to work in the morning. There are no queues for work with ordinary sources and microfilms in the hall, however in the summer (May-July), a large number of readers work here, so the most favorable time for work in the archive is autumn through spring. In the general reading room, there are also computers for working with digitized files. In your personal account, you will be able to get information in advance about whether the source is digitized or not. However, digitized files are not available for remote access. You can work with them only in the reading room of the archive.
Reading Room Rules and Regulations
All readers have free access to visit the reading room on the working days of the archive upon receipt of a pass (see point 5 and 6). There are no additional registrations or waiting hours for work in the reading room. After receiving a reader’s pass in room 111, the reader must exchange it for a special leaflet to get access to the reading room. Upon exiting the archive, the reader returns said leaflet to the archivist in the same room and the pass is returned. Keep in mind that if you need to leave the reading room (except for going to the toilet, dining room and other rooms in the archive), then you need to put a special seal on said leaflet. An employee of the archive provides the seal when you return your sources. Please note that absence of a seal in the leaflet or its loss upon departing may result in suspension from working in the archive for up to 3 months!
Readers have the right to bring their own technical devices (laptops, tablets, photo cameras, etc.) to the reading room, but they require a separate special pass, again attained from the room 111. Without this document, access to the reading room with reader’s own technical devices (except mobile phone and smartphone) is prohibited.
In accordance with “Order of the Federal Archival Agency of September 1, 2017 N 143 “On Approving the Procedure for the Use of Archival Documents in State and Municipal Archives of the Russian Federation” (http://rulaws.ru/acts/Prikaz-Rosarhiva-ot-01.09.2017-N-143/) independent and free photographing of archival sources by reader’s own technical devices is applicable only for digitized sources and for microfilms. Self-photographing of original media (paper-based sources) is prohibited. For photographing sources, the reader has to order a special photocopying service in the reading room of the archive.
The following link contains a list of prices for payable services (in Russian): http://fgurgia.ru/file/1598985448?attrId=10251&serialNum=1
There are no any restrictions on the availability of sources for foreigners (last update: April 2018).
Since September 1, 2015, all archive files are processed electronically through the reader’s personal account on the archive’s website. Cases ordered through the personal account before 5 p.m. local time are processed within three working days and are available for work in the reading room on the 2nd or 3rd working day. Cases ordered after 5 p.m. local time are processed within four working days. The status of the order is shown in the personal account. Thus, three to four days before arriving in St. Petersburg, all sources can be ordered in advance.
Archive databases & Online finding aids
- Archival Depositories Explorer (Putevoditel po fondam).
- List of inventories (Reestr opisei)
- List of inventories (from the old website; including scans)
- If you require advice on how to enter Russia, please visit the Russian Visa Requirements page. Specific to Europe, Russian consulates take 3 to 10 business days for the visa processing. In addition, Russian visas issued by the consulates in Europe may have a five day “waiting period” on entering Russia, i.e. the person cannot travel to Russia for at least 5 days after the visa is issued.
- The closest metro station is “Ladozhskaya”.
- The archive has wardrobes, as well as shelves for personal storage. However, as mentioned earlier, all necessary things need to be taken to the reading room with you in advance. Again, every time you leave the reading room, you will need to put a seal in your leaflet due to archive’s internal regulations.
- You can bring water to the reading room, but you cannot drink there. Water is left in a special locker. You can take it away and drink in the corridor near the reading room. You are not allowed to bring snacks to the reading room. However, you can take full lunch in the archive’s cafeteria for reasonable prices (approximately 4-5 EUR).
- Most employees of the archive do not speak English fluently.
- In the archive, itself there is an ATM of the “Sberbank,” where you can withdraw money and pay for photocopying/other services of the archive.
- At Ladozhskaya metro station there is a big shopping center and a pharmacy.
- The cost of an apartment 10 minutes from the metro station Ladozhskaya by AIRBNB will cost approximately 25 – 40 euros per night.
- AS mentioned earlier, photographing of archival sources by reader’s own technical devices is applicable only for digitized sources and for microfilms. Self-photographing of original media (paper-based sources) is prohibited. For photographing the sources, the reader has to order a special photocopying service in the reading room of the archive.