Государственный архив Российской Федерации (ГАРФ) / The State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF)

Author(s): Daniela Mathuber (2018) – last update: 2018-12-06

The Государственный архив Российской Федерации (ГАРФ) / State Archive of the Russian Federation’s (GARF) basic task is to store documents that have been issued by the highest legislative, executive and judicial organs since about 1800, but it owns documents of other origins as well. Among them are personal archives (of emperors and empresses, other members of the dynasty, nobles, important bureaucrats) and sources about the history of the so-called White Movement and Emigration. GARF’s collection comprises not only documents but also various types of printed publications and audio-visual material.

Besides providing access for researchers, the archive deals with requests handed in by Russian citizens to confirm details of a relative’s biography, such as detailing how the relative was decorated, suffered from Stalinist repressions, was abducted by the Wehrmacht during World War II and more.

The archive’s name changed several times and, in the second half of the 20th century, what is now today’s GARF’s collection, it is divided among several institutions. The archive was founded in 1920 as Государственный архив РСФСР (ГА РСФСР) / State Archive of the RSFSR (GA RSFSR). From 1925 it was called Архив Октябрьской Революции (АОР) / Archive of the October Revolution (AOR). From 1931 it was called Центральный архив Октябрьской Революции (ЦАОР) / Central Archive of the October Revolution (TsAOR). From 1938 it was called Центральный государственный архив Октябрьской Революции (ЦГАОР) / Central State Archive of the October Revolution (TsGAOR). From 1941-1961 it existed as the Центральный государственный архив Октябрьской Революции и социалистического строительства СССР (ЦГАОР и СС СССР or ЦГАОР СССР) / Central State Archive of the October Revolution and the Building of Socialism in the USSR (TsGAOR i SS SSSR or TsGAOR SSSR) and the Центральный государственный исторический архив в городе Москве (ЦГИАМ) / Central State Historical Archive in the City of Moscow (TsGIAM). From 1957-1992 it existed as the Центральный государственный архив РСФСР (ЦГА РСФСР) / Central State Archive of the RSFSR (TsGA RSFSR). From 1961-1992, it was known as Центральный госудраственный архив Октябрьской Революции, высших органов государственной власти и органов государственного управления СССР (ЦГАОР СССР) / Central State Archive of the October Revolution, the Highest Offices of State Power and Organs of Government of the USSR (TsGAOR SSSR). In 1992 the various institutions were united under the current name.


Postal address (main building)
лица Большая Пироговская 17 /
17 Bol’shaya Pirogovskaya Street
119435 Москва /
119435 Moscow
Российская Федерация /
Russian Federation

The visitors’ entrance (called Prokhodnaya) bears no separate address; it is located on Khol’zunova alley, just around the corner from Bol’shaya Pirogovskaya street.

Main Tel. Department of Scientific Information & Enquiries: (495) 580 87 85
Tel. Reading Room 1: (495) 580 88 66
Tel. Reading Room 2: (495) 240 33 13
Tel. Scientific Library: (495) 580 88 39

Other telephone numbers can be found on the website’s main page (see below) and under Контакты / Contacts (http://statearchive.ru/contacts.html).

Email for general inquiries: garf@statearchive.ru
Email regarding Reading Room 2: berezhki-garf@statearchive.ru
Email regarding the Scientific Library: nbgarf@statearchive.ru

Opening Hours

Reading Room 1
Main building (Corpus 2)
Monday, Wednesday 12:00 – 20:00, Tuesday, Thursday 10:00 – 17:00, Friday: 10:00 – 16:00

Reading Room 2
Address: Бережковская набережная 26, 121059 Москва /
26 Berezhkovskaya embankment, 121059 Moscow
Monday, Wednesday 10:00 – 17:00, Tuesday, Thursday 12:00 – 20:00, Friday 10:00 – 16:00

Scientific Library
Main building (Corpus 7)
Monday – Thursday 11:00 – 16:00, Friday 11:00 – 15:00

Every month on the first workday both reading rooms and the library are closed for cleaning.

Irrespectively of the fixed opening hours, one should contact the library and clarify the details of a planned visit in advance. It is recommendable to have a permit for Reading Room 1 (see below) if you would like to use the library.



How to Find the Archive Sites

Frunzenskaya is the nearest metro station to the main building. Sportivnaya is nearest to Reading Room 2. Both belong to the red line.

Buses (line M3) stop directly on Bol’shaya Pirogovskaya street.

How to Plan a Visit and to Prepare for It

There is no fixed closing period during the summer. Regarding public holidays you should bear in mind that in Russia public institutions are not only closed on the holiday itself, but for several days.

Citizens of most countries have to apply for a visa to be able to travel to Russia. In order to conduct research in a scientific library or in an archive you need a visa for “technological and scientific relations” which requires you to obtain an invitation from a research institute or a university.

It is possible to search a large part of GARF’s collection via its информационно-поисковая система / information and search system (see below). You should seize this opportunity to save time and prepare a list with the files you will need.

There are no forms for registration to print out and fill in in advance. The only thing to prepare would be the letter from the person/institution sending you (see below).

You can find almost all important information on a visit to the archive in Порядок использования архивных документах в государвственных и муниципальных архивах Российской Федерации / Regulation for the Use of Archival Documents in State and Municipal Archives of the Russian Federation (http://statearchive.ru/391). Attached to it you can find a template of the form you will have to fill in for registration.


It is possible to register by handing in a letter from the person or institution sending you (отношение) or a letter you write yourself (личное заявление). The letter from the person/institution sending you should be addressed to the archive’s head, Larisa Aleksandrovna Rogova, and contain your full name, place of work and position/place of study, academic grade, the topic and chronological boundaries of your research.

Judging by the Regulation in theory, the choice is up to you as it describes two methods without specifying in which cases it would be obligatory or at least recommendable to choose one method over another. In practice, they prefer that foreign visitors bring a letter from the person/institution sending them, but they cannot reject you if you do not have one. In any case the process of registration is more or less the same. Do not forget to bring your passport!

Take the visitor’s entrance. You find the Бюро пропусков / Office of Permits on the right-hand side. Use the white phone next to the windows to dial 861 and tell the person answering that you need a permit (propusk), because you would like to register in the archive. Now ask the lady behind the counter to your left to issue a makeshift permit (vremennyi propusk), which will expire on the same day.

Go now to the cloakroom opposite from the Office of Permits. Give the person on duty your permit first, so he/she can write down your name. Then hand in your things. You should leave as few items as possible in the cloakroom, i. e. put your scarf, umbrella, gloves and other small things in your bag or the pockets of your jacket/coat. Otherwise you will earn an impatient remark.

Show the police officer your passport and permit and then walk up the stairs in front of you. You are now in Reading Room 1, which is shared by GARF and Российский государственный архив экономики (РГАЭ) / Russian State Archive of Economics (RGAE). You can find the GARF’s counter on the right-hand side.

Tell a member of the staff that you would like to register, hand in your permit and write your name in the visitors’ book resting on the counter. If you have a letter from the person/institution sending you, hand it in as well. If you do not have one, the member of staff will give you a sheet of paper to write a letter to the archive’s head. A template for this letter is displayed in a plastic folder at the counter directly above the staircase. It is not possible to take the template away, so either you take a photograph of it or copy it while standing there. When you are finished, hand in the letter at the GARF’s counter.

Open now the GARF’s information and search system at one of the computers and click on the button for registration. Fill in the form and return to the counter. You have to sign a printout of the registration form. In the printout’s right upper corner, you will see a six digit-number. Write it down and keep it carefully, because you need it for ordering files. After you have signed the printout, you are registered and can fill in the first order for documents (trebovanie; see below).

Your permanent permit (postoyannyi propusk) will be ready in the Office of Permits after two days. It will expire at the end of the current year.

Reading Rooms

Reading Room 1 is for registration and studying files on the history of the Russian Empire, the White Movement and Emigration, the USSR and the Russian Federation.

Reading Room 2 is for studying files on the history of the RSFSR.

The Scientific Library owns 20th-century printed publications, among them official publications of party and state organizations, books, newspapers and magazines, posters and leaflets. Most of them are of Soviet origin (various languages), but there are also foreign/emigré publications.

Rules and Regulations in the Reading Rooms

Allowed in the reading rooms are personal belongings, writing utensils, all kinds of notes and copies, all kinds of printed publications, laptops and other electronic devices (sound and flash switched off). You should store your things in transparent bags not larger than 20 ‧ 30 cm. Not allowed are food, drinks and street clothes. The members of staff are quite tolerant regarding bags and other working equipment (at least in comparison with the rules spelled out in the Regulation), but they decidedly do not like street clothes.

Every time you work in one of the reading rooms you have to write your name in the visitors’ book and hand in your permit at the counter. Then a member of staff will give you the files. When you receive them for the first time, you have to sign them off on the order. When you leave, bring the files back to the counter, tell the member of staff if you are finished with them (сдать) or still need them (оставить) and get your permit back.

You can order files only in one of the reading rooms. To fill in an order, log yourself in at one of the computers by entering your registration number and clicking вход в архив / entrance to the archive. The information and search system appears exactly in the same form as it is on the website (see below): At first you select a chronological unit, then choose between documents issued by government offices and documents from personal archives and narrow your search further by selecting subdivisions. When you reach the last subdivision of one category, a list with the fonds belonging to it will appear. The fonds are divided into sections (ekspeditsii) and years, clicking on a year opens a list with files. Clicking on a file usually does not provide any additional information besides the amount of pages. If you already know which fond you need you can shorten the process of clicking yourself through the system by entering its number in the search field.

After you have finally found an interesting file, you can select it by ticking it off and then clicking добавить в избранное / add to selection. At this step there is no restriction on the total amount of files, but unfortunately you can only select one file after the other and have to begin each time anew with selecting a chronological unit.

Under избранное / selection you see a list with all of the files you have selected so far. It will also be saved in your account after you have logged yourself out. Select the files you would like to order this time by ticking them off and then clicking запросить дело / request a file. Here you can select all of the files that you would like to order at the same time.

The are several restrictions on the amount of files. You can order in one day

  • for documents issued by government offices, a maximum of 20 files with a total number of pages that does not exceed 1500 pages or one file with more than 1500 pages
  • for documents from personal archives, a maximum of 20 files with a total number of pages that does not exceed 500 pages or one file with more than 500 pages
  • a maximum of ten pieces of audio-visual material and digital files
  • for some fonds, there exist additional restrictions, such as with fond 109 (the Third Section) you can order a maximum of only five files a day, regardless of the total number of pages

After clicking запросить дело / request a file you can see the details of your order. The system tells you immediately if there is a problem with it (too many pages, too many files, someone else already ordered some of the files) and also how many files/pages you could still add.

When everything is fine, click оформить требование / hand in the order. Enter your registration number again, log yourself out by clicking выход / exit and go to the counter. The order will be printed out, then you have to write the topic of your research on the order form and sign it. If you order files from different fonds or from different sections of one fond at the same time, there will be as many printouts to sign as there are fonds/sections in the order.

Most files will be ready after three days, i. e. an order from Monday will be ready on Thursday. Making ready an order for (partly) closed files or files in foreign languages can take up to ten days.

Most files will be stored in the reading rooms for 20 workdays, especially valuable ones only for 10 workdays. Should you, for whatever reason, be unable to visit the reading room during that period you can ask the members of staff to keep the files longer.

It is strictly forbidden to take photos of originals on your own, but no one cares if you take photos of files displayed on a computer or a microfilm reader. Besides that, it is possible to order copies made by members of staff. All services offered for payment are listed here: http://statearchive.ru/422 The price for one fotocopy in format A4 is 40 roubles (about 0,50 €). To hand in an order for copies, you have to fill in a form by hand (available in the reading rooms) and hand it in at the counter when you return (сдать) the originals.

There are two factors you should take into account before you decide to hand in an order for copies. As far as I have heard, for foreign visitors, it is quite complicated to pay for services. If you have neither a person of trust in Moscow, nor know someone who will travel there in the near future, you had better forget about it. Besides that, service is slow. You have to be prepared to wait for weeks or even months anyway. However, at the moment (November 2018), there is even a warning in the reading rooms that there may be a delay because there are so many orders for copies.

According to the Regulation (chapter 3.2) it is possible to access (partly) closed files or files which are still protected by personal rights, copyright, etc. if a certain period of time has passed and/or you obtain the written permission to use them from the person/institution entitled by law to do so. I cannot tell what the situation is like in practice, because I have only worked with documents from the 19th century so far.

There is no information on the website as to how to obtain the permission to use copies as illustrations or cover for a publication.

Archive Databases and Online Finding Aids

You can find digital information and search system here: http://statearchive.ru/383. It does not (yet) cover GARF’s whole collection. One can tell from the files’ continuous numbers that several of them are simply missing. Besides that, the system’s structure does not tell which fonds have not yet been added. So if files from the GARF make up a substantial part of your sources, you should also turn to printed finding aids. A complete list of them you find here: http://portal.rusarchives.ru/federal/garf/nsa1.shtml. Some finding aids are linked with a digital copy, but not all of these links are working.

The GARF’s website provides access to a few digitized 20th-century files:

Practical Advice

  • The GARF shares the building complex (dubbed архивный городок / archival town not only with RGAE, but also with Российский госудраственный архив древних актов (РГАДА) / Russian State Archive of Ancient Acts. Common to all three archives are the visitors’ entrance and the Office of Permits, and the rules are quite similar. However, you have to register separately in each archive.
  • The heating season usually starts around October 10th. Depending on the weather the reading rooms can be quite cool before that. When heated, they are not too warm either.
  • You can find a vending machine and a cash dispenser you find in the visitors’ entrance. On Khol’zunova alley and next to Frunzenskaya station there are restaurants, supermarkets, several small shops and bakeries, plus even a small shopping centre called K24.

Citation Suggestion

Mathuber, Daniela: Государственный архив Российской Федерации (ГАРФ) / The State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), in: ESE Archives Guide: A Web Guide to East and Southeast European Archives, 2018 (2018-12-06), http://www.ese-archives.geschichte.uni-muenchen.de/?p=1181.

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