In light of the suspension of international travel and difficulty of conducting archival research during the pandemic, the Peripheral Histories? team have compiled a list of digital collections and accurate information about ordering archival files remotely. If you have information to share, please email or reach out to us on Twitter @peripheralhist
Disclaimer: The information presented here is accurate at the time of posting (September 2020), but is subject to change.
Online Collections – Open Access
The Blavatnik Archive holds 1200 video interviews with Russian Jewish men and women who fought during WW2.
Russian Geographical Society (Library)
Herder-Institut (Various documents and materials relating to East Central Europe)
Digital archive (DIGAR) of the Estonian National Library (digital collections and newspapers)
Slavonic Library at the National Library of Finland (a limited number of digital collections)
Databases – Subscription
Archives – Online Collections or How to Order Documents from Afar
Scans of archival documents can be ordered from the National Historical Archives of Belarus (NIAB) by emailing an application form to the archive. You need to specify the archival reference and exact page numbers of the documents you want. The process takes 1-2 weeks and when the documents are ready you are emailed an invoice and a link to pay online. Full instructions here.
German Federal Archive (BA)
The German Federal Archive system has a few collections that are digitized and available for access on their website, for example a series of documents related to the Soviet Military Administration/Soviet Occupation Zone.
Some German archives offer to send PDFs or your own copy of microfilm or microfiche for money despite this not being listed on their websites. Reach out to any archive with materials of importance for you and ask if it is possible to pay for copies. Archivists are often willing to send these resources if the researcher expresses a willingness to pay for the documents. Prices are extremely reasonable.
Archives in Estonia have been centralized under one administration, the National Archives of Estonia. The virtual reading room (VAU) has a range of different digital sources, including archival documents, photos, and audiovisual collections.
Digital copies of archival materials can also be ordered online. The cost is €0.40 per side (up to A2 size) and you can pay online. You can search the document collections in all the archives in Estonia through the centralised electronic archive catalogue (AIS). The main languages of the fond titles are Estonian, Russian or German, depending on the topic/period. Full instructions in English for how to place an order for scans be found here.
Digital copies of archival materials can be ordered by emailing either the Latvian State Archive (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the Latvian State Historical Archive (email@example.com). The cost is €3.39 per one side of a page and you can pay online. You will need to know the document’s classification to order (f., apr., l., lp.). You can see the document collections held at Latvian archives by searching this database (in Latvian only).
Estonia-Latvia-Russia Cross-Border E-Archive
This portal provides online access to a selection of 19th-century documents from archives in Estonia, Latvia, and Russia (church books, student files, and maps). The geographical focus is on present-day Estonia and Latvia, as well as St. Petersburg, Pskov region, and Leningrad region in the Russian Federation.
You can search the archival holdings for all Lithuanian archives using this central database.
Lithuanian State Historical Archive
Digital copies can be ordered by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The price per page depends on the age of the document, but it is usually around €0.30 per image. You can see a full price list here (in Lithuanian).
Lithuanian Central State Archive
Digital copies of archival documents can be ordered at a cost of €0.90 per page. Contact email@example.com to order your digital copies and to receive information on making the appropriate payments.
(Information provided by John Vsetecka)
Almost all of the archives in Ukraine (listed here) have online descriptions of their fonds. The new website for the Ukrainian archive system is in test mode, so not all features work as they should. The site is helpful for those looking to navigate the archive system in English, but one will find much more material by reverting the website back to the “old version” by clicking on this feature on the top right corner of the page. From there, a new tab will open with the old version of the archive website. This, too, is in English, and is helpful for early navigation. You can find a list of the central state archives and regional state archives by clicking on the “Archives in Ukraine” link on the left-hand side of the page.
From there, you can navigate all of the archives’ websites. Many of them have online descriptions and histories of their collections. This will help researchers to pinpoint specific files, although online descriptions and file numbers do not always correlate to what is actually in the archive. That being said, most archivists will help you locate what you need, and you can reach out to them via emailing the archive in question directly. Depending on the archive, you will need to fill out a request form for the documents that you need. The cost of digital documents varies from archive to archive.
Each archive has its own webpage, where you can find information relating to their specific policies. These websites also have online “exhibits” (vystavky). These are usually organized around an important topic in Ukrainian history and culture, and a number of documents (with citations) are listed with each. You can often download copies of these documents for your own use.
Online archives and repositories
I also want to list a couple of other valuable online archives and repositories for those looking to work with documents relating to Ukraine.
The first is the Ukrainian Liberation Movement Online Archive (find it here). The site is in Ukrainian and boasts an incredible number of documents pertaining to all periods of Ukrainian history. You can search by keyword or phrase, and the site will even recommend some categorical search phrases after you type your interests into the search box. You can break down your search further by date, location, etc.
The last one that I will plug here is Libraria (find it here). Libraria is the Ukrainian Online Periodicals Archive. Here, researchers can search numerous periodicals, newspapers, and other relevant sources. The site can be navigated in English or Ukrainian, and one can search for terms in English, Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, German, Romanian, and more.
Ordering Russian Archival Documents from Abroad
The service Remote Russian Research offers different types of plans for conducting remote access to PDFs from Russian archives. They offer to handle the paperwork to pay for your documents in Russia or to handle the payment and all communications with the archive about your documents.
You can read thousands of open-access archival documents from hundreds of different archives, including the Russian State Archive of Contemporary History (RGANI) and the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF) on the Electronic Library of Historical Documents website.
Archive services in St Petersburg are centralised and you can find information about the structure and fondi of each archive on their website. You can also find a centralised keyword-searchable database of all archival documents held in the city here. Archives in St Petersburg have also digitised specific collections that can be accessed remotely for a small fee here.
Information on other Russian cities to follow
The ‘Russian Perspectives on Islam’ project hosts an anthology of documents from the Central Historical Archives of Georgia and the State Historical Archives of the Republic of Azerbaijan related to the institutionalization of Islam in the Transcaucasian provinces.
Information on archives to follow
(Information provided by Zukhra Kasimova)
The website of the manuscript collection of Kyrgyzstan’s Academy of Sciences has digital copies of numerous materials from their collections.
The Uzbek National Library has digitised some issues of Soviet-era newspapers, including Правда Востока.
You can also search the holdings of various Uzbek archives and museums here (in Russian).
Information on archives in Central Asia to follow
Contributors: Susan Grunewald, Catherine Gibson, Siobhán Hearne, Jo Laycock, Alun Thomas, John Vsetecka, Zukhra Kasimova.