Local historians, scientists and guides are against: moving Tatarstan State Archive out of the city threatens a scandal

From the centre of Kazan to Stolbische: who benefits from it?

The confrontation between the State Archive of the Republic of Tatarstan and its visitors has reached a new level: scientists, local historians, and guides have begun to collect signatures under a collective letter to Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov, and the chairman of the State Committee of Tatarstan on Archival Affairs, Gulnara Gabdrakhmanova, called their claims “nonsense”. However, now a meeting is planned where the parties will try to agree.

“There's not enough space anymore”

Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov has inspected the buildings of the State Archive of the Republic of Tatarstan. Earlier it was announced that by December 15, the premises on Sibirsky Tract and 8 Marta Street will be vacated — specialists and funds are moving to the village of Stolbische in the Laishevsky district, 25 kilometres from the current office.

“The archive is spread across the city, one building is located on the territory of an outside organization," said the director of the State Archive of the Republic of Tatarstan, Ildar Shafikov. “There's not enough space anymore. Since there was a special building built for the archive, it was given to our archive.”

The building in Stolbische is 15,000 square metres. The current archive repositories, for comparison, are 10,000 square metres. The complex was completed in January, and now it has been given to new owners, because the current management of Rosreestr had the idea to completely switch to electronic document management.

The archives from 8 Marta Street and the archive of audiovisual documents on Sibirsky Tract will first move to the new premises, and then — the storages on Kremlevskaya Street, as well as one building on Dekabristov Street. The new branch of the second building on Dekabristov 4 will remain — because it is more convenient for executive authorities. In addition to personal access, the function of remote reading room remains.

“The archive of the republic should be located in the capital of the republic, that is, in Kazan”

In response to the decision to relocate the State Archive in Kazan, a collective letter has been prepared to the president of Tatarstan, in which “the community of urban scientists, local historians, and guides is concerned and expresses alarm that archival sources will be unavailable for research work”. The authors point out that the new location is inaccessible to a significant part of the users of the archive funds. The existing bus stop is 3 kilometres away from the building.

“We understand that the decision to move the archive has a reasoned basis, and the digitisation of the archive funds is underway. However, the digitalisation of the funds is a work for decades, and research work cannot be interrupted even for a year. Until the indicator of 100% of digitised materials of the funds is reached, permanent access to paper documents must be provided for users, it is necessary to organise free access through the ESIA," the letter says.

Scientists and local historians ask Rustam Minnikhanov to instruct the head of the State Archive to “develop an organisational plan to preserve the availability of paper funds and optimise the work with ordering certificates, involving representatives of scientific, cultural and local history communities.”

Some of the signatories of the letter shared their opinions with Realnoe Vremya:

“The fact that the archive is closed and moved to Stolbische is a tragedy! Only with the complete restoration of the chronological chain of historical events and changes in the development of the city and architecture of Kazan, it is possible to develop a high-quality and full-fledged project. The lack of access to information is tantamount to the destruction of restoration school in our city, mediocre attitude to monuments. The less information architects-restorers can collect, the higher the probability of a decline in the quality of cultural heritage object restoration in general is!”

“The project of restoration of cultural heritage objects is always accompanied by scientific historical and archival research and work in the archive. Students-architects of the Department of Restoration at the Kazan State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering must have experience working in the archive in the educational process. The remoteness and inaccessibility of the archive funds put the teaching methodology among students in jeopardy, which will affect the quality of education and research work on the study of historical and cultural heritage in general among young people. “When collecting archival materials on the object of restoration, a lot of time is spent, some materials remain unread, this greatly hinders making the right decision during restoration.”

“Amazing discoveries very often await us in the archive. We waited a month to sign up just to write out archival files, and now we don't know at all when we will look through the necessary files.”

“The archive of the republic must be located in the capital of the republic, that is, in Kazan! Not in a village on the outskirts of the city! The attitude to archives is the attitude to history. It is impossible to expel Tatar history from Kazan!”

“I have no idea how we will get to the archive now and how I will personally study the history of Kazan ethnography," complains Yelena Gushchina, the director of the Ethnographic Museum of the Kazan Federal University.

“I share everyone's concern," said Eduard Khayrullin, the deputy head of the Republican Agency of the Republic of Tatarstan for Press and Mass Communications Tatmedia.

Now he is actively engaged in the archive of the recently deceased local historian Lev Zharzhevsky, who shortly before his death wrote on Facebook: “Very unpleasant news, my attitude is the most negative. This will be a big obstacle for the survey work. Especially for those who spend a long time working in archives. That is, a lot of researchers will be cut off from regular work in the archives.”

A concrete example of his work was given by Dmitry Martynov, Professor of the Department of Altaic Studies and Sinology, head of the RFBR project on the History of Russian Oriental Studies at the Institute of International Relations of the KFU, who, with colleagues, has been publishing unpublished diaries of outstanding Turkologist Nikolay Fedorovich Katanov since 2013. With the support of the president of the Republic of Tatarstan, the leadership of Khakassia and the KFU, a volume of 85 printed sheets was published reproducing the diary of the scientist's journey to Southern Siberia, Semirechye and East Turkestan in 1890.

“In addition to that further work was interrupted due to the epidemic, the relocation of the archive threatens just to its cessation," says the professor. “Katanov's diaries record the cultural and religious situation in Xinjiang at the end of the 19th century, the relations between the Chinese and Muslim population, contain a huge layer of folklore materials in Uyghur, Kazakh and Uzbek languages. Without working with the original materials, the continuation of the project will be physically impossible.”

“The new building in Stolbische will be gorgeous”

Gulnara Gabdrakhmanova was appointed Chairman of the State Committee of the Republic of Tatarstan for Archival Affairs in May 2018. Previously, she served as Deputy Minister of Education and Science of the Republic of Tatarstan. In the archive, she replaced Irada Ayupova, who headed the Ministry of Culture.

Commenting on the appeal of scientists to the president, Gabdrakhmanova said: “This is all nonsense.” She stressed that “the new building in Stolbische will be gorgeous. There are no such conditions that will be there, not that in the region — in the country. It is planned that a new bus stop and a stopping platform for electric trains will appear in the village so that it will be more convenient to get to the archive.”

Talks about that the State Archive of Tatarstan will move to the building in the village of Stolbische, at 277 Sovetskaya St., has been exaggerated on the web since the summer. This object is one of the eight buildings of Rosreestr in different regions of Russia. According to Gabdrakhmanova, the construction cost “one billion 200-300 million, its price now is probably two billion 200-300 million rubles. Thanks to the President of the Republic of Tatarstan and Zyabbarov Azat Galimzyanovich (Head of the Department of the Federal Register of the Republic of Tatarstan — editor's note), who personally supervised the construction. The building is thoroughly thought out — it is perfect. The head of the construction organisation demanded from the developers the exact execution of everything.”

According to Gabdrakhmanova, the archive is gradually moving away from the practice of working with papers: “Documents are fading, and we are not interested in giving them out for use. We are interested in digitising them and providing researchers with good digitised copies on a computer in any access, and preserving the documents themselves so that they can be accurately stored for another hundred years.”

It is reported that the move will take place with the participation of professionals.

“There can be no loss here," Gabdrakhmanova assured. “Each container, in which two boxes are folded, will be sealed. The transport will also be sealed. It is accompanied by employees. Acts of departure and reception are drawn up. We have already calculated all the logistics. By December 15, the buildings on Sibirsky Tract and 8 Marta Street will be completely vacated.”

Historian Mark Shishkin eloquently expressed the general complaints in his telegram channel: “I don't mind if the archive works in a new place so that I can get into the reading room on any weekday without an appointment (and even better on Saturday and Sunday, as it is in the National Library of the Republic of Tatarstan).

I don't mind paying for digital copies of cases to watch them from home, if a case of 1000 sheets (of which I may need 2-3 lines) will cost conditionally 500 rubles, not 2000. Then I will order more cases.

I don't mind promoting other ways of monetisation of archival business (paid parking in Stolbische, access fee), if the price is reasonable. Paying for a favourite hobby is ok. Just let students, pensioners and dissertation writers not to pay. And let the buses run normally, because in glaze ice I'm not going to set foot on this highway.

And I really don't care where I get the conditions I want. In Moskovsky district, in Sovetsky district, or in Stolbische.

The problem is that since the summer there have been only rumours, half-hints and no exact facts on this topic. There are no excursions for users to the future archive town. There is no clear beautiful infographic about new user features. There are no presentations.”

Indeed, taking into account the arguments of the archivists, it is impossible not to notice that the fateful decision was announced without discussion of the involved communities, which has recently become a frequent practice. As Olesya Baltusova, assistant to the President of Tatarstan, pointed out in a conversation with Realnoe Vremya, the issue of moving was also raised during the president's trip the day before:

“Gulnara Zakarievna is ready to hold a meeting with the participation of researchers, local historians, scientific institutions and discuss everything with them in the near future.”

The submission of the collective letter to the president of the Republic of Tatarstan with the request not to move the archive to Stolbische was initiated by the Tamga Institute of Urban Studies in the person of Marya Leontyeva, Endzhe Dusayeva, and Guzelia Gimatdinova.

Radif Kashapov