Topic: Russian History
The Russian State Historical Archives (RHSA) at St. Petersburg is marking its 300th anniversary this year. Housing more than 6 million items, it is Europe's largest repository of of historical documents.
RHSA archives documents from the former Russian Empire, mostly from the late 18th to early 20th centuries, as well as public organizations, institutions and individuals of pre-Revolutionary Russia. It is one of two federal archives based in St. Petersburg, the other being the Russian State Naval Archive.
The archive houses 1368 funds from among the highest State institutions in Russia before the Revoution. Among them are documents from HM Imperial Chancellery, the State Council of Russia (1810-1917), its departments, the Main Committee on Peasant Affairs, as well as foundations of Russia's first elected legislative authority - the State Duma of the Russian Empire (1905-1917). The archives holds funds of the Council of Ministers of the Russian Empire (1802-1917), a complete collection of the Laws of the Russian Empire, and documents of the codification of the State Council and the separation of the Laws of the State Chancellery.
RHSA houses the voluminous former Archives of the Governing Senate of the Russian Empire (1711-1917). Of particular interest is the vast repository of Imperial edicts, correspondence with governors, senatorial audits, and criminal appeals.
Another fund includes the Department of Heraldry (1757-1917), and includes a collection of charters, diplomas and ranks, substantial genealogical records, and information about granting titles.
The archive also contains documents on religious and cultural history, including proceedings of the Holy Synod, the Archive of the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, and documents of the Ministry of the Interior, Justice, Trade and Industry, Post and Telegraph, Public Education and Finance.
The archive includes many rare treasures of the Romanovs, including one of its oldest documents, an ABC handwritten by Peter the Great as a child. Also found are documents from Catherine the Great to Prince Potemkin, letters, book plates, books, and autographs.
It is estimated that the total length of the filing system which make up the massive collection housed at RHSA would measure some 220 miles. It is truly remarkable that this rich repository of Imperial Russian treasures survived the madness that came with the Red Terror, but Russians and historians alike can now celebrate the tercentenary of this remarkable institution.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 16 November, 2012