In Armenia archive keeping started in 1923 and has passed a glorious way during 8 decades.
Not having a state for centuries, the Armenian people had no opportunity to maintain its material and spiritual treasures, its historical-cultural monuments. Starvation, diseases, economical exhaustion and financial difficulties arisen by the World War I and then by civil wars, naturally made it difficult to found cultural institutions.
It is known that the Revolutionary Museum attached to the ASSR People’s Commissariat of Enlightening had an archive department. During a month the declaration obliged state institutions to hand to the archive department of the museum all the dossiers and correspondence which were made before Soviet power (1920, 2 December), and in the newspaper “Soviet Armenia” of January 7, 1922, the circular of the government strictly forbade illegal destruction of archive materials.
Step by step means were being taken to organize the state central archive of the republic. The denouement of the arrangements was the resolution of 26 September, 1923 of the Armenian executive committee government of founding a state central archive attached to the central committee. In 1924, the legislation of the state central archive of the ASSR was certified, which was the first legal act concerning archive keeping. According to the legislation of 1924, based on archive department of the Yerevan State Museum and several other funds, the state central archive was organized. According to the ASSR Central Executive Committee Secretariat order of 17 March, 1924, manager of the archive was assigned prof. Khachik Samvelyan, who managed the works of discovering archive materials in basements of buildings, in rooms and elsewhere and the first archivists collected them in state central archive, registered and drafted. By this way one of the spheres of cultural life of our people – archive keeping was put on the state basis.
In 1923-1924 also Central committee archive of CWPA was created which later serves as base of partial archive.
On June 19, 1925, the ASSR SCA manager Kh. Samvelyan reported A. Karinyan, president of central executive committee of Armenia that there were 21 funds of pre-Soviet period and archive funds of 27 institutions and that 7 more institutions documents were being registered. Also it was informed that valuable documents and materials concerning the history of the Armenian people were expected to arrive from Baku, Astrakhan, Moscow, Leningrad and other places where many Armenians lived.
Manager of SCA Kh. Samvelyan, in his annual report of archive activity of 1930, together with other urgent issues demanded staff creation of archivists in all progressive institutions, there were such staffs only in people’s commissariat and in executive committees of municipal councils of Yerevan and Leninakan but in other state institutions there were no positions for archivists.
With the Armenian central executive committee resolution of 31 October 1931, central archive board of Armenia is organized which is viewed as an authorized state body of archive keeping. On the first half of 1930s archive net of the republic was enlarged. According to the new legislation of central archive board 2 state central archives were to be organized – the ASSR Historical Archive and Archive of October Revolution. Archive bureaus were organized in municipal regional councils and in progressive institutions archive departments were created which had an important role and meaning for further development of archive keeping in the ASSR.
In August of 1938, with the ASSR Supreme Council resolution the central archive board, together with its department institutions, was passed into competence of People’s commissariat of Internal Affairs and by another order of the same year was reorganized into PCIA archive department. In had to handle control of state central and regional archives and also manage their activity. According to statistical facts among 38 administrative regions of Armenia, 26 had state archives (according to some sources – 33 of them).
On 23 August 1939, the ASSR People’s Commissariat council attended the problems of archive keeping and found its state extremely unsatisfactory. All the managers of institutions and regional executive committees were ordered to provide archives with comfortable rooms, appropriate furniture, and staff units and during a month to draft unregistered documents piled in archives.
On 29 March, 1941, according to the resolution of USSR central state archives net, the ASSR archive of October Revolution and Historical archive were united and the ASSR state central archive was reorganized. The Great Patriotic War arose new problems and demands. Since the very first days of the war many archivists joined the army (Harutyun Karapetyan, Gohar Nahapetyan, Mushegh Grigoryan, Martin Mkhitaryan, etc). And those who didn’t go to the army were busy using archive documents for propaganda against Fascism.
It was obvious that even during hardships of war archive keeping was paid much attention to by governing bodies, the particular proof of which is the resolution of 8 October, 1943 of Council of People’s Commissars about founding the ASSR central state archive of films, photographs and sound-recording documents.
The annual report of 1945 showed that the state central archive by 01 January 1946 had 475 funds with 235.700 maintenance units. These figures increased during the next 10 years: the number of funds rose with 279 maintenance units were added by 23.505 more. By the end of 1957 765 funds were registered in the fund register book with 269.840 units. In central state archive of films, photographs and sound-recording documents, during 1944-1957 there were 30.351 positive-negative units 21.808 of which were regulated. Only during the year of 1958 8920 maintenance units of positive-negative photograph documents were supplemented, 4962 of which were drafted in the same year.
On 29 January 1958 the ASSR Council of ministers decided to rename the ASSR archive department of MIA (ministry of internal affairs) into archive board of the ministry and to reorganize the state central archive creating 2 state central archives the ASSR Historical archive (later archive of History) and archive of October Revolution and socialistic construction.
The ASSR Ministers council, on 22 July 1962, decided to reorganize archive board of MIA into archive board attached to the ASSR ministers’ council. This reconstruction, as it was proved later, was extremely important for the further development of archive keeping in the country. In 1963, with the ASSR Ministers council resolution, manager of the ASSR archive board was assigned Ashot Harutyunyan. The next act accepted on 25 May, 1963, was the assignment of new legislation of archive board.
Besides with the government resolution, municipal state archives of Leninakan, Kirovakan, Ghapan and Echmiadzin were abolished and based on documents of those archives 4 branches of archive of the ASSR October Revolution and archive of socialistic construction were organized. Later that number was doubled: branches were organized in Hrazdan, Ijevan, Kamo and Ararat. Then, with the ASSR Ministers council resolution of 24 January, 1973, state central archive of the Armenian press was organized which appeared to be a unique phenomenon in the history of archive constructions of the USSR.
The beginning of 1980 was marked by organizing the 5th state central archive. Since January 1st, the special archive of scientific-technical documents of ASSR started to function.
In 1980 a resolution was accepted of organizing the Yerevan state archive which started to function since the beginning of the next year. Besides, one of the most important events of 1980s is the implementation of constructing reconstructing of archives, the result of which were a number of new archive buildings and several old ones were repaired.
The importance of having an archive circular was urgent even in 1940s for the Armenian people which had a wide net of state and departmental archives. But this dream of Armenian archivists came true in the middle of 1950s. The first copy of the first archive circular was published in 1956 and the last one, N21, in 1962. It was already 3 years that the ‘’Herald of Armenia’’ was being published once a year. The circular has had 102 copies up to our days.
After the collapse of the USSR, the CIS member countries developed new relationship which was positive for the development of international cooperation in archive keeping. The proofs of it are numerous discussions, scientific meetings and other such events organized in 1990s. On September 25-29, 1995, during the meeting of CIS and Baltic countries state archives managers, held in Alma-Ata, issues of developing mechanisms of cooperation of archive services were discussed in order to satisfy social-legal inquiries of citizens, as well as problems of legislation project of information center of archive keeping. Here, the delegation of archive keeping board attached to the RA government agreed with the demands of legislation concerning cooperation.
Since 30 May, 1994 the RA archive board is a member of ICA (International Council of Archives). The main problem discussed at the conference of ICA Europe and Asia bureau held on 29 November, 1997 was the providing of availability of archives. Such meetings were organized in 1998-1999, but the Armenian archivists didn’t participate in them due to financial problems.
Anyway, certain steps were taken connected with signing of two-sided agreements of CIS member countries archive services cooperation. On 22 July, 1997 in Kiev interdepartmental agreement was signed between the main archive board attached to the Ukraine Ministers’ Cabinet and the archive keeping board attached to the RA government. The same year on 17 November in Tbilisi similar agreements were signed between archive board of Armenia and archive departments of Georgia which were certified with the RA Prime Minister resolutions N6 of 12 January, 1998 and N350 of 12 January, 1998. During 1998-2000 similar agreements were signed between the archive keeping board of Armenia and Russia (certified with the RA Prime Minister resolution N592 of 15 October, 1998) and later between RA archive keeping board and archives of Byelorussia and state committee of business correspondence (certified with the RA Prime Minister resolution N260 of 31 March, 2001).
During the last years the Armenian archivists received finance aid from benefactors of the Armenian community in the USA for archive construction in Armenia, the result of which is obvious both to us – coworkers and to many visitors.
In the summer of 2003, by means of representative of Ghevond Hall of Knights of Vardan, Sem Sasunyan, all the windows and several doors were replaced in the NAA 3-storeyed building.
Nowadays a lot of work is being carried out for the achievement of communications and cooperation development with our compatriots abroad. We are certain that is possible and profitable to implement the preparation of documents collection, scientific researches and other works together, being guided by rich sources of documentary information maintained in the National Archive of Armenia.
In 1996 principal changes of departmental separations took place in our country: 37 regions of the republic were abolished and 10 new departmental units were created (but for Yerevan, which was also given the status of region). Taking into account the present RA departmental separations, as well as the necessity of resolving the status of archive service in governmental system, the new legislation of archive keeping and the system of archives which implement the maintenance of ANAF documents, were certified with resolution N536 of 26 September 1996, by the RA Prime Minister. According to that legislation, 6 central and state archives of 10 regions and of Yerevan started to function with their 41 branches.
In 2004 The National Assembly adopted the RA new law of ‘’Archive keeping’’. During the recent years a lot of reforms were carried out inside the system by the RA government. With the consequent resolutions of executive power of the republic archive keeping board attached to the RA government on March 6, 2002 was reorganized into archive agency of the RA Ministry of Culture, Youth Issues and Sports, with a status of a separate subdivision of the institutions and later its legislation was certified according to which the agency was a republic body of the RA executive power.
With the resolution of 8 August, 2003 the agency was reorganized into structural subdivision of the Ministry. In the next phase of reforms with the RA government resolution of 22 August, 2002, state archives in subordination of archive keeping agency were reorganized into state non-profit organizations and with another resolution of 20 March, 2002 they were reorganized into National archive of Armenia state non-profit organization. With the present decision state archives of regions (Yerevan) in subordination of the agency were reorganized into regional branches of national archive and former branches of regional archives became their area representations.
The result of the above mentioned reforms is: National archive of Armenia state non-profit organization and 11 regional (including Yerevan) branches functioning in its subordination and 29 area representations where by 01 January 2006 there are 5759 funds with 3419353 maintenance units.
Looking back on its long way and taking into account all the results we may surely state that the system has achieved obvious achievements during these 80 years.
We are certain that the work of archive keeping service is an important condition for the improvements of the state of the republic independence, for the pride for our past, devotion to the present and for our honest goals concerning our future.