Russian Academy of Sciences archive reopens after debts forced it to close in March
On June 19, the reading rooms of the Archive of the Russian Academy of Sciences (ARAN) reopened after months of inactivity. The archive’s director, Alexander Rabotkevich, told Meduza about the reopening.
“I am pleased to inform you that, beginning today, the reading rooms of the RAN archives in Moscow and St. Petersburg are open once again,” he said. “Our employees’ salaries have been paid in full, and all debts […] whose payment was necessary for the organization’s accounts to operate have been paid.” According to Rabotkevich, the debts that brought the archive’s operations to a stop amounted to 4.3 million rubles ($68,000). A subsidy from Russia’s Education Ministry helped the archive pay up.
The archive’s financial trouble began in 2018 when the umbrella agency above it, the Federal Agency for Scientific Organizations, was liquidated, leaving ARAN to join the Education Ministry’s budget. That budget did not include funds for paying off the archive’s debts, including a large dept to the company Stroimonolit, which is designing a new building for the archive in St. Petersburg. The 1.064 billion-ruble ($16.9 million) contract for that project was signed in 2015, but the archive was unable to pay even for initial blueprints. Stroimonolit ultimately sued the archive and won.
In early 2019, treasurers closed ARAN’s accounts. The artist Alexander Tolstikov, who was the archive’s acting director at the time, resigned in February. Without a director, ARAN’s work was paralyzed: its employees were not paid, and most stopped going to work. Utility services cut off the archive’s phone lines, its heating, and some of its electricity.
The St. Petersburg branch of the archive closed in March, and its Moscow branch shut down soon afterward. On April 25, a picket took place in Moscow to support the archive. It drew a few dozen people whose work depends on archival access, including historians, students, and university professors.
Apart from its Moscow headquarters and its St. Petersburg branch, ARAN also controls a branch in the Yaroslavl Region village of Borok that provides backup storage. Rabotkevich said salary debts for that branch have also been paid. ARAN contains 1,106 individual archives and more than five million separate items, including original documents by illustrious Russian thinkers like Mikhail Lomonosov, Alexander Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol, and Ivan Bunin.
Translation by Hilah Kohen