Policies on access to War Archives

Discussions on archives and similar issues. Hosted by John Calvin and Jeff Leach.
User avatar
Hanski
Financial supporter
Posts: 1887
Joined: 24 Aug 2002 19:18
Location: Helsinki

Policies on access to War Archives

Post by Hanski » 27 Jun 2003 20:09

Some of the best posters in this Forum exhibit such expertise that they could well be professional scholars in WWII history, as far as I can judge it from their detailed familiarity with the subject and their level of argumentation.

Can anyone shead light on the availability of original sources on WWII to researchers, currently in 2003? Is there an explicit policy about granting access to war archives among the WWII Allied Powers, like is there freedom of access for all serious scholars, or restricted access (depending on what?).

German archives were shared after the WWII and detailed quotations of original sources are widely used in discussions.

On the contrary, Russian war archives with their apparent wealth of original documents still remain mostly closed to non-Russian researchers, as far as I understand. This causes much obscurity regarding the true state of affairs in WWII; accurate reconstruction of events relies largely on guesswork for the Soviet part, and those few Western scholars who have had the privilege of gaining access to Russian archives seem to "monopolize" the only documented evidence, and normal scientific critique of their work becomes impossible if that work represents the "golden standard". Also, assessing the merits of Russian historians remains difficult as long as no one else can estimate the relevance of their findings compared to the material that was knowingly omitted from their publications.

Have Japanese war archives been freely at the use of history research?

What are the political motives in 2003 in controlling access to WWII archives? It is hard to believe any other motives explain why events 60 years ago should still be kept secret. What are the feared political consequences, if there were freedom to let the facts be known and published?

Regards,
Hanski

User avatar
Oleg Grigoryev
Member
Posts: 5051
Joined: 12 Mar 2002 20:06
Location: Russia

Post by Oleg Grigoryev » 27 Jun 2003 20:21

On the contrary, Russian war archives with their apparent wealth of original documents still remain mostly closed to non-Russian researchers, as far as I understand. This causes much obscurity regarding the true state of affairs in WWII; accurate reconstruction of events relies largely on guesswork for the Soviet part, and those few Western scholars who have had the privilege of gaining access to Russian archives seem to "monopolize" the only documented evidence, and normal scientific critique of their work becomes impossible if that work represents the "golden standard". Also, assessing the merits of Russian historians remains difficult as long as no one else can estimate the relevance of their findings compared to the material that was knowingly omitted from their publications.
You understand wrong -there is a standrtaized procedure.

http://www.iisg.nl/~abb/abb_rules.html

User avatar
Hanski
Financial supporter
Posts: 1887
Joined: 24 Aug 2002 19:18
Location: Helsinki

Post by Hanski » 27 Jun 2003 23:52

Thank you, Oleg, for the information (although I am not planning a research project of my own...). At least by the web page it seems there should be equal access now for all serious scholars, if it really does work like that in practice.

I wonder, what is the material accessible in accordance with these rules. Does the mentioned archive material cover WWII original documents, like war diaries, orders, reports etc.? How high up in the administrative hierarchy do the principles of accessibility apply? What would still be classified material? On what grounds could the permission be denied from a foreign scholar?

Not being a historian myself, I understand the current Russian Federation practice described on the web page is a huge improvement for foreign scholars compared to the former Soviet times - at least I remember having read Finnish historians complaining about their difficulties in gaining access to original material in those days. But since the glasnost era, there has indeed been more published history reseach also in Finnish by well-known historians, based on Russian archives - just where is the limit, that is my question about the current policy on archives.

Is there plenty of international WWII research underway in Russia at the moment, and should we expect new published facts emerging from the Eastern Front events in Western countries in the near future?

Personally, I believe there must be an enormous amount of documentary evidence on the WWII in the Russian archives, still unknown to the rest of the world, which deserves to be shared to promote our common understanding on what really has happened. And for the sake of credibility, it would be most important to engage international research teams to avoid bias for any motives.

Hanski

User avatar
Oleg Grigoryev
Member
Posts: 5051
Joined: 12 Mar 2002 20:06
Location: Russia

Post by Oleg Grigoryev » 28 Jun 2003 01:22

I wonder, what is the material accessible in accordance with these rules. Does the mentioned archive material cover WWII original documents, like war diaries, orders, reports etc.? How high up in the administrative hierarchy do the principles of accessibility apply? What would still be classified material? On what grounds could the permission be denied from a foreign scholar?
Plenty of it available publicly without need of accessing archives through publications of “Russkiy Archiv” (Russian Archive) book series ,which consists of 30 something volumes (and still printing) each at list 600 pages of documents, through Yakovlev’s Fond http://www.idf.ru/editions.shtml publications or through individual sites that just happened to be interested in the subject –such as this one http://militera.lib.ru/docs/ww2/chrono/1941/index.html or this one http://www.rkka.ru/idocs.htm . Secondly I don’t think that administrative position has to do anything with it. Documents kept secret based on document by document basis and procedure is no different form any other state fro that matter. That said it seems that quality of western research had not got much higher (mostly) despite the availability of primary sources –mr. Beevor latest book being an example of such. Russian historian Oleg Rzheshevskiy (he might be know to you from his participation joint –Russian-Finnish effort in study of Winter War –“Winter War – the Political History”), whom mr.Beevor actually thanked his book for the aid the former provided him with, was so dismayed by quality of “Berlin”, and outright outraged with the fact that mr.Beevor simply omitted the documents that were given to him but that did not served his thesis, that he was compelled to write an article that included those. Basically Beevor did not need any archives to write what he did. Historians like this are hardly stimulating the creation of professional bond between Russian historians and their counterparts from the foreign countries.

Darrin
Member
Posts: 831
Joined: 17 Apr 2002 10:44
Location: Canada

Post by Darrin » 28 Jun 2003 15:38

Well in 1995 the TDI historical istute was hirded to do a study on kursk for the US army. The employed almost entrly rus historians with a few people like glantz. There apparently was a lot of public uproar over even this study. Saying we had found a way of deafeating the gers why give it to the US for free. The people of rus still view us as enemys of 60 years vs allies for 4.

Apparently chris lawerence at tdi after this was going to send a more indep historian then some of the earlier crowd for some reason but never got permission. Apparently the new system is supposed to work better but I haven´t heard. One of the other big diff is you can now order material from another archiive by phone but apparently you need to visit the rus archives in person currently.

Also 90% of the ger, US and CW archives are actual unit reports. Wereas 90% of the rus archives are reports and articlals written during and mostly long after the war. The primary unit reports are few and far between, disorganized or maybe even lost. The vast majority of these after battle articles must be questined as to thier veracity since so many were full of communist propaganda even if they were written long after the war.

Also at the higher political and other levels I would expect some of the documnets are misssing or falsified. Somthing that was rare in all other armies and political systems even germany.

User avatar
Hanski
Financial supporter
Posts: 1887
Joined: 24 Aug 2002 19:18
Location: Helsinki

Post by Hanski » 28 Jun 2003 15:58

All research in the history of WWII will become dependent solely on archives, since every day reduces the number of surviving veterans worldwide, and it will not be long until there is none alive who can give any kind of eyewitness or participant accounts.

Thereafter, all our knowledge will totally rely on the paper trails in archives, and the objects displayed in museums, as well as the previously published literature.

This website shows how the Finnish Military Archives are organised.
http://www.sota-arkisto.fi/englanti/index.html


Hanski

User avatar
Oleg Grigoryev
Member
Posts: 5051
Joined: 12 Mar 2002 20:06
Location: Russia

Post by Oleg Grigoryev » 11 Jul 2003 22:15

Darrin wrote:Well in 1995 the TDI historical istute was hirded to do a study on kursk for the US army. The employed almost entrly rus historians with a few people like glantz. There apparently was a lot of public uproar over even this study. Saying we had found a way of deafeating the gers why give it to the US for free. The people of rus still view us as enemys of 60 years vs allies for 4.

Apparently chris lawerence at tdi after this was going to send a more indep historian then some of the earlier crowd for some reason but never got permission. Apparently the new system is supposed to work better but I haven´t heard. One of the other big diff is you can now order material from another archiive by phone but apparently you need to visit the rus archives in person currently.

Also 90% of the ger, US and CW archives are actual unit reports. Wereas 90% of the rus archives are reports and articlals written during and mostly long after the war. The primary unit reports are few and far between, disorganized or maybe even lost. The vast majority of these after battle articles must be questined as to thier veracity since so many were full of communist propaganda even if they were written long after the war.

Also at the higher political and other levels I would expect some of the documnets are misssing or falsified. Somthing that was rare in all other armies and political systems even germany.


How is it possible that on one hand you continuously nag that Russian Archives are so inaccessible and nobody knows what is in there, while on the other you claim knowledge of what 90% of the above-mentioned archives consist off and even more so you know that most of it propaganda. Make up your mind honey –either you know and then you lied previously, or either you don’t and you are full of it (now there will be a shocker…)

User avatar
Daniel L
Member
Posts: 9117
Joined: 07 Sep 2002 00:46
Location: Sweden

Post by Daniel L » 13 Jul 2003 01:08

Let's keep the discussion in a nice tone.

Best regards/ Daniel

User avatar
Ike_FI
Member
Posts: 578
Joined: 04 Dec 2002 21:32
Location: Helsinki. Finland

Post by Ike_FI » 17 Aug 2003 01:32

Hanski,

Check this out - a Finnish historian tells about his experiences (in Finnish):
http://www.ennenjanyt.net/3-01/ak.htm

Return to “Archives”