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ArcheoBiblioBase: Archives in Russia: B-11

Last update of repository: 3 December 2020

Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv kinofotodokumentov (RGAKFD)


Total: over 4,500,000 units, 1855–to present
institutional fonds—13,402 fonds (2,922,039 units); personal papers—252 fonds (336,471 units); films—253,424 units; photographs and negatives—1,183,562 units; video records—22,955 units; scientific-technical documents—16 fonds (127,417 units)

As the centralized state repository for newsreels, documentary films, and photographs, RGAKFD acquires and preserves copies of complete films and episodes in film footage or documentary outtakes produced by state film studios. It also holds photographs and negatives from information agencies, large newspapers, and magazines. Holdings are predominantly from the Soviet period, although, chronologically, materials in the archive date back to the second part of the nineteenth century. Since 1992, the archive also has been collecting video recordings of documentary films and independently produced documentary film footage.
        The earliest document in the archive is an album of photographs entitled “Sevastopol in 1855–1856,” published at the end of the last century, with a collection of 25 rare pictures of the Crimean War. Somewhat “younger” are photographs from albums with views of Tiflis (now Tbilisi) (1856) and Moscow (1876). There are extensive collections of photographs of the Russian army (starting from 1863) and navy (from 1888): army reviews, parades, military education and training, army battle scenes, views of ships in the Baltic, Black Sea, and Pacific Fleets, and also pictures of events in the Russo-Japanese War and World War I. There is a complex of photographs of life at the imperial court (mostly from the collection of albums of pictures by the court photographer Karl E. von Hahn [Charles de Hahn]), with portraits and candid pictures of the Russian emperors, their families, relatives, and close associates, along with personages of state and society.
        The archive retains almost all known and extant photographs of the events of the October Revolution and Civil War in Russia, including those by such masters as P.A. Otsup, Ia.V. Shteinberg, and I.S. Kobozev.
        Considerable materials in the archive date to the interwar period (1920–1940s), thanks to the extensive acquisition of photographs from agencies such as “Sovetskoe foto,” “Unionfoto,” and the TASS press service. Over 90,000 photographs record events on the Soviet-German Front (1941–1945).
        The early postwar years saw the beginning of large-scale photographic acquisitions from state agencies. The archive yearly acquired a large quantity of negatives from TASS photo chronicles, the Soviet Information Bureau and the All-Union Society for Cultural Relations Abroad (VOKS), and from the editorial offices of the most important central newspapers and magazines (Izvestiia, Gudok, Trud, Ogonek, Sovetskii Soiuz, and others), museums, and also private individuals. There are extensive representations of the political, economic, and cultural life of the country, from portraits of Soviet state and CPSU leaders on various levels to pictures of important events (political trials, foreign delegations, official protocol events, newly constructed factories, transportation facilities, and community buildings).
        Present-day sources of acquisition are the Main Editorial Office for News Photos of ITAR-TASS, the Photographic Service of the Adminstration of Affairs of the Apparatus of the President of the Russian Federation, and the editorial boards of the central mass media. RGAKFD is constantly receiving many documents from private collections (for example, the personal collections of photojournalists M. Ozerskii, M. Al'pert, E. Iavno, O. Knorring, V. Temin, V. Tarasevich, M. Trakhman, B. Kudoiarov, and others).
        Cinematography appeared in Russia at the end of the 1890s. The postrevolutionary Sovkino company (with its Moscow and Leningrad branches) turned over to the archive most of the film production from the prerevolutionary period which it preserved, including newsreels produced by cameramen of Path Brothers and other firms such as Gaumont and the Apollon Cinema Society, by A. Khanzhonkov, A. Drankov, and by the cinematographic division of the Skobelev Enlightenment Committee. Among these are the first film sequences shot in Russia, showing the coronation of Nicholas II in Moscow in 1896, events of the First World War, a newsreel of a state meeting in Moscow in August 1917, and frames about events of December 1917 in Kyiv taken by the cameramen of the Skobelev Committee. The archive also accumulates documentary footage of famous men of art, literature, culture, and science (such as L.N. Tolstoi, G.Ia. Sedov, I.E. Repin, F.I. Shaliapin (Chaliapin), and L.N. Andreev).
        During the early years of Soviet power, documentary films were produced by various agencies (the Mobilization Division of the First Army of the Eastern Front, the “October Revolution” propaganda agitation train, the All-Russian Photo and Cinema Division, the Dnipropetrovs'k Film Committee), and also from the activity of individual cameramen like Eduard Tisse, A.G. Lemberg, and A. Levitskii. They produced frames of battles during the Civil War, mass meetings and demonstrations, parades, the first Communist subbotniks, and similar agitation and propaganda activities of Soviet power in Petrograd, Moscow, Ufa, and Odessa (some 200 separate film sequences). Many of the frames remain as out-takes from early Soviet newsreels “Kinonedelia” (“Film Week,” 1918–1922) and “Goskinokalendar'” (“State Film Calendar,” 1923–1925).
        Another complex of motion pictures in the archive consists of film chronicles, newsreels, and separate documentary films produced by the All-Russian Photo and Cinema Division of the People's Commissariat of Education RSFSR (VFKO), Goskino, Sevzapkino, Proletkino, the film chronicle division of the Sovkino (1927–1931) and Soiuzkino (1931–1934) film studios, the joint-stock company Mezhrabpomfil'm (1928–1936), the newsreel studio Soiuzkinokhronika (1931–1932), the Central Studio for Newsreels (1940–1944), and the Far Eastern Newsreel Studio. These represent popular and propaganda events, for example, first airplane flights, motor races, polar expeditions, and also the construction of manufacturing and agricultural enterprises.
        Film footage from World War II is represented by newsreels and film chronicles such as “Soiuzkinozhurnal,” “Novosti dnia,” specialized subject-related documentaries, the film chronicle “The Great Patriotic War,” and documentary films such as “The Rout of the Germans Near Moscow” (“Razgrom nemtsev pod Moskvoi”) and “The Black Sea Sailors” (“Chernomortsy”).
        Starting in the early 1960s, the documentary film division was regularly accessioning footage from central studios (the Central Studio for Documentary Films—TsSDF, 1944–, Tsentrnauchfil'm, Mosfil'm, and Mosnauchfil'm), and also productions of an all-union importance from outlying studios. These record formal occasions in the history of the Soviet state and society, such as Party congresses, conferences, major state celebrations, the opening of new factories and enterprises, and cultural events. RGAKFD has, for example, film and photographs of the first space flights and the first man in orbit, Iu.A. Gagarin.
        RGAKFD presently continues to accession productions of the Central Studio for Documentary Films and the Central Studio for Popular Science and Educational Films, the joint-stock society “Format,” the film and video enterprises Otechestvo and Iunost', and from amateur film studios.
        The archival holdings are important not only as historical sources but as valuable examples of film and photographic art. The archive retains the artistic productions of such prominent Soviet cinematographers as E.I. Shub, Dziga Vertov (pseud. D.A. Kaufman), I.P. Kopalin, R.L. Karmen, A.P. Dovzhenko, M.I. Romm, and S.A. Gerasimov, along with photographs by A. Savel'ev, M. Sherling, and M. Nappel'baum, N.I. Svishchov-Paola.
        New documentary accessions are available on the website: http://rgakfd.ru/novye-postupleniya.

        Records from the former Branch in Vladimir

The former RGAKFD branch in Vladimir had been accessioning documentary films and photographs of particular significance for the RSFSR, from republic- (and now federative-) level sources. Those motion-picture and photographic holdings, reflecting social, political, economic, and cultural events from the late nineteenth century to the present, are now held in Krasnogorsk.
        Among photographs from the prerevolutionary period, of especial value are pictures of the 9th Grenadiers of the Siberian Regiment and the construction of the railroad bridge across the Amur River. There is a significant collection of pictures of life and events in Vladimir Guberniia, including scenes of manufacturing establishments and individual guilds, pictures of workers and their living quarters, hospitals, and medical services. There is also a collection of photographs of revolutionary events in the central guberniias.
        Photographs from the period of the Civil War and early years of Soviet rule feature Red Guard formations, guberniia councils of factory workers and work-place soviets in educational and health establishments, celebrations of anniversaries of the October Revolution, and other occasions.
        There is an extensive complex of pictures of official events, such as CPSU and Komsomol congresses and working sessions of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR, together with photographic portraits of their delegates and guests.
        A separate complex is devoted to negatives and positive prints of well-known writers, composers, sculptors, artists, eminent performers, scholars, military commanders, and cosmonauts (1950s–1970s).
        Also of note is a large personal fond of E.P. Riapasov, a photographer for Literaturnaia gazeta (over 7,000 originals). His collection includes pictures of celebratory literary evenings with Soviet and foreign writers and poetsincluding I.G. Erenburg, A.M. Gor'kii (pseud. of Peshkov), M.A. Sholokhov, Pablo Neruda (pseud. of N.R.R. Basualto), Rockwell Kent, and Sholom Aleichem (pseud. of Sh.N. Rabinovich), among others.
        The largest quantity of motion-picture holdings were acquired in the 1960s and 1970s. They portray important historical events of that time in different areas of the country, from the Volga region, the North Caucasus, the Urals, and Siberia to the Far East. Films record meetings of workers with candidates and delegates to the Supreme Soviets of the USSR and the RSFSR and the work of CPSU, Komsomol, and Pioneer organs. There are even newsreels of the 1970s with pictures of those associated with V.I. Lenin. Rich film collections portray participants in the Second World War and celebrations of the fiftieth anniversary of the formation of the USSR in all republics, krais, and oblasts of the RSFSR.
        There is film footage of many large industrial projects, such as the Iriklinsk Raion Hydroelectric Station, “Atommash,” the Kursk Atomic Power Station, the Kama Automobile Factory (KamAZ), and the Novo-Lipetsk Metallurgical Combine, among others.
        Since 1991, the RGAKFD Vladimir branch was collecting documentary films from Russian regional television, documentary, and newsreel studios. It collected photographs from the Photographic Studio of the Legislative Assembly of the Russian Federation (Zakonodatel'noe sobranie RF) and the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR (until 1987). It received some films and photographs from abolished state organizations and institutions, as well as from private collectors. The archive itself also produced photographs and videotapes of contemporary events.

N.B. Collecting feature, animated, and some documentary films in the Soviet period was the function of the parallel central repository, Gosfil'mofond, under the Committee on Cinematography of the USSR, and hence such productions are not found in RGAKFD (see Gosfil'mofond—C–22). Documentary films and photographs also are held in several other federal and agency archives such as former RNITsKD, now RGANTD (B–9), RGASPI (B–12), and Gosteleradiofond (C–23)–especially 16mm and videocassettes. See also the municipal audiovisual archives in Moscow (D–1) and St. Petersburg (D–19).

ABB ArcheoBiblioBase Archeo Biblio Base Patricia Kennedy Grimsted