Contact information  •  History  •  Holdings  •  Access & Facilities  •  Bibliography

ArcheoBiblioBase: Archives in Russia: B-8

Last update of repository: 6 May 2020

Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi voennyi arkhiv (RGVA)


Total: 33,777 fonds, 7,387,441 units
institutional fonds—32,877 fonds (3,725,560 units); personal papers—105 fonds (10,631 units)

Electronic opisi are available on the RGALI website:

        Holdings from the pre-1999 RGVA

RGVA retains records of the Soviet armed forces from the highest and central military institutions of the country and internal special troops to military associations, combinations, and other units of the armed forces from the years of the Civil War through the interwar period (1918–1941). These include the major records of the Red Army, including Fronts, Armies, and lower formations operating on different battle fronts; army corps, division and military district headquarters; administrations and staffs of special troops and institutions of special services; military supply, construction, and manufacturing enterprises; and military schools and training establishments. There are also many fonds of personal papers of military leaders.
        From the period of the 1917 Revolution, Civil War, and early postrevolutionary period, the archive encompasses records of the highest and central military institutions of the country as represented by the fonds of the All-Russian Bureau of Military Commissars (1918–1919), the Chancellery and later Administration of Affairs of the Commissariat for Military Affairs (Narkomvoen—1917–1918), the Staff of the Supreme Military Council (1918), the All-Russian General Staff (Vseroglavshtab—1918–1921), and the Higher Military Inspection of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army (Raboche-Krest'ianskaia Krasnaia Armiia—RKKA, 1918–1924), as well as other records of the commanders in chief of the RKKA. Records of military operations, troop commands and military forces include the fonds of the Field Staff of the RVS RSFSR (1917–1921) and the Chancellery of the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces (1918–1924).
        Some of the fonds of agencies of central military administration have been extended to include the records of successor agencies from the 1930s and, in some cases, through to 1941, such as the Secretariats of the Revolutionary Military Soviet [Council] of Russia and subsequently the USSR (Revvoensovet/RVS—1917–1934), the Administration of Affairs of the Revolutionary Military Soviets, the Commissariat for Military and Naval Affairs, and the later Commissariat of Defense (1918–1941), and the RKKA Staff (Shtab RKKA, 1920–1935).
        Many fonds and collections contain records of strategy and battles and the activities of separate army commands and formations on various fronts in the Civil War. Records from headquarters of the Northern, Western, Southwestern, Turkestan, Eastern, and Southern Fronts, military institutions in the Far East and those of the armies, divisions, artillery and cavalry corps under their command, document military encounters of the Red Army and Revvoensovet against the armies under the command of N.N. Iudenich, A.V. Kolchak, P.N. Vrangel' (Wrangel), and other generals of the White Army. There are also records of the formation of the White Army during the Civil War, including fonds that have been formed from the collections of the Russian Foreign Historical Archive in Prague (RZIA) that were transferred from TsGAOR SSSR (now GA RF). RGVA also retains fonds of various military organs in the Far Eastern Republic, during the period of the Civil War, namely, the General Staff of the Ministry of War, and the commands of the People's Revolutionary Army and the Eastern-Transbaikal, Eastern, and Amur Fronts.
        The political command of the Red Army (1918–1941) is represented by a large fond combining the records of the Political Administration of the RVS (Politicheskoe upravlenie pri Revvoensovete—PUR), the Political Administration of the RKKA (PU RKKA), and the Main Administration of Political Propaganda of the Red Army. These records also document the establishment and activities of the Institute of Military Commissars, the preparation of political workers, and the proceedings of army congresses and conferences relating to political functionairies. A prominent group of fonds provides records of the political sections (politotdely) and political administrations (politupravleniia) of different military districts, fronts, armies, and divisions. The files document the organization and daily activity of political organs within the Red Army, individual military commissars, members of revolutionary-military councils, and commanders of political sections of fronts, armies, and divisions, such as I.V. Kosior, N.I. Podvoiskii, I.T. Smilga, I.V. Stalin, and others.
        RGVA retains the records of the military intelligence service GRU (Glavnoe razvedyvatel'noe upravlenie) from the interwar period, although some GRU records remain in the custody of that agency.
        RGVA preserves the records of specialized agencies within the armed forces, such as Chief Military Engineering Administration, the Administration of Military Communications, the Military-Topographical Administration, the Chief Air Force Administration, and other special branches. Another complex of records are those of special troops and secret services for security, protection, and defense that operated under successive security agencies—the Cheka (VChK), the State Political Directorate (GPU), the Consolidated State Political Directorate (OGPU), the Commissariat and later Ministry of Internal Affairs (NKVD/MVD) from 1918 until 1991. These include the records of border troops and patrols, as well as personnel rosters of NKVD, MVD, and MGB border guards. Within this complex are also the fonds of troop units for the protection of important state objects, including the records of the administration and chiefs of staff of the Troops of Internal Protection and Internal Service (Voiska vnutrennei okhrany i vnutrennei sluzhby—VNUS), the Special Task Forces (Chasti osobogo naznacheniia—ChON), and the Troops for the Defense of Railroads (OBZhELDOR).
        The archive also retains records of military institutions involved with the preparation, training, and education of commanding officers and enlisted men in the Red Army, such as the fonds of the Chief Administration of Military Educational Establishments (1917–1924) and military academies, including the Academy of the General Staff, the M.V. Frunze Military Academy, the V.I. Lenin Military-Political Academy, and other military schools and courses. There are records of military publishing houses, journals, and other military publication boards, as well as records of military museums, such as the Central Museum of the Armed Forces.
        A separate group of fonds consists of records of local organs for military administration: republic-level narkomat for military affairs and administrations of military districts (Western, Leningrad, Moscow, Orel, Volga, Siberian, Iaroslavl, and others), military commands of armies, formations, divisions, corps, and other units of the Red Army from 1918 through 1941 on various fronts. These include induction and mobilization records, documents on the formation and training of active army units, the establishment of battle reserves, and the organization of general military education for the country.
        There are separate important collections devoted to various military operations–for example, brigades in the Spanish Civil War (including some trophy archives), Soviet troop operations at Khasan (Hassan) Lake (1938) and on the banks of the Khalkhin-Gol (Halhin-Gol) River (1939), the annexation of Western Belorussia and Western Ukraine (1939), and the Soviet-Finnish War.
        Another separate complex consists of fonds with the personal papers of prominent military figures and commanders, such as V.A. Antonov-Ovseenko, I.I. Vatsetis, P.E. Dybenko, N.I. Podvoiskii, M.N. Tukhachevskii, and M.V. Frunze and other military leaders of the Soviet state. Recently the papers of Marshal G.K. Zhukov and A.A. Grechko were transferred to RGVA from the Presidential Archive (AP RF—C–1). There are also collections of military service rosters, including registration and service cards for officers, sergeants, enlisted men, and civilian personnel of the Red Army through 1941.
        Annotated lists of new documentary accessions are available electronically:

        Holdings from the former Special Archive (TsGOA; 1992–March 1999—TsKhIDK [Center for Preservation of Historico-Documentary Collections])

N.B: As of the mid-2015, remaining captured foreign records displaced to the Soviet Union during and after the Second World War from the former Special (Osobyi) Archive (ul. Vyborgskaia 3, kor. 1) have all been moved to the main RGVA building. They may now be consulting in the main RGVA reading room at ul. Admirala Makakova, 29, at the corner of Vyborgskaia ul., half a block from the building of the former Special Archive. A separate reading room for those fonds is no longer operated.

Holdings from the former Special Archive (TsGOA SSSR) consist of two major independent complexes of documentation. The first is documentation of Soviet prisoner-of-war and displaced-person camps from the period of World War II and its aftermath. These constitute a voluminous complex of records of NKVD–MVD agencies subordinated to the Main Administration for Affairs of Prisoners of War and Internees (Glavnoe upravlenie po delam voennoplennykh i internirovannykh—GUPVI, 1939–1960), including fonds of the divisions of GUPVI and the records of individual camps, which contain personal files and interrogation reports on individual foreign prisoners, collections of prison writings and memoirs of inmates, and documentation on labor brigades and the burial of foreign prisoners of war who died in the USSR.
        As of early 2012, the second part of the archive contains 593 fonds of captured (or in Russian “trophy&rquo; or “displaced”) records. They can be divided into four main complexes. The first comprises the official records of the Third Reich—from the very beginning of Nazi rule through the end of World War II. It includes a variety of fonds (many quite fragmentary) of the highest state institutions of Germany, such as the Reich Chancery (Reichskanzlei), the Ministries—of Foreign Affairs (Auswärtiges Amt), of Internal Affairs (Reichsministerium des Inerren), of Justice (Reichsjustizministerium), for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda (Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda), the Department of Secret Police, or Gestapo (Geheimes Staatspolizeiamt), and the Headquarters of the State Security Administration (Reichssicherheitshauptamt—RSHA), and the subordinated state security and police agencies. There are also the fonds of the Reich Archive (Reichsarchiv) and of the Military Archive (Heeresarchiv). All of these remain in RGVA, because the 1998 law on displaced cultural property forbids return to Germany.
        Local records include those of some regional Nazi administrative authorities in Germany and Austria. There are some records of Nazi occupation authorities outside of the Reich, including the records of police, economic, social, cultural agencies, and also concentration camp records, such as the construction records from Auschwitz (Pol. Oświęcim). Central state records dealing with occupied areas include some files from the Ministry for Occupied Eastern Territories (Reichsministerium für die besetzten Ostgebiete), which governed occupied Soviet lands, and a few files from the Staff of the Special Rosenberg Command (Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg—ERR). There are many fonds of personal papers of Nazi leaders and prominent public figures of the Nazi movement.
        A second complex of captured records included those of the highest institutions of state power and administration of other European countries (Austria, Belgium, Poland, and others), which had been captured by Nazi authorities, and in turn seized by Soviet authorities in Czechoslovakia, Poland (Silesia), and Germany in 1945. Most numerous were records from France, with many records of the French Ministry of War and its subdivisions, including the Intelligence and Counter Intelligence Bureau of the Army General Staff (Dieuxieme Bureau), the Chief National Security Agency (Sûreté Nationale), and other French intelligence offices from the interwar period and some from the late nineteenth century. There were extensive records of the French Confederation of Labor (Conféderation genérale de Travail), and high governmental and cabinet files, including some papers of Léon Blum. Most of the French materials had been captured by Nazi forces in France during the occupation, and were then captured at the end of the war by Soviet authorities; most of those were returned to France by 2002, although a few remain.
        A third complex includes records of many non-governmental organizations, agencies, and individuals throughout Europe. Many of them had been selected and collected by the Reich secret police (SD and RSHA) and the ERR and evacuated with their archives to Silesia at the end of the war. Most valuable are the records of Jewish organizations and agencies; Masonic lodges and other Masonic groups; Communist and Socialist parties and associations, including the Second International, many of which came from collections in Holland (such as the Institute of Social History in Amsterdam and its Paris branch) and Belgium (some of these were transferred to RGASPI—B–12); and Russian émigré groups in Germany, France, and other European countries (some of these were transferred to GA RF—B–1). There are also many records from newspapers and publishing houses, student organizations, and business firms. Many of these files have been returned to their countries of origin, but many remain in RGVA.
        A final complex of fonds includes collections of unique documentary materials of private and family origin. Among them are the collection of original documents from the Wittenberg archive, the collection of the Austrian Counts von Belgarde (late 18th c.–1873), and the archive of Prince Reuss-Korstritz from the town of Ernstbrunn. The extensive captured archives of the Rothschild family from France and Austria have all been returned.

N.B: As of the mid-2015, all remaining holdings from the former Special (Osobyi) Archive (ul. Vyborgskaia 3, kor. 1) have all been moved to the main RGVA building. A separate reading room for those fonds is no longer operated.

ABB ArcheoBiblioBase Archeo Biblio Base Patricia Kennedy Grimsted