The biggest Russian archive keeps documents of the period from the 11th to 20th century. here one can find materials of Institutions of the Chief, Central and Local Departments of Russian State and Russian Empire existing till the administrative reforms of the 18th – 19th centuries, funds of Central Landmark Institutions of Russia (end of the 18th – beginning of the 20th centuries), documents of the state and public figures, men of science and culture, patrimonial, and monastic archives, collections of rare historic books, culture and way of life of the Russian nation and other peoples living in the territory of the Russian Empire, collections of domestic and foreign handwritten books, old printed and rare editions of the 15th – 19th centuries. This archive is located in Moscow.
The Russian State Archive of Ancient Documents is based on five pre-revolutionary archives:
In 1918 all the documents from the above mentioned archives became a part of the legal and historic and cultural section of the Uniform State Archive Fund.
The Russian State Archives of Ancient Documents was established in 1925 when four of the mentioned archives (except the Central Landmark Archive) were united into the Moscow Archive Office of the Central Historic Archive of the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic. It was renewed by the state nationalized documents from Synod, churches and cloisters, private and patrimonial funds. In 1931 the archive was renamed the State Archive of the Villeinage Epoch. In 1938 – 1939 the earlier mentioned Central Landmark Archive joined it.
In 1992 the archive was given its contemporary name, and in 1993 was put on the list of the main cultural heritage objects of people of the Russian Federation.
The collection of ancient documents from the State Archives of Charters and Manuscripts seems to be the most valuable part of all the materials. It consists of about 400 documents from archives of the great dukes, archives of Great Novgorod and Pskov, Moscow Great Princely Archive and so-called Royal Archive of the 16th century. The most ancient document of this collection is a treaty letter of Great Novgorod with the great duke of Tver and Vladimir Yaroslav Yaroslavich (1264). It also includes lists of legislative documents of the 11th – 17th centuries: Russkaya Pravda (legal code of Russia), Sudebnik of 1497 (Code of Law) introduced by Ivan III, Sudebnik of tsar Ivan IV (1550), Sobornoe Ulozheniye of 1649 (Legal Code).
Chief Administration Documents of Russia (17th – 18th centuries) are kept in private funds of the Monarchs“ Chanceries – Secrete Documents (introduced by Alexey Mikhaylovich in 1658), Cabinets of Pyotr I (1694 — 1727), Ekaterina II (1762 — 1796), Pavel I (1796 — 1801); Secretary of State Offices (1699 — 1718), Supreme Privy Council (1762 — 1730), the Governing Senate (1711 — 1917), Senate and Synodal Institutions. Among the materials of the State Archive of Russian Empire one can find documents of political investigation, supervision agencies – Preobrazhensky prikaz (an establishment that oversaw Russian Preobrazhensky and Semyonovsky regiments in the 18th century, 1686 — 1729), Secrete Chancery (1718 — 1726) and Secrete Expedition of Senate (1762 — 1801), secrete prosecution commissions of the 19th century.
Management of Industry and Trade (17th – 19th centuries), and financial policy of the Russian Government are on record in funds of boards and collegiums, Chief Magistrate, customs, offices and chanceries of the 18th century, and in funds of the noble families who possessed factories, plants and mines.
Among the cloistral funds there are funds of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, Solovetskiy and other cloisters describing land ownership, economy, cloistral peasants management, building of churches and many other issues.
Information about geographical features and environmental conditions, demography, and economic development of separate regions of the country appears in ancient books of the 15th – 17th centuries, fund of the Local Boards, documents of population inspections of the 18th century, funds of Central Landmark Institutions of the 18th – beginning of the 20th century.
Most of the materials of the Russian State Archive of Ancient Documents is funds of the palace institutions, including Chief Palace Chancery and its offices (1721 — 1786), Ministries of the Imperial Court.
Posolskiy Prikaz (government institution of foreign affairs, 16th – 18th centuries), Siberian Prikaz and Malorossiyskiy Prikaz (Central Government Department), and materials from the State Archive tell about the relationships of Russia with foreign countries, and nations which later became a part of the Russian Empire, their history and culture.
In collections of the State Archive, the Armour Chamber and Palace Archive as well as in collections of handwritten books from departments of handwritten documents of the Moscow State Archive Library of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs there are significant sites of Russian culture – Old Slavonic Manuscript of the 11th century from the library of Moscow and Synodal printing office 'Savvina Kniga', the Sophia first chronicle of the 15th century, Nikinovskaya chronicle of the 16th centuries, and other Old Russian chronicles of the 15th – 19th centuries. Russian and translated literature of high society and theological literature are widely represented in handwritten collections of the Russian State Archive of Ancient Documents. These are works of Maximus the Greek, Joseph Volotsky, Knyaz A.M. Kurbsky, Archpriest Avvakum, and manuscripts in the Classical, Slavonic, West European and Eastern languages.
Family and private funds of the largest landowners, manufacturers, statesmen of Czarist Russia (the Bobrinskiy, the Vorontsov, the Gagarin, the Golitsyn, the Demidov, the Panin, the Sheremotiev, the Shuvalov, the Yusupov families) include the materials about private landownership, trade and industry, domestic and foreign policy, science and culture, characterize ministerial and social activity of representatives of the ruling elite.
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