Archives staff members hope to declassify greater part of archives

Russia must urgently solve the problem of declassifying archived documents, said the deputy director and the head of the scientific information center of the Russian Federation State Archives, Oganes Marinin, in an interview with RIA Novosti.

According Mr. Marinin, declassifying the materials in the special archives is an important and urgent problem for all Russian archivists.

Under the law, the documents must be declassified in the course of 30 years after its appearance and since the time when it was classified, Mr. Marinin explained. However, he said, this law is not often observed.

In accordance with the legislation, experts, who determine if the document will be declassified, must review a classified document, which is already 30 years old. However, the process of declassifying documents has stopped because the law "On Archives," adopted in 1993, does not provide for such a review mechanism.

Mr. Marinin said the archives do not have the right to address these problems, though before 1993, they did have this power. Presently, the department that issued the document or its legal successor has the power to declassify the document. If the department does not exist anymore and there is no legal successor, then the Inter-Departmental Commission for the Protection of State Secrets has the power to declassify the document. "This is a long process, and many cases have been put aside and will not be considered for a long time."

"This is not the first year we have raised the question of declassifying a large number documents from Council for Religious Affairs of the USSR Council of Ministers," he said. "Some of the documents have already exceeded the classified limits." However, in this case, too, it has not been established, what body has to deal with this problem.

The State Archives considers it a success that a procedure was established for declassifying the documents from 1945-1949 that concern the activity of the Soviet military administration in Germany. Seventy percent of the documents have been declassified, the rest has been left in the special archives "for concrete, real and important reasons," said Mr. Marinin.

Now, Russian scientists and their German partners have a chance to familiarize themselves with these documents and study them. A special German-Russian commission has been set up to study these documents.

It is very important for scientists in different spheres to have access to the former classified documents. "Facts are bread for any history," Mr. Marinin said. In his opinion, the concealment of the information existing in the hundreds and thousands of the pages of old documents narrows the possibility of objective observations and scientific conclusions.

"Yet, there is no efficient mechanism, so far, that would make it possible to declassify documents, which are important for understanding our history or for the development of the economy," he said.

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