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2019 †N9-10(174-175)
The 90th anniversary of the establishment of the Central State Archive (CSA) was celebrated in Ashgabat. The Main Archive Directorate of the country celebrated the same anniversary a year earlier.
Reaching such a respectable age provided a great opportunity to organize an official conference and an open house day. Specialists of regional archives, office and archival services of ministries and departments of various levels, the Academy of Sciences, specialized higher education establishments, veterans of archival profession and journalists were invited to the festive events.
Following the long-standing tradition, archivists used this momentous event not for laudatory anniversary speeches but for targeted practical purposes. The conference focused on the role and importance of archival documents in preserving the historical memory and further development of Turkmenistan. Experts shared their experiences in organizing and archiving the collected materials, including rare documentary evidence, their scientific and technical processing by means of modern technologies, as well as researching and widespread popularization of the national historical and cultural heritage. They naturally remembered the pioneers of the Turkmen archival profession who devoted many years of life to this important work. Their portraits were exhibited in one of the sections of the celebratory photo exhibition.
One of them was Aleksey Vladimirovich Golovkin, director of the Chief Archive of the Turkmen SSR (until 1988), author of several books and editor of collections of documents, experienced archivist, teacher, candidate of historical sciences, honorary citizen of Ashgabat. He started his archival work in Turkmenistan in late 1948, where he was on a mission to help rescue the archive fund and restore the archival service after the disastrous Ashgabat earthquake.
Many of the former and current archive employees learned the lesson of dedication exemplified by Golovkin. They forever remembered his words: "An archive is not a storehouse of dead papers, but a living repository of the complete history of the people, error-free and truthful. And we, archivists, along with historians, are responsible for this."
The development of the archiving in Turkmenistan is associated with the name of Maya Mollaeva, who headed the Main Archive Directorate for more than twenty years and the Archive of the President of Turkmenistan in 2012-2018; veterans of archival profession Lyubov Malyarzh, Raisa Kelasova, Oguldzhan Poladova, Alla Khummedova, Bayram Koyunliyev, Lyudmila Polishchuk, Maya Aganiyazova, and currently employed veterans Elida Javagiryan, Dzhakhan Berdyeva, Ene Saparliyeva and many others.
The origins of archiving in the East date back to antiquity. However, in the modern sense, it started to develop in Turkmenistan at the end of the 19th century with the emergence of administrative bodies and institutions in the Trans-Caspian region, each of which had its own paperwork, i.e. documentation that subsequently formed the first archival funds.
The first Turkmen archivists faced great challenges. The war of the 1918-20s led to the loss of archival funds of great historical value. Paper shortage of the 1920-25s brought even more losses, when valuable documents were possibly used for household needs. The extraordinary measures taken to protect the archives helped to save many valuable documents on the history of Turkmenistan of that period.
On 1 October 1920, a regional archival department (Obarkhot) was created under the Military Commissariat of the Trans-Caspian region in Ashgabat. The chief task of this department was to collect documents of the former tsarist administration, military units and institutions that participated in the battles at the Trans-Caspian front. Obarkhot started receiving documents as of 14 January 1921. A total of 1995 files were received, forming 52 funds. The documents were examined, systematized and inventoried. They are of great scientific value and underpin the historical part of the National Archive Fund of Turkmenistan.
The establishment of the Central Archive Administration (Zuardel), performing the functions of managing and storing documents, was an important step in the development of Turkmen archival business. On 5 November 1929, the Central State Archive was created on a new basis. It initially consisted of three archival repositories: historical, October Revolution, secret affairs and a library. A special depository was spared for the illustrative film fund. In 1925, the archival documents provided the foundation for development of 44 areas of scientific work, including carpet production, earthquakes in Turkmenistan, irrigation and history of Ashgabat (1900-1918). The first steps were made in publishing the historical sources before 1938.
Archivists worked for nine decades to build up "memory banks" of many generations of the Turkmen people, its history and culture. During the Great Patriotic War and even in the first days after the devastating Ashgabat earthquake of 1948, the country's archival institutions continued to collect, take stock, systematize documents, forming a national archival fund.
The Great Patriotic War is a special topic for Turkmen archivists. The archive funds keep many chronicle-documentary materials describing the courage and fearlessness of the glorious sons of the Fatherland, the valiant Turkmen warriors and the labor exploits of the workers of the home front. The scientific research and publishing activities resulted in the production of the five-volume works - "Khatyra" (1998), in memory of the missing and dead soldiers from Turkmenistan who fought heroically for their homeland in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45, and "Shokhrat" (2002), about soldiers that returned home victorious.
The Central State Archive of Turkmenistan now boasts hundreds of thousands of materials, including many rare and unique documents containing invaluable information about the country, its glorious past and present. The oldest documents date back to 1874.
Over 235 organizations registered with the CSA. Much work is being done to ensure the safety of documents at the stage of departmental custody.
Answering social and legal inquiries is one of the most important areas of the archival work. Inquiries, letters with requests for documents come from all over the world. And each of them is answered.
Popularization of documents of the National Archive Fund of Turkmenistan and development of the theoretical foundations of domestic archival science are facilitated by the scientific-methodical, historical-documentary journal "Trkmen Arhiwi" (Turkmen Archive), which is published by the Main Archive Directorate under the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan in Turkmen and Russian languages.
The archival funds of Turkmenistan offer a wealth of valuable materials for scientists, postgraduate and undergraduate students, writers, local historians and journalists. Cultural figures actively use them too. In the late 50s of the last century, work began on collecting and storing the documents from personal collections of prominent people of the country: writers, scientists, composers, musicians, Bakhshi, painters, artists, doctors, prominent statesmen, military leaders, veterans of the Great Patriotic War. The documents belonging to the People's Artist of the USSR, playwright Bazar Amanov, were among the first materials donated to the Central State Archive in 1959.
In January 1959, the Department of Literature and Art was established at the CSA for collection and scientific-technical processing of personal archives of famous figures of science, art and literature. Thanks to this work, the facts of biographies of prominent personalities were made public, and many previously unknown works by Turkmen writers, poets and composers came to light. In total, the department of personal archives accounts for 238 funds, which are fully inventoried and registered.
Archival materials are widely used in various educational activities. Film lectures and meetings of scientific student associations as well as tours of the archive museum have become a tradition. Numerous visitors come here to get acquainted with the immortal pages of Turkmenistan's history, to learn more of the military and labor biography of their legendary countrymen. Each such event becomes the best lesson of patriotism.
One only has to see the documents that have turned yellow over time, the triangle letters of the war years or the legendary half-hour documentary by famous cameraman Roman Carmen, who filmed the consequences of the natural disaster that claimed thousands of lives on the October night of 1948 and almost destroyed Ashgabat (this unique film is stored in the Central State Archive of Cinema and Photo Documents of Turkmenistan). Access to archival information helps to ensure a truthful coverage of the facts of the past and promote interest in the history of the Fatherland.
On the day of the anniversary, the CSA offered an informative excursion into its "inner sanctum" - a depository. The rooms are now fitted with modern equipment ensuring the proper storage of documents.
It is noteworthy that the archive changed its address several times over its history. Old-timers of the Turkmen capital remember that in the distant 1930s the Central State Archive occupied a building of the former military registration and enlistment office on 12 Frunze Street. After the earthquake, all archival documents were transported to the basement on Labinskaya Street. Despite the complexity of the situation, the archive continued its main work answering inquiries from workers.
Two large barracks were built on the site of the destroyed building with the assistance of border guards. The archival workers managed to not only collect and systematize the salvaged materials and newly received documents and photographs but also open a small reading room, in which the work on archival sources continued.
In 1962, the CSA and other archival institutions moved to a seven-story building on the main highway of the Turkmen capital - Svoboda Avenue (now Magtymguly). In 2002, there was formed an archive complex following the opening of a new building adjacent to the main one. It was staffed with high-tech equipment, hardware, special cameras with sophisticated fire protection systems that ensured proper conditions for storing documentary materials, including rare paper documents, audio and video recordings, films and photo materials on the history of Turkmenistan.
Centuries passed, generations changed, but the state archive preserves the memory of times and people and enriches itself with new pages of the country's history.


©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005