ARQUIVOS DO COMINTERN E PROJECTO INCOMKA

Publica-se a nota que John Earl Haynes fez para a lista de discussão H-HOAC, dos estudiosos do comunismo americano, sobre o estado deste projecto , fundamental para toda a história contemporânea do século XX :

“COMINTERN E-ARCHIVE CREATED

A number of messages have come in inquiring about the posting COMINTERN E-ARCHIVE CREATED, asking for access details and other matters. Below is an explanation of the project that may answer most of the questions.

The posting was from the Russian press service RIA Novosti and dealt with the final stages of what is generally referred to as the Incomka project.

The Communist International holdings at the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (RGASPI) in Moscow have only been open to scholars since 1992. The holdings are massive, somewhere between 20 and 25 million pages and the finding aids (opisi) for the various sections themselves total more than 20,000 pages and are in Russian. Consequently, access to this still only lightly explored archive is not easy.

The International Committee for the Computerization of the Comintern Archive (“Incomka” to the original European partners) undertook a project to facilitate research into the Comintern archive. Begun by the International Council on Archives, its partners are the Russian State Archive of Social-Political History, Federal Archival Service of Russia, Archives of France, Federal Archives of Germany, State Archives of Italy, National Archives of Sweden, Federal Archives of Switzerland, Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport of Spain, Library of Congress of the USA, and the Open Society Archives of Hungary.

The Incomka project has two parts: first, to digitize as images one million pages of the most used and historically significant documents of the Comintern and, second, to digitize the finding aids to Comintern collections at RGASPI into an electronically text-searchable database.

An international committee of historians recommended which sections of the Comintern archive were to be digitized. (I served on the committee.) Entire sections were chosen for digitization, not individual documents. For example, one of the digitized sections is fond (collection) 495, opis
(inventory) 15, the records of the secretariat of Andre Marty, a French Communist leader and member of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI) in the 1930s. All of the documents in the Marty secretariat are digitized, not a selection of individual documents. RGASPI agreed to the sections recommended by the committee with the exception of the records of four personal secretariats, those of Manuilsky, Piatnitsky, and two Dimitrov collections. These were withheld due to the presence of intelligence agency material in these opisi that Russian security regulations prohibit from public use until declassified, a process that has not yet been completed.

The sections richest in American-related material are included in the opisi chosen for digitization: The American Commission (495-47) and the Anglo-American Secretariat (495-77). Note that this Comintern American material is not the same as RGASPI fond 515 opis 1, the CPUSA collection, that is available on microfilm.

The scanning of the documents was undertaken by RGASPI archivists who also prepared the Russian-language database. The database (designed by a Spanish software firm) is essentially an edited electronic version of the printed RGASPI finding aids allowing computer searches using file descriptors, key words, and personal or organizational names down approximately to the individual file folder (delo) level (not to an individual document level). The database allows rapid location of file descriptions of the entire twenty-million plus pages of the Communist International archive at RGASPI, not just the one-million pages electronically scanned for the Incomka project.

To facilitate international use, Incomka determined that the database was to be electronically searchable in both Cyrillic-alphabet Russian and Latin-alphabet English. The U.S. Library of Congress agreed to be the lead agency for translation of the database with Dr. Ronald D. Bachman, the Library’s Polish and East European area specialist, as the supervising linguist. Particularly with personal names, the translation task was a formidable one, where a name in Finnish, French, Chinese or some other language had been transliterated into Russian by a Comintern clerk, sometimes one with limited translation skills, and the Russian translation then being incorporated into the RGASPI finding aid and Incomka data base. To assist with the difficulties of translating the names from Russian into Latin-alphabet English, 167 scholars from 54 countries were called upon to review and correct when possible misspellings and translation garbles with names.

The Incomka project is now in its final stages. At the end of June the final product will be installed in computer work stations at RGASPI with installation at the partner institutions following. Installation at the Library of Congress is currently scheduled for the end of September 2003. The Incomka product will initially be accessible only at workstations at the partner institutions, an RGASPI requirement. RGASPI is negotiating with web providers to make the Incomka project available on a subscription/fee basis via the web, but that is for the future. Until the web product is available, the Incomka product will be available for free but only at a workstation in each partner institution.”

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