The frustration of Moscow federal archives

Right now, the Moscow federal archive office makes me want to scream. My experience with the staff has been pure frustration.

At first, I was so excited that the archives found two documents on my great-grandfather. Two documents do not sound like much, but I have yet to find one document on him in archives for the region where he was born and had lived.

My excitement turned to annoyance when I learned how much Государственный архив Российской Федерации (ГА РФ) wanted for scans of four pieces of paper. The archive office wants $99 American dollars. This equals to about 3,000 rubles. It sounds completely insane.

My bank charges $45 for foreign bank transfers. I find it unreasonable to pay $144 for four scans. The archive office will not accept payment by Western Union due to concerns about money being in the hands of employees.

Archive staff claimed the office has an American account with Bank of New York. It would only cost $25 for a domestic bank transfer. I gave my bank the account number from archives and customer service was confident the number was not for an American bank. Now, I learned the archive office has Russian accounts for deposits of rubles and another for other currencies. Apparently, the archive staff did not understand what I meant by American bank account number. The archive office did not give me the account number for the Bank of New York.

Then, I asked my brother for help. He has friends in Moscow so he sent a friend to the archives to pay the bill. The staff was offended I sent someone else to pay the bill. I sent an e-mail message two weeks in advance that another person would pay the bill in person. I never got a response to my e-mail message before my brother’s friend arrived or afterwards.

So, now I am hoping a guy in Moscow who responded to my plea for help on will find a way to help me. He immediately responded to my e-mail message last night. This man will try to find the same documents from the 1880s in January.

The Moscow federal archives has a website but it is hard to figure out where certain documents could be found. The federal archives in St. Petersburg has a wonderful website that makes finding files with their location very easy.

I hope this drama with ГА РФ will end soon, with me having the documents in my e-mail account. Hopefully, it will not cost $144 to get these scans. I have been warned Russian federal archives charge expensive fees. I never expected that four scans would cost $99.

A lot of people use private researchers to review documents at ГА РФ because it is cheaper. It has been very affordable to have archive staff research my family in regional archives. I never imagined Russian federal archives would demand so much money for documents.

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