YEREVAN — Anyone who has had occasion to use the National Archives of Armenia (http://www.armarchives.am/) has come into contact with its hearty and energetic director Amatuni Virabyan. He has worked for many decades at the archives and has left a strong imprint on the institution.
The decision to establish the state central archives in the Soviet period took place in 1923. By 2006, after various stages of organization, the central archives came to have 11 provincial branches (including also a film, photo and audiovisual archive in Yerevan; http://www.armarchives.am/en/content/69/ and 29 regional offices http://www.armarchives.am/en/content/73/. They contained at that date, according to the official website of the archives, 5,759 fonds (record or archival groups) preserving 3,419,353 documentary units.
The oldest document in the archives is a 1607 deed signed by Shah Abbas I of Persia on land benefits to the Armenian meliks or princes of Kashatagh. The archives contain documents from Tsarist Russian times, but the main materials originate from the Soviet period to the present.
The National Archives, in addition to its own materials, was expanded in recent times to include the Department of Sociopolitical Documents, which used to be the archive of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and the Central National Archive of Films, Photographs and Sound-Recording Documents, which itself was created in 1943. It therefore contains thousands of movies.
According to a 2004 law of the Armenian National Assembly, the National Archives became a part of the Ministry of Culture, Youth Issues and Sports, which today is now the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport.
Virabyan stated last October that there were 325 employees at the archives. In addition, there were some 70 additional archivists at the Armenian presidential archive, the government and the ministries, so that the total staff comes to approximately 400. Of this total, only roughly 30 are researchers. He said, “I always joke that there are more employees in China’s archives than inhabitants of Armenia. There are over 3 million archival personnel in China.”