Contextualising Appraisal and the Destruction of the Soviet Design Institute’s Archives

A Field note

  • Ksenia Litvinenko The University of Manchester
Keywords: archival appraisal; architectural humanities; archival research method; architectural archives; history of Soviet architecture


Recently, historians and theorists of architecture have started questioning the neutrality of traditional archival research methods by uncovering the operations of power and authority inherent to the creation, appraisal, accessioning, or erasure of historical documents and the institutionalisation of official and unofficial archives. Most of this research is based on analyses of archiving in Euro-American and (post-) colonial contexts; consequently, there is limited understanding of the politics and practices of archiving architecture in both former and current state-socialist countries. The paper addresses this lacuna by exploring different ways of archiving a single design practice, the Giproteatr Institute, one of the central organisations behind the construction of buildings for culture and the performing arts in the Soviet Union and beyond. By reconstructing the changing material and economic conditions of architectural labour in the late Soviet and immediate post-Soviet periods, precedents of authorised and unauthorised destruction of architectural documents, archival regulations, and appraisal procedures, the paper demonstrates that Giproteatr Institute’s archives are in themselves historical and carry different definitions of archival value and of the architectural profession. Therefore, the paper further problematises the notion of ‘evidence’ in architectural history and advocates for strengthening the focus on analysis of material processes of archiving.