Anna Ustinova-Boychenko, Candidate of Law, Associate Professor
Public archives are important for preserving history. The formation of archives is carried out by accumulating acts of state and self-governing bodies, other documents that have legal significance or are of cultural value. State archives can “hide” some historical facts and, conversely, reveal important moments for humanity that were “created” from history. Very often, citizens apply to the state archives to help establish legal facts that are important to them, so the social dimension of the archives’ existence is obvious. The state is obliged to properly preserve archival information and to provide access to its use to individuals and legal entities.
Archival information, when used properly, can create the preconditions for revealing objective truth. This is especially important for the Crimean peninsula, as the propaganda measures, provoked by the aggressor State regarding the “historical affiliation of Crimea” have not abated for a long time. The history of Crimea has not become the only painful issue for the occupiers, as it is advantageous for the Russian invaders to hide many facts in order to maintain the “apparatus of influence” on the Crimean population. Therefore, some archival data occupiers want to keep secret – or to erase forever from the pages of history.
After the attempted annexation of the Crimea, Moscow-controlled collaborators decided to create an “archive of the recent history of the peninsula”. This intention was announced at the end of 2019. This was “justified” by the fact that in 2014 the so-called “new history of the Crimea” allegedly began to take shape, so it became important for the “new government” to “fill the Crimean archives with the necessary information”: with the “documents on referendum results” and the documents issued by Catherine the Great on the accession of the Crimea to Russia .
Such statements done by Russia-controlled “officials” about the “transformation” of history was “a continuation of changes in the archives of the Crimea”. Even before that, in August 2019, the Russian invaders held a typical “seminar” in Yalta – “Writing off documents of temporary storage of the “Ukrainian” period, drawing up acts of seizure to destroy documents that are not included in Russia’s national archives”. At this event, “a decision was made to destroy the documents of the liquidated 7 village councils and of Alupka town up to 2014” . This attitude to information, important for history, for sustainable development and for human rights, shows the determined intention of the occupying “power of the Crimea” to change not only the present of the Crimean population, but also its past. The announced creation of an “archive of the recent history of the peninsula” and the gradual destruction of genuine archival data is a confirmation that this aggressor State’s plan has begun to be actively implemented.
But these invaders’ “strategic plans” do not exclude their performers’ banal enrichment. It will be recalled that from the first days of the occupation of Crimea, Russia and the “administrations” created by it, declared the alleged “inviolability” of property rights of residents and of legal entities that existed in the Crimea until February 2014.
At the same time, the same “administrations” adopted hundreds of “regulations”, aimed at misappropriation of Ukraine’s, legal entities’ and individuals’ property, by the aggressor-State and by “bodies” under his control, and often by individual “officials”. It was the seized Crimean archives that were used by the occupying “authorities” to achieve this goal. For example, the above-mentioned “decision” to destroy the documentation of the village councils of Greater Yalta, apart from “rewriting the history of Crimea”, has a simple and obvious purpose to hide the total chaos, associated with the land seizure and development of the Southern coast of Crimea by Russian occupiers and collaborators. These blatant lawlessness against the environment, against the rights of local communities and directly against the inhabitants of Gaspra, Gurzuf, Massandra, Livadia, Nikita, Simeiz, Foros have been repeatedly described in the publications of our Association.
Well, then the Russian invaders began to confiscate property from the inhabitants of the Crimea on the basis of “certificates” that “the archives allegedly do not have the original documents” confirming the property rights of citizens, that was evidenced by the sad experience of Sevastopol. There, at the request of Russia-controlled “prosecutors”, the Sevastopol “archive”, controlled by the aggressor-State, obediently issued “certificates” to “security officers” stating that “archive materials do not contain the original orders of the relevant Ukrainian authorities”, on the basis of which citizens received land ownership before 2014. The presence of the originals of these documents in the hands of the victims could not convince the Russia-controlled “courts” and they, at the suggestion of the “prosecutor’s office”, “decide” to “deprive people of land ownership” .
Of course, the preservation and publication of historical sources is also very important, especially when Russia uses quasi-historical arguments to justify its aggressive policies. The documents provide an opportunity for both specialists and non-specialists to get an idea of the real processes . However, the “Crimean authorities” are trying to “close” archival materials from the public and ordinary citizens in order to create an “artificial history of Crimea” that will promote the “necessary government” and will impose the history, “necessary” for the Russian occupiers.
The Russia-controlled “governing structures” of the Crimean peninsula today misuse the state of “Crimean archives”, which today require the creation of digital copies of documents, as less than 5% of their funds are currently digitized. There is also a problem with the storage of funds, so the relevant facilities need to be expanded. The state of “Crimean archives” was described even by “Chairman of the State Committee for Archives of the Republic of Crimea” Oleg Lobov, noting that storage capacity already exceeds 100 % of capacity in the Crimean “state archives”, and that this figure is even higher in the “municipal archives”.
Oleg Lobov said that “due to the transfer of about 2.5 million documents in the near future, archival documents simply will not be where to store”. That is why, the representative of the invaders’ “administration” complained, his “department” is “in dire need of the construction of a new building”, and of course “especially the storage of documents of the recent Crimean history”. However, in reality, such “concern” for the squares’ expansion has not only a propaganda ground, but also a purely corrupt dimension, which will be proven later.
Of course, the “Crimean archives” objectively need not so much physical expansion as archival documents’ digitization. Despite the fact that the method of digitization of archival documents is allegedly a priority in Russia itself, in the territory of the occupied Crimea it “accidentally” found large gaps. Now, the Russian occupiers have digitized in the Crimea about “18 thousand units of state documents”, and allegedly spent “about 29 million rubles” on such a purpose, with the specifics “development of funds”, described below.
At the same time, the “State Archive of the Republic of Crimea” stores “over 1.5 million documents that require digitization”, another 700 thousand documents are in the “municipal archives” and they also “are waiting for this procedure”. It is not difficult to calculate how much money should be spent on completing these processes, and since “the republican budget does not have such funds” , the Russian invaders digitize only some archival sources, removed from the context and beneficial to Russian propaganda.
The information age makes its adjustments not only in people’s lives, but also in the world of dialogue of archival sources, making it more compact, efficient and accessible. Therefore the whole civilized world understands the benefit of digitization of archival materials, given the development of information technology, in particular for human rights and sustainable development, with which the occupying “authorities” obviously has no common path.
In addition, the “administration”, controlled by the invaders, has so far failed to create a “system for recording and using copies of archival documents”. There is a clear understanding that collaborators and occupiers have a direct interest in keeping all documents about their activities in one place and not having backups. Obviously, this is done specifically, so that these documents, if necessary, can also be easily destroyed, as it happened with the archives of the villages of the Crimea’s South Coast – in particular in the context of the rapid peninsula’s deoccupation.
The aggressor State is indifferent not only to the “structure of the Crimean archives”, but also to the “employees of the archival network”. On December 29, 2021, at the “meeting with the staff” of the “State State Institution of the Republic of Crimea” “State Archives of the Republic of Crimea”, the “issues of insufficient funding of logistics and wages were raised and the relevant provisions on the procedure and conditions of incentive payments were discussed”. ” It was stated that “employees of the archive are not paid financial assistance, surcharge for years of service, additional functions to work with secret documents” . Of course, a “decision was made to appeal” to the relevant “Crimean officials”, but the result is not and will not be expected.
However, the analysis of the expences of “State Archive of the Republic of Crimea”, which is now, after numerous “personnel perturbations” led by Yevpatoria-origin Junona Denisenko, who previously worked in private tourism business and in Tavriya National University, allows to suggest that even available “modest” money will be “successfully mastered”. And of course – in the private interests of the “top leadership of the republic”. For example, 7.2 million rubles have been spent on the purchase of conventional scanners since 2016, and at the end of 2021 ‘PlanCan C4-CA-600’ high-precision scanning complex was purchased from “ELAR” LLC for almost 5 million roubles. Earlier, in 2017, this company helped the “archive’ to master under 1.3 million for the “purchase of an automated information system”. As it was mentioned above, these costs have not led to a revival of digitalization, but someone’s well-being has increased.
Of course, it is easier to write off money on software than on scanners, and here the Moscow-based LLC “NPO-Opyt” came in handy for “archivists”. For years, it provided the “state archive” with “information processing services”, such as “development of information retrieval systems”, for which Ms. Denisenko’s “office” spent a total of 22.8 million roubles.
The “kickbacks” can be mastered more successfully at the construction site, and here the “Crimean government officials” got a “contract” for the overhaul of the “archive’s” building for 172 million rubles, that was started with the Simferopol firm “Vek” in 2018. As you can see from the portfolio of this structure, obviously controlled not just by the Russian invaders, but by their certain “officials”, it specializes in repairs of “historic sites”, while repair of the “archive” actually started four years ago is in a chronic “process” .
But we are interested not only in these relatively small collaborators’ “livelihoods” at the expense of the “state archive”. After all, we have identified the most interesting expense of this “state institution” is the receipt in 2020 from the St. Petersburg company “Optima” services for 1.5 million rubles for “digitization of archival documents “Counsils’ Decisions of 1944-1994” and then downloading into the software system “Archival Fund” and into archive’s automated information system” . It is noteworthy that “state archive” is not interested in principle for other local councils’ decisions, namely – made in the Ukrainian jurisdiction after 1994. The period before 1944, when Crimean Tatars lived in Crimea en masse, is also obviously not of interest to that “state institution”, as the number of even relevant Soviet authorities’ decisions, “inconvenient” for the picture of the “Russian world”, will be measured in tens of thousands.
We will add that in Simferopol there is also another “State Archive for Personnel of the Republic of Crimea” controlled by the aggressor State, which, according to the Russian occupiers, should keep personnel documents of “liquidated organizations of all forms of ownership located in the Republic of Crimea”. It is there, as determined by the occupying “authorities”, that “compromising materials” must be kept against all employees of Ukrainian employers on the peninsula, that were “liquidated” or “reorganized” in 2014 by the Russian invaders.
Since 2014, the aggressor State has entrusted Igor Gur’kov to lead such “responsible activities”, apparently acknowledging the latter’s “merits” in promoting the Russian invasion to the Crimea. The fact is that before the beginning of the Russian aggression, Mr. Gurkov actually headed, as a first deputy, the Crimean Regional Center of the Insurance Fund of Documentation. The main task of this State Archival Service of Ukraine’s structure, formed in 1996, is to create an insurance fund of documentation in the form of microfilms, which were to contain information from institutions and enterprises on “supply for production, operation and repair of defense, mobilization and economic products”, on “reconstruction, rescue and emergency recovery operations during the liquidation of emergencies” and “in the fields of preservation of cultural heritage sites and information about cultural values” .
In October 2013, just before the beginning of the Russian aggression, this Crimean Regional Center, which was to carry out the specified “activities in the field of public order and security”, was headed by Eugene Anikeev . Both Gur’kov and Anikeev remained in the occupied Crimea in 2014, and even got the “responsible positions” from the invaders, because the latter became the “deputy chief” of the “Fire Protection of the Republic of Crimea” . Therefore, the reader can draw a simple conclusion – where in 2014 the Crimean Regional Center’s archival microfilms went, which were of exceptional security and military importance, and had exclusive historical and cultural dimensions at the same time. The analysis of the procurement of this “state archive”, headed by Gur’kov, is meaningless and the only noteworthy fact the “mastering” of millions there by “overhaul” and by “development of information retrieval systems” cooperating with the same Moscow-based LLC “NPO-Opyt”, similar with Denisenko’s “office” .
Due to the attempted annexation of the Crimea, users’ access to retrospective information of archival institutions became limited, which is why the State Archival Service of Ukraine began to look for ways to restore the inaccessible Crimean metrics. The Ukrainian archival service was assisted by the American non-governmental organization “Family Search International”. Official appeals were also sent to other partners, including the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., to the YadWash Institute in Israel, and to German and Greek researchers to provide copies of documents from the Crimean National Archives got by them before 2014. These metric documents are in constant demand from Ukrainians.
At the same time, along with Ukraine’s efforts to restore a real history that is important to the population, some previously confidential documents are also published in the Crimea. They do not tell about Sovier or Russian repression, but on the history of World War II or on the life of Soviet leaders. Russian activist, researcher, coordinator of the “Immortal Barracks” project Andrei Shalayev emphasizes that against the background of such exhibitions, archives of repression are hidden in every possible way. Only documents that do not contain real information are available. It seems that work in the “Crimean archives” is completely suspended. “Responses to inquiries” are mostly not provided, and those that are received are either unsubscribes or proposals to provide “notarized powers of attorney” from the applicant’s relatives. That is, it is currently almost impossible for activists or historians to obtain any archival documents in the temporarily occupied Crimea. In the last two years, the coronavirus has become a convenient “excuse” not to provide documents at all.
The focus of the Crimean “administration” on strengthening the occupation regime, combined with traditional negligence, can be observed not only in the above-described attitude to the organization of “archival institutions”, to the “material support” of their “employees”, but also in general – to “preserve” archival documentation. After the occupation of Crimea started, the aggressor-controlled “Council of Ministers of the Republic of Crimea” in early summer 2015 “decided to establish an interdepartmental commission to organize the transfer of cartographic and geodetic materials and data administered by the executive authorities of the Republic of Crimea” to the “Regional Department of the Federal State Budgetary Institution “Federal Scientific and Technical Center for Geodesy, Cartography and Spatial Data Infrastructure” in the Crimean Federal District” .
This “commission” decided to “determine the list of cartographic and geodetic materials and data subject to and not subject to inclusion in the Federal Cartographic and Geodetic Fund”, and to “determine the list of materials remaining in the hands of the executive authorities of the Republic of Crimea necessary for daily activities”. The “commission” also “drew up a schedule, set deadlines for the transfer of cartographic and geodetic data” and adopted a “decision to establish a working group to transfer materials” to the specified “regional department” of the Federal Scientific and Technical Center .
It should be noted that according to the Law of Ukraine “On State Secrets” of 1998, the archival database on geodesy and cartography may contain classified information , as it has significant security and military importance. Therefore, the fact that the Russian invaders transferred the archival base in geodesy and cartography to the “regional department” located exactly in Sevastopol, despite the obvious inconveniences for the collaborators and occupiers themselves, is certainly not accidental. Such a move of the archival base on geodesy and cartography of the Crimea, the information of which is of strategic importance, to the main Russia-controlled military base of the occupied peninsula is obviously designed for a situation of military confrontation. It was a pre-planned aggressor’s measure, aimed at preventing resistance and measures of reintegration and deoccupation of the Crimea, and it was apparently initiated and directed directly from Moscow.
However, the transfer of all Crimean archival cartography to Sevastopol, apparently lobbied by the top Russian military, deprived the Simferopol’s “elite of collaborators” of significant sources of expected income. After all, geodesy is not only military operations, but also – building permits, land allotments and communications, i.e. the dream of every corrupt figure.
Therefore, after the “commission” approved the “procedure for the transfer of the archive”, the local occupation “administration” began trying to change the state of affairs with the “transportation of the values”. In the framework of the information campaign started, at least part of the archival database on geodesy and cartography was “actually lost”. Moreover, there were reports of “harmful consequences” from the evacuation of archival materials to Sevastopol. After all, it was noted that “officials” allegedly “noticed the loss” only after the start of repair work in Simferopol when builders, without cartographic data, began to involuntarily destroy the communications laid in the ground .
Therefore, they claimed, that “losses in Simferopol” were the direct consequence of the transfer of the archive of geodesy and cartography to Sevastopol, as “during repairs in the central part of the city and road construction, sewerage, utilities were broken, two power cables were cut”, because the repairmen allegedly “simply did not know where everything was located”. It was stated that in addition to this one-time incident, the “reorganization of the network of archival institutions” led to the loss of more than 80,000 documents, as some documents went to Sevastopol, some – to “district administrations”, and some archival information simply “disappeared” . If these theses are true, this negligence, with the prospect of a repeat of the “Simferopol incident”, and given the total perpetrators’ corruption, can easily harm the health and lives of Crimean residents, threaten the industrial, environmental, urban or transport safety in the peninsula.
However, the collaborators’ complaining about the lost documents of “enormous financial value” did not lead to practical consequences. The mentioned Federal Scientific and Technical Center for Geodesy, Cartography and Infrastructure of Spatial Data still has only one illegal “unit in the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol”, in the occupied territory of Ukraine, namely in Sevastopol, at 50 Ochakivtsiv Street, headed by Garypov Artur Rinatovich , to which we will return.
Therefore, after the “decision” in favor of the Russian military in 2015, Simferopol collaborators lost the opportunity for corruption deals. They hoped to do this with “land allotments” and “permits” apparently using the base of the state-owned Ukrainian enterprise “Crimean Department of Geodesy, Cartography and Geographic Information Systems” (“Krymgeoinformatika”), located at 169/105a Sukhodolna Street in Simferopol and seized illegally by the aggressor’s representatives in 2014 . However, someone wanted to “replay” for a long time the situation described above. After all, in 2015 in Simferopol a certain Iryna Filippova “registered”, under the control of the local “administration”, a “clone”, private “LLC” “GP Krymgeoinformatika”, which offered its “services” under the “sign” of the Ukrainian state structure  until 2020, and only then it was “liquidated” .
Therefore, “all interesting issues” of geodesy and cadastre of the entire occupied Crimea, in particular in their “archival dimension”, should now be “solved” in the “farm” of Artur Garipov on Sevastopol’s Ochakivtsiv Street. Therefore, you should take a closer look at this person and on the specified address. In Ukrainian registers, citizen Artur Garipov is listed as the director of the private enterprise “Rita-Service”, founded in the stormy 1995 at the Sevastopol address Heroes of Stalingrad Street, 29. That company had, among other things, the task of “extracting decorative and building stone, limestone, plaster, chalk and shale” and “providing ancillary services in the field of extraction of other minerals and quarrying”, and its founder was a certain Vyacheslav Bebnev .
But just before the occupation of Crimea started, in mid-December 2013, Mr. Garypov was appointed to manage the state enterprise “Sevastopol Geodetic Center”, subordinated to the State Agency of Land Resources of Ukraine, and located just at Sevastopol’s Ochakivtsiv Street, 50 . Prior to the occupation of the peninsula, this “Sevgeocenter” was the official holder of the state geodetic and cartographic fund of the Sevastopol region and it had the appropriate Ukrainian licenses . It is noteworthy that under the occupation, in July 2014, Mr. Garypov took part, allegedly on behalf of the “Ukrainian company” “Geodetic Center” at a meeting of the “City Planning Council of the Government of Sevastopol”, which rejected the next project “Tigers’ and Bears’ Park” in Inkerman, lobbied by the outrageous Oleg Zubkov . But already at the above-described “big commission” for the “transportation of archives” in 2015, Mr. Garipov was already in the role of “head of the regional department” of the aforementioned Federal Scientific and Technical Center.
But at that time in the two-story building on Sevastopol’s Ochakivtsiv Street, 50 there was already a “division of labour”, because there, in parallel with Garypov’s “plant” the Russian invaders were “registered” in February 2015 the “state unitary enterprise” “Sevastopol Center for Land Management and Geodesy”, led by Aidar Fatikhov and with a share capital of 27.77 million rubles. It is noteworthy that such illegal structure “inherited” not only the address from the Ukrainian state-owned enterprise seized by the invaders, but also the official email used by Mr. Garypov – [email protected]
Interestingly, in addition to the “state firm”, Mr. Fatikhov is a co-founder of a completely private structure of “YUMO Engineering” LLC in Kazan , and as of the “liquidation” of the “Sevastopol Center” headed by him, happened in 2017, the “company’s capital” decreased to 804 thousand rubles. However, the “liquidation” was only a “change of sign”, because “limited liability company” “Sevgeotsentr” was “founded” already at the same address and by the same email , and again by “city authorities” of Sevastopol, but on this time – with a “statute capital” of 2.5 million only . Iryna Mozhova was appointed by the Russian invaders to manage such next “Sevgeocenter”, who was previously noted as a “private entrepreneur” in promoting the “development” of half a million rubles by “city enterprise” “Management Company” , as well as – as the winner of the “Top Model” competition, held in Sevastopol in 2018, in the “Bikini” category .
It would seem that the functioning of “Sevgeocenter” with such specific “director”, with inactive sites sevgeocentr.rf and sevgeocentr.ru and with the same constant Mr. Garypov’s email , turned into banal corruption schemes  of “Sevastopol’s Department of Property and Land Relations” , but is not of great interest in the measurement of archives. But to fully understand what is really going on in Ochakivtsiv Street, 50, we must return to Vyacheslav Bebnev, at least as to the former employer of Mr. Garypov, the “cadastral archives’ chief” of the peninsula.
General information about Bebnev as a former deputy of the Inkerman City Council, as a member of the “Russian Bloc” party and as the “ataman of the Cossack Union “Rus” can be found on the “Peacemaker” website , but a number of details need to be clarified. It was Mr. Bebnev, long before the occupation of the Crimea, who took part in the provocation against the historic memorial sign, erected by the Ukrainian military at the Count’s Pier in Sevastopol. In the first days of the Russian occupation of Sevastopol “cossaks’ ataman” Bebnev not only distinguished himself by forceful measures in support of “people’s governor” Alexei Chaly, appointed by Russian special services but he also become “famous” for attacks, together with his “cossacks”, on the townspeople, accompanied by shootings, robberies and injuries . One such story was tragicomic, as on March 21, 2014, Bebnev’s gang attacked relatives of Nina Prudnikova , a city council’s member and a collaborator from Chaly’s entourage.  In occupied Sevastopol, Bebnev, who of course did not blame the described “adventures” of 2014, “registered” in 2015 both the “city cossack’s society” “Rus” and the company “Rita-Service” with the same address , where Mr. Garipov worked as a director until 2013.
Therefore, it is not surprising that Bebnev’s statements in 2016, in which he demanded at a “round table” for a “true history of the Russian Spring”, which “should begin” in 1991 “and not in February 2014” . Thus, the current statements of Crimean “archivists” about the “recent history of the peninsula’ are not so far from their past employers’ wishes. However, Mr. Bebnev also has a purely practical benefit in matters of archives and geocadastres through his protégé Garypov with relevant non-public roles. After all, Bebnev is also engaged in the “parking business” in Sevastopol, for which he “leases” from the “city government”, through controlled “firms” such as “Azhur”, a number of “cadastral plots” , and further he tries to build them . It will be recalled that the deals with “archives and cadastres” allow the “Sevastopol’s government” to “confiscate” land plots from citizens since 2014. Of course, “ataman” Bebnev is not currently the only beneficiary of such “archival issues”, but he is a clear example of how “rewriting history” in the occupied Crimea is actively combined with directly criminal commercial schemes.
So archives can be used for different purposes: to preserve history and to change the future. Operating with the seized Crimean archives, the occupying “powers” show their incompetence, negligence and desire to rewrite history, as well as their ability to establish mass abuses and corruption mechanisms on “archival issues”. Using various schemes and methods to profit and deceive people, the Russian invaders, knowingly or negligently, destroy or endanger the loss of unique sources of information. But the Russia-controlled “government” will not be able to tear “sheets of history” from human memory by rewriting data, publishing false information, hiding important documents, losing the goals of the “archive database”, and after the de-occupation of Crimea its population’s sustainable development will be restored.