Archiv der Republik – History

Formation and mission

The Archiv der Republik/Zwischenarchiv has been part of the Austrian State Archives as a department in its own right since 1983. It is in charge of holding records produced by the central governmental institutions of the Republic of Austria since her foundation in 1918.

It is the only department of the Austrian State Archives which is also in charge of evaluating, acquiring, preserving, restoring and preparing contemporary records of the Austrian federal administration.

Contact between the Archiv der Republik and the federal institutions originating said records – actually, all services of the federal government – are subject to the legal framework provided by the Bundesarchivgesetz and its supporting regulations. This law also stipulates which federal services are allowed to maintain archives of their own not within the purview of the Austrian State Archives.

Making a new start at the Central Archives building

The new building of the Austrian State Archives at Vienna-Erdberg was completed in 1987. The Archiv der Republik/Zwischenarchiv, which until then had temporarily been housed in a former factory building in the 7th district of Vienna, was the first department to move into the new building.

For the first time, due to the new infrastructure, the Austrian State Archives were now in a position to take on larger quantities of records offered by the originating institutions, i.e. the central services of the Austrian federal administration, which were no longer required for ongoing administrative tasks, so they could be archived according to modern principles of conservation, safety and security.

Difficulties in delimiting holdings

As the name of the department denotes, the Archiv der Republik is responsible for all records produced by the central services of the Austrian federal administration (President’s Chancellery, Federal Chancellery, federal ministries, central agencies and subordinate offices of the ministries and the Federal Chancellery) since the foundation of the Republic of Austria in 1918.

There were many reasons why the holdings in an archive of "recent history" should have started as from end of World War II and the beginning of the Second Republic (1945). From the archivist’s point of view, this cut-off year would have greatly facilitated matters.

However, it turned out that a division of holdings according to the criterion "monarchy or republic" with 1918 as the cut-off year was impossible in many cases. For example, the registries of the Federal Ministries of Justice and Education, which could not be separated from those of their predecessor authorities in the dual monarchy, were kept by the department "Allgemeines Verwaltungsarchiv".

On the other hand, the Archiv der Republik holds the records of the Ministry for Social Affairs produced since its inception in 1917 and holdings on war refugees starting from 1914; moreover, files from the National-Socialist era, which under constitutional law do not belong to the Republic of Austria but are certainly significant from a historical perspective (records of the Reich Commissioner for the reunification of Austria and the German Reich, the Reich Governor of Austria and files produced at the level of the administrative regions called "Gaue").

It was entirely infeasible to divide up the holdings of the former "Verkehrsarchiv" along the lines of any of these cut-off years, so that some records of individual railway companies which were transferred to the Archiv der Republik actually led to holdings dating back to the "Vormärz" period (before the 1848 Revolution).

There were no major problems involved for the Archiv der Republik when it came to safekeeping the records from the period of the First Republic (1918 to 1938) which had originally been taken over by the older archival departments, which had been "living" departments up until 1983, and to taking over the records preserved from the National-Socialist era (1938 to 1945). These holdings are also documented in a printed inventory.

Work in ongoing federal administration

The second central task of the Archiv der Republik is to screen, value, take over and describe contemporary records of the Austrian federal administration since 1945.

The principle is that records should be offered to the archive 30 years after they have been produced at the latest; however, experience has shown that some producers of files have plenty of archival space and often store much older holdings in the own locations whilst services in the process of relocating or suffering from lack of space tend to offer younger records. Thus, the Archiv der Republik has to use its resources flexibly and pragmatically to ensure that records of historical interest are preserved though they may not be accessible to research for many more years to come.

Cooperation between the Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Zwischenarchiv can definitely be called "state of the art".

Employees of the ministry screen the records in interim storage at the Austrian State Archives and process it for future researchers in cooperation with the Archiv der Republik.

Growing holdings

Whereas the Austrian State Archives were hardly able to accept any record transfers prior to 1987 due to lack of space, the Archiv der Republik took on official records (contracts, plans) covering about 3 000 linear metres of shelves on average in the past few years. Thus, the volume of holdings at the Archiv der Republik has nearly tripled since its relocation to the new building in 1987. In total, the Archiv der Republik is currently in charge of more than 50 000 linear metres of shelves with archival records.

A place of research

The past few years have been very demanding for the Archiv der Republik, especially in respect of organisational issues and workload. Large quantities of records had to be accepted due to the winding up of certain services (e.g. the Regional Directorates of Finance) and the scholarly use of certain holdings came to the fore, e.g. by the "Historikerkommission" (the commission of historians in charge of investigating expropriations during the National-Socialist era as well as related restitution or compensation claims).

Due to the long years of work at the State Archives done by the "Historikerkommission" and the banking commissions, as well as in provenance investigations, intensified Holocaust research and the extensive and detailed research carried out by the Victim Compensation Fund, the Archiv der Republik is deeply involved in current research in recent history as well as the time-consuming administrative implementation of campaigns to compensate forced labourers, prisoners of war, rubble women, of restitutions in kind etc.

The "digital age"

For years, and increasingly so in the recent past, modern administrations have used IT instruments in the fulfilment of their statutory tasks.

As early as in 1985, the Archiv der Republik introduced an electronic file administration system. The Austrian State Archives were among the first federal services changing over to the exclusive use of electronic files ("Elektronischer Akt" – ELAK).

Both the long-term storage of electronic data from electronic file administration systems and electronic files as well as the acceptance of "traditional hard copies" are responsibilities of the Archiv der Republik.

In this context, experts from the Archiv der Republik have from the very start been involved in the introduction of the "paperless office" (federal electronic files), the management of electronic files (DLM = Document Lifecycle Management) and the creation of an electronic interface (EDIAKT) between the different electronic filing systems of the Austrian federal administration.

This is the basis on which the requirements for maintaining electronic records, which will be the sources of historical research in the future, are being created. We are oriented towards the future to preserve the historical heritage of our country for generations to come.


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