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The Wars of Bulgaria (1878-1945)

A thematic website developed by the Bulgarian Archives State Agency (Държавна агенция „Архиви“)

by Doctor Anna Batzeli post-doctoral researcher.

Anna Batzeli PhD at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece), currently she is working as a postdoctoral researcher on different case-studies in the modern history of Greece and the Balkans. Anna has published two books and several papers. Her publications can be found at: https://auth.academia.edu/AnnaBatzeli

The Committee of Military Archives thanks our friend Anna Batzeli for her commitment and her participation to this project for the second time. Thanks a lot!

Figure 1: The “The Wars of Bulgaria (1878-1945)” frontpage.

Introduction

In 2015, on the occasion of 70 years since the end of World War II, 100 years since Bulgaria entered World War I, and 130 years since the Serbo-Bulgarian War, the Archives State Agency of Bulgaria developed a thematic website to commemorate the hundreds of thousands of Bulgarians who died during these wars.

Almost 10 years since the launch of “The Wars of Bulgaria (1878-1945)”, the website continues to contribute to the preservation of historical memory in the country and remains a key tool for researchers, who can explore its collections from anywhere.

This is particularly important for foreign researchers who are willing to study Bulgaria’s role during these wars and compare Bulgarian perceptions and experiences with those of other countries.

The aim of this short piece is to briefly present “The Wars of Bulgaria (1878-1945)” thematic website (here the link).

The Wars of Bulgaria (1878-1945)

The “Wars of Bulgaria (1878-1945)” was launched in 2015 and consists of four collections: 1. The Serbo-Bulgarian War (1885-1886), 2. The Balkan Wars (1912-1913), 3. World War I (1914-1918), and 4. World War II (1939-1945).

Each collection provides visitors to the website with a concise presentation of the war, emphasizing Bulgaria’s role and a chronology of the main events. Each collection consists of archival items divided into three categories: 1. Lists of the Bulgarian soldiers who died during the war, 2. Historical documents, and 3. Photographs.

In particular:

1. The Serbo-Bulgarian War (1885-1886):

The collection on the “Serbo-Bulgarian War (1885-1886)” in the first category, “Lists of the Bulgarian soldiers who died during the war,” provides access to over 600 documents, while the second category “Historical documents,” is divided into five sub-sections which cover different aspects of the war.

The first sub-section of the “Historical documents” includes historical documents that detail the impact of the Bulgarian Unification and the events that led to the war.

The second sub-section contains documents related to the battlefields and covers aspects related to the concentration and mobilization of the Bulgarian troops, documents related to the Western and Northern Fronts, as well as soldiers’ personal documents, such as letters.

The third sub-section includes archival items related to the societal impact of the war and the voluntary support movement.

The fourth sub-section contains historical documents developed at the end of the war and covers the following topics: Europe’s reaction to the war, peace talks, consequences of the war, post-war commemoration initiatives, and awards to the soldiers. Finally, the fifth sub-section contains private documents.

The collection on the “Serbo-Bulgarian War (1885-1886)” also provides access to approximately 60 photographs (such as individual and group portraits) and a few maps. 

Figure 2: Portrait of Lieutenant Panayot Dvoryanov ‒ commander of the Sandrov and Ruse volunteer detachments, head of the Chupren section, who organized the defense of Belogradchik during the war (Ruse, 1887), source: wars.archives.bg).

2. The Balkan Wars (1912-1913):

The collection of the “The Balkan Wars (1912-1913)” has 1,906 subpages with “Lists of the Bulgarian soldiers who died during the war,” while its “Historical documents,” category is divided into six sub-sections, similar to those of the “Serbo-Bulgarian War (1885-1886)”:

  • Documents related to the beginning of the war;
  • Documents covering the front (which is divided into the following sub-collections: i. Military actions until the Chataldzhan armistice (October – November 1912), ii. Hostilities (December 1912 – March 1913), iii. Bulgarian Navy and Air Force and iv. Documents developed by Soldiers);
  • Documents related to other aspects of the wars;
  • Documents related to the Second Balkan War (June–July 1913);
  • Documents related to the end of the Balkan Wars (which consists of the following sub-sections: London Conference and Peace Treaty, Bucharest Peace Treaty and Constantinople Treaty, Losses, Consequences, Memory of the war, Care for the injured and refugees);
  • Private documents (letters, archives, etc.).

The collection of the “The Balkan Wars (1912-1913)” also has a gallery with over 300 photographs, maps, postcards, etc.

3. The World War I (1914-1918):

Equally rich as the  “The Balkan Wars (1912-1913)” collection is the collection on “The World War I (1914-1918)”.

Starting with its “Lists” section, it should be noted that “The World War I (1914-1918)” lists are divided into lists on Bulgarian soldiers who died during the war and to those who were awarded for their services to the motherland.

The “Historical documents,” category is divided as it follows:

  • The beginning of the First World War and Bulgaria (1914–1915);
  • At the front (mobilization, military actions, support, documents developed by soldiers, soldier mutinies, demobilization);
  • Documents related to other aspects of the war (such as military life, the administration of newly acquired lands, requisitions, prisoners of war (foreign, Bulgarian), support to soldiers and their families);
  • End of the war (Peace talks, Losses, Consequences of the war, Awarded soldiers, Memory of the war, Care for the injured and refugees);
  • Private documents.

Finally, the collection’s gallery provides access to over a thousand photographs, maps, postcards, paintings, etc.

4. The World War II (1919-1945): The collection on ‘World War II (1919-1945)’ has 511 subpages with ‘Lists of the Bulgarian soldiers who died during the war.’

Its ‘Historical documents’ category contains documents related to the beginning and the end of the war, the front, as well as documents related to other aspects of the war, parallel developments, and private documents.

The ‘World War II (1919-1945)’ gallery has 12 subpages with photographs.

Figure 3: Image of the mobile Austro-Hungarian field printing office during World War I (source: wars.archives.bg).

Closing remarks

It should be added that the archival items contained in the collections on the World War I (1914-1918) and the World War II (1919-1945) were utilised in the framework of public initiatives to mark the anniversaries of these wars.

Lastly, the Bulgarian Archives State Agency in addition to “The Wars of Bulgaria (1878-1945)”, has developed the following thematic websites that are useful to researchers:

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Istanbul congress, new engagements

The Committee of Military Archives provided an overview of the meeting held on 2nd September 2023 in Istanbul through a short post published just after the Congress.

According to the agenda of the Committee of Military Archives meeting in Istanbul one of the topic was CAM activities and specifically the blog results.

We presented the results of the working year 2022/2023 and our considerations in front of all the National Commissions during the General Assembly of the International Commission of Military History on 8th September according to the general program.

Now, we are happy to share more information on the CAM topics touched during our presentation.

The first slide of our presentation in front of the General Assembly

With the agenda the CAM presented:

  • the results of the Committee meeting;
  • the visit to the Istanbul national archives;
  • some updates on our committee;
  • the CAM blog and future activities;
  • the military archives online guide;
  • the CAM on X.

Regarding the meeting information, please see the dedicated post. Moving to the surprise we received at the end of the Congress, we were very happy to be invited for a visit to the Istanbul National Archives (we will dedicate a specific post on it).

Regarding the CAM blog, the steering committee decided to offer an overview of the facts and figures on the working year 2022-2023. On this point, we presented some suggestions to include more contributors.

Giving an overview of the results of the Military Archives Online Guide we can affirm that they are not so enthusiastic but we are still committed to continue our effort in this project.

At the end of the short speech we presented the decision of the CAM steering committee to open an X (former twitter) account in order to increase our visibility on the internet. Ideally, we would like to repost the tweet of national archives on the social network and to revive our job online.

Please feel free to follow us on X!

The conclusions presented by the CAM to the General Assembly

At the end, the CAM steering committee stated the conclusions as follows.

We will:

  • continue to promote our projects;
  • enlarge our actions to the National Commissions within the ICMH;
  • publish other posts on the blog;
  • engage more directly the Military National Archives.

To conclude, the Committee of Military Archives invites all the members of the National Commissions, all the delegates and attendees of the CAM meetings and all the volunteers to engage directly in this blog proposing themes and topics.

We will be more than happy to enjoy together.

8th September 2023, the visit to the National Archives in Istanbul. the CAM representative during the meeting with the Deputy Director, Dr. Sebahattin BAYRAM.

See you soon!

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CAM meeting ICMH Congress military archives

Istanbul 2023

Another fruitful meeting of the CAM

During the International Congress of Military History held in Istanbul between 3 and 8 September 2023, the Committee of Military Archives convenes in Istanbul for the annual meeting.

On 2 September the Committee of Military Archives met in presence in a very nice venue thanks to the availability of the Turkish Commission of Military History.

The meeting started regularly. After the initial discussion on the job done during the working year 2022/2023, the CAM received three presentations by professor Gültekin YILDIZ regarding the Turkish military archives, then colonel Marius CROITORU gave information regarding the Romanian Military Archives and finally our secretary-general Kathleen VAN ACKER presented some reflections on “a new international declassification”.

Eleven persons as national delegates, attendees, scholars from Austria, Belgium, Cameroon, Italy, Romania, Senegal, Türkiye, UK, USA were present.

The Committee of Military Archives thanks the Turkish Commission of Military History for the support provided during the congress.

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Military archives in Poland

An introduction

By Jacek Jędrysiak, Assistant Professor in the University of Wrocław and Head of Section in Military Historical Bureau of Lieutenant General Kazimierz Sosnkowski in Warsaw-Rembertów

The Committee of Military Archives thanks Jacek Jędrysiak for his commitment and the active participation to this blog

1. The structure of the contemporary military archives network

According to the Act of 14 July 1983, the military archival fonds in Poland is a separate part of the national archival fonds, subordinated to and managed by the Minister of National Defence (pol. Ministerstwo Obrony Narodowej, MON).

In overall, it includes all documentation produced by military units and institutions, as well as files related to state defense, produced by defense units operating in other ministries as well as central and local state offices.

Since 2016, the archives managed by MON can be divided into two categories. The first consists of archives subordinate to the Military Historical Bureau of Lieutenant General Kazimierz Sosnkowski (Wojskowe Biuro Historyczne im. gen. broni Kazimierza Sosnkowskiego, WBH).

These are currently:

  • Central Military Archives of the Military Historical Bureau (Centralne Archiwum Wojskowe Wojskowgo Biura Historycznego, CAW-WBH, Rembertów)
  • Military Archives in Oleśnica;
  • Military Archives in Toruń
  • Branch office of the Military Archives in Toruń  in Gdynia.
Picture 3:  Banner on the Building of the CAW-WBH: Commander in Chief of the Polish Armed Forces General Kazimierz Sosnkowski with his staff officers in 1943. Source: CAW-WBH. Source: CAW-WBH

The second group consists of the so-called archives of organizational units, for example:  

Archives of the Military Counterintelligence Service; Military Intelligence Service Archive; Military Police Archive; archives of military universities; archives of research institutes etc.

2. Contemporary military archival fonds

The fonds of the military archival network includes materials on the Polish Army, conventionally from 1908 (considered the beginning of the rebirth of the Polish armed forces) to the present day. Materials concerning the earlier history of the Polish military are stored in other archives, including in particular the Central Archives of Historical Records in Warsaw. In addition, some of the documents from the period 1908-1939 were evacuated during World War II and are still in the institutions founded in exile during World War II: Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum  and the Józef Piłsudski Institute (both London) and the Józef Piłsudski Institute of America (New York).

Picture 4: Exposition in the main hall of the CAW-WBH building 100 anniversary of  the creation the WBH. Source: CAW-WBH

These institutions also store materials on the Polish Armed Forces in the West from 1939-1947, the Polish Underground State and post-war Polish military emigration.

The establishment of the Institute of National Remembrance in 1999 is also significant. The Act of 18 October 2006 on the disclosure of information on documents of state security organs from 1944-1990 and the content of these documents obliges to submit documentation to the Institute of National Remembrance concerning, among others, military security organs, which include: Military Information (Główny Zarząd Informacji, GZI); Military Internal Service; Second Directorate General Staff of the Polish Army; other services of the Armed Forces conducting operational and reconnaissance or investigative activities, including in the types of armed forces and in military districts. The Institute of National Remembrance also collects all documents regarding communist crimes and other crimes constituting crimes against peace, humanity or war crimes committed against persons of Polish nationality or Polish citizens of other nationalities in the period from September 1, 1939 to July 31, 1990, so documents regarding the participation of units of the Polish People’s Army (Ludowe Wojsko Polskie, LWP) involved in the above-mentioned activities.

A number of documents concerning the Polish Army history are also found in Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian and Lithuanian archives.

Picture 4a: Plaque in honor of officers served in the  WBH who were killed during World War II. 100 anniversary of  the creation the WBH. Source: Jacek Jędrysiak

3. History of military archives in Poland until 1945.

The fall of the November Uprising in 1831 meant the end of the regular Polish army in the 19th century. In this way, it was also impossible to develop the foundations of military archives. The conditions for work in this field arose with the establishment at the end of 1916 in the areas occupied by the Central Powers of the Congress Kingdom of the Military Commission of the Provisional Council of State. At that time, the Scientific Section subordinated to it undertook preparatory work in order to establish the Military Archives in the future.

Picture 5: Documents in the warehouse. Source: CAW-WBH

After Poland regained independence in 1918, the Central Military Archives (CAW) was established from the former Archive Department of the Scientific Section. Its first director was Lieutenant (finally Lieutenant Colonel) Dr. Bronisław Pawłowski (until 1933) and the headquarters of the CAW was so called the Copper-Roof Palace in Warsaw. Then, until 1931, its collections were in Legions’ Fort in the Warsaw Citadel. The initial CAW resource consisted of the files of the General Gouvernement Warschau, the 1st Polish Corps in Russia, the Polnische Wehrmacht and (obtained at the beginning of 1919) the documentation of the Polish Legions and the Polish Auxiliary Corps. Gradually, it included orders and operational and organizational files of the Polish military authorities, documentation of Polish formations and military associations from the period before World War I and the war years, files of the military authorities of the former partitioning countries and clippings from periodicals devoted to military matters were also collected.

Picture 6: Documents in the warehouse. Source: CAW-WBH

Until 1927, CAW was subordinated to the Military Institute of Science and Education (Wojskowy Instytut Naukowo-Oświatowy, WINO). Then it was included in the structure of the newly established Military Historical Bureau as the Military Archive (Archiwum Wojskowe, AW). The change was intended to better coordinate the scientific and research activities of military institutions run since 1922 by the existing Historical Office of the General Staff. From 1933 to the outbreak of war, Major Bolesław Waligóra was the director of the Military Archives. At that time, the institution took over the files from the disbanded archival boards at the Commands of the Corps Districts and the archives of the Military Historical Bureau. From 1929, documentation of central military institutions, created in the years 1918-1928, was systematically collected.

The AW structure in 1928 included:

  • Department I – old files until 1863 and the library;
  • Department II – files of military formations and unions during the World War (until 1918);
  • Department  III – Independent Archival Section – operational files from the period of Independent Poland (from 1918);
  • Department IV – military administrative files (from 1918);
  • Department V – military files of central authorities and institutions (since 1918);
  • Department VI – foreign military files.

The change in the structure took place in 1935. From November of that year, the AW consisted of:

  • Archive Management,
  • General Department with old department I and a library,
  • Scientific and Archival Department with old departments II, III, IV, V, VI
  • Records and Administration Department.
Picture 7: Documents in the warehouse. Source: CAW-WBH

The AW collected, inventoried and stored files of importance to the history of the Polish military, registered military files in other archives, libraries and private persons, supervised the substantive over military registers and developed regulations and instructions for them, conducted queries for authorities, offices and private persons and issued copies and excerpts from files. The Military Archives also coordinated and supervised the activities of the entire military archival service, including clerks at the headquarters of the general districts and the headquarters of the corps districts.

According to estimates from 1933, the resources of the AW in 1939 numbered about 7,000 meters of documents. From 1931, the Archive had its seat in a building at Pokorna Street in Warsaw.

During the Polish campaign in 1939, only part of the most valuable collections was evacuated to Romania and through Paris to Great Britain. The vast majority, including intelligence files, were taken over by the German and Soviet occupiers. Already in the autumn of 1939, the Third Reich joined the organization of the Heeresarchiv branch in Gdańsk-Oliwa. There were 15,000 meters of files in total, including documents of central institutions of the Polish Ministry of Military Affairs, types of armed forces and services, military units. These materials were used for repressive purposes, therefore they were divided and inventoried contrary to the principles of archiving. Germany and the Soviet Union also exchanged files important from the point of view of their goals, adding to the losses and mess in the collections.

Picture 8: Documents in the warehouse. Source: CAW-WBH

4. History of military archives in Poland after 1945

The reconstruction of the Military Archives was entrusted by the order of the High Command of the Polish Army (under Soviet auspices) of September 16, 1944 to the “reactivated” Military Research and Publishing Institute (Wojskowy Instytut Naukowo-Wydawniczy, WINW). WINW initially resided in Lublin, and then in Łódź. The activity of the AW until the founding of the Gdańsk-Oliwa Branch in April 1945 is poorly known. Materials from Oliwa were evacuated by the Germans at the turn of 1944/1945 to Potsdam and Berlin. About 5,000 meters from about 10,000 meters documents from Oliwa have survived in general. The evacuated materials were looted by the USSR in 1945 and included in the resources of the local archives. In 1964, the Soviet side returned approx. 400 meters of documents, which was a smaller part of the acquired materials. It was not until the 1990s that another part of the military archives from Russia was reclaimed to Poland.

However, invaluable collections concerning, for example, the Polish Military Organization or the Second Department of the General (Main) Staff are still in Russian hands.

Securing the recovered pre-war CAW materials became a priority of the organized institution. This was confirmed by the order of August 5, 1945, which ordered the re-formation of the Central Military Archives, subordinated to the Main Political and Educational Directorate. Unfortunately, during the Stalinist period, pre-war files were to be used by the communist authorities for the purposes of political repression, remaining at the disposal of the military and civilian secret police. In particular, the GZI  was actually aiming at limiting the role of the new CAW to the role of current LWP files created after 1943. As a result, in 1947 GZI took over the actual authority over the archive. The process of gradual removal of pre-war files to the warehouse in Wesoła near Warsaw began. As a result, the CAW was actually deprived of its historical fonds and the secret police created an alternative, so called Archive of the Polish Army. However, the CAW was not liquidated, and the network of field archives, including 6 archives of military districts, was even subordinated in terms of content. As they remained in the structure of subordination to the commands of military districts, supervision over the formation of the archival fonds was illusory.

Picture 9: Reading room in the CAW-WBH. Source: CAW-WBH

The next reorganization of the CAW was made by order of the Ministry of National Defense No. 01/Org. in January 1951. The CAW was (initially informally) subordinated to the IX Department of the General Staff. Its headquarters became Fort of Sokolnicki in Warsaw. Forming the resources of the CAW consisted in the first place in merging the archival materials of the pre-war AW dispersed in the country and abroad. The files seized by the GZI slowly began to be taken over, but some of them were still at the disposal of the secret police, and the process of their full transfer to the CAW was completed only in the 1990s. In addition to the files of the pre-war CAW, the Germans also collected in Oliwa files of a number of key military institutions of the Polish Army from before 1939, e.g. the Main Inspectorate of the Armed Forces, the General Staff of the Polish Army, etc. It is worth mentioning that in 1950, the destruction of those materials of the Polish Army from before World War II, which were useless from the point of view of the secret police, was considered. This could concern e.g. an act from the period of the Polish-Soviet War or the Silesian Uprisings! The destruction action was stopped, but the pre-war files were taken over by the CAW in a disordered form. It was not until 1956 that the action to develop the files taken over from GZI began.

In the course of the assessment, it was found that out of the pre-war CAW resources, the archive had only 30% of files. Another 30% was taken over by the Archives of the Ministry of Public Security, 10% were dispersed in other military institutions, the rest were destroyed. The commenced consolidation action, lasting until 1964, resulted in an increase in the number of files held by 3,000 to 4371 meters of documents. In the same year, the action to scientific description this fonds began.

An inventory and consolidation of the LWP files from the years 1943-1945 was also constantly undertaken. They were put in order in the course of the action lasting until 1960. The main resource of the CAW, however, consisted of successively taken over documents of military institutions and units created after 1945 and of disbanded military formations (e.g. in the 1970s of the Internal Security Corps). Until 1968, however, no initiative regarding post-war materials was taken, which became an urgent problem due to the dismantling of some units. For this purpose, a number of files of military units established after World War II were taken over from the subordinate archives. As a result, fonds were created and developed for the most important institutions (e.g. the General Staff or the Main Political Directorate) and military units until 1956.

CAW was constantly struggling with space and quality issues in the warehouses. Since May 1972, the permanent seat of the CAW has been the building acquired from the then Academy of the General Staff in Rembertów.

The structure existing until 1990 and subsequent transformations did not have a positive impact on the development of the growing resource. In principle, until 1954, the formal status of the CAW as a central archival institution in relation to other military archives was not sufficiently regulated. It was only in the years 1959-1965 that the supervision of the CAW over the remaining 13 military archives and 127 file repositories was agreed with the Main Directorate of State Archives. In general, until the years 1987-1990, the archives of military districts and types of the armed forces remained outside the CAW structure.

Picture 10: Conference room in the CAW-WBH. Source: CAW-WBH

In 1990, the military archival network was given the following structure:

  • Branch No. 1 of CAW: Archives of Central Institutions of the Ministry of National Defense (Modlin)
  • Branch No. 2 of CAW: Archives of the Warsaw Military District (Warsaw)
  • Branch No. 3 of CAW: Archives of the Pomeranian Military District (Toruń)
  • Branch No. 4 of CAW: Archives of the Silesian Military District (Wrocław)
  • Branch No. 5 of CAW: Naval Archives (Gdynia)
  • Branch No. 6 of CAW: Archives of Air Forces and Air Defense (Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki)
  • Branch No. 7 of CAW: Archives of the Cracow Military District (Cracow, since 1992)

The key in this context was Branch No. 1, which took over the files of such dismantled LWP institutions as the Military Internal Service, Main Political Directorate, Main Directorate of Combat Training, Military Chamber of the Supreme Court, etc. At that time, CAW became a typical historical archive, other branches took over the role of archives of current institutions and types of armed forces.

This structure survived until 2000, when only Branch No. 1 remained under the CAW’s subordination. The other archives were subordinated to the Land Forces Archive (branches in Toruń, Wrocław and Kraków), the Navy Archive in Gdynia and the Air Force and Air Defense Archive in Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki.

Another change took place already in 2009, when to the CAW was subordinated the Archives of the Ministry of National Defense in Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki (former Archives of the Institutions of the Ministry of National Defence), the Military Archives in Toruń, the Military Archives in Oleśnica (relocated between 2005 and 2007 from Wrocław), the Archives of the Air Force in Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki and the Naval Archives in Gdynia. The Land Forces Archive and its branch in Kraków were liquidated, and their resources were transferred to other units. In 2010, work began on the reconstruction and expansion of the building of the Central Military Archives.

Picture 11: UNESCO certificate for the Documents of the Polish radio intelligence  from  the period pf the Battle of Warsaw in 1920. Source: CAW-WBH

5. Present day

The main institution of the military archival network is currently the Military Historical Bureau, whose director since its establishment in 2016 is Professor  Sławomir Cenckiewicz. The actions of the WBH management led to the completion of the delayed renovation of the CAW building in Rembertów. In 2018, the fact of illegal destruction of files from the communist period in 1990-2009 in Rembertów, Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki and Gdynia was also revealed.

When CAW-WBH was established, the following were subordinated to:

  • Military Archives in Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki (former Central Institutions of  MON and Air Force Archives)
  • Military Archives in Gdynia;
  • Military Archives in Toruń;
  • Military Archives in Oleśnica.

The archive in Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki was dissolved in 2018 and its resources transferred to other institutions. The Archive in Gdynia was subordinated to the Archive in Toruń.

CAW-WBH is today the most important military historical archive. The entire CAW materials are divided into 11 parts. The first four are the historical departments of the institution, the next are artificially created collections:

  • Archive materials from 1908-1939
  • Archive materials from the period of World War II
  • Archives of the Polish Army from 1943-1945
  • Archives of the Polish Army after 1945
  • Collection of the Military Archival Commission
  • Personal and Award Files
  • Photo collections
  • Cartographic collections
  • A collection of regulations, instructions and legal acts
  • Archives of the Polish Army from the years 1943-2012 – unedited
  • Collection of files of the Military Historical Research Office
  • Part of the files from section I, e.g. “Polish Legions and the Polish Auxiliary Corps” (https://wbh.wp.mil.pl/pl/pages/oddzia-ii-i3034-1-100-2022-08-31-1y1w/) are available online.

There is also an electronic resource database for files from the sections I-IV: https://wbh.wp.mil.pl/pl/pages/oddzia-ii-i3034-1-100-2022-08-31-1y1w/

The Military Archives in Toruń mainly stores materials from the former Pomeranian Military District and the units that were part of its structure after 1956. The records of the disbanded archives in Nowy Dwór and Modlin from the area being the scope of the archive’s supervision are also successively included in the resource. The branch in Gdynia mainly stores the old files of the Navy.

The Military Archive in Oleśnica mainly stores materials from the former Military Districts: Silesian, Warsaw and Cracow since 1956. The archives have also successively included files of dissolved archives in Nowy Dwór and Modlin from the area under the supervision of the archive.

In the three above-mentioned archives, materials are recorded only on the basis of files lists, combined into provisional collections. The list of collections is available online on the sites of the archives.

6. Databases and using of the archival materials rules

Archival materials are available to anyone who requests it, unless there are grounds for refusal of access specified in legal provisions. Only in exceptional cases may the director of the archives refuse access to archive materials if:

  • their disclosure could violate the legally protected interests of the state, organizational units and citizens (e.g. they contain protected personal data or information that violates personal rights),
  • their disclosure could violate secrets protected by law (state, official, professional),
  • their physical condition does not allow for sharing.

Materials up to 1990 were declassified, unless the confidentiality clause has been extended after this period.

Data from personal files of professional soldiers are made available in the scope of the service history, decorations and official opinions created until 1990. Making personal files available to a wider extent requires the user to provide justification for the purpose of sharing and obtain the consent of the Director of the Military Historical Bureau.

Archival materials are available free of charge in the reading room. Original files are available only on site, they cannot be borrowed or taken outside the reading room. Using the reading room in each of the archives requires prior registration of the place.

User application forms are available on the website: https://wbh.wp.mil.pl/pl/pages/formularze-2021-01-21-w9lf/

Materials from which usable copies (microfilm or scans) were made are made available in the form of these copies, not originals.

When using the archives in the reading room, you can make free copies of them with your own camera, as long as they are intended for personal non-commercial use. Due to the safety of the materials, it is unacceptable to use a flash lamp and manipulate the archives other than as a result of normal use. Copying should also be done in such a way as not to disturb the work of other users (e.g. without using a tripod).

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Carabinieri / Gendarmerie archives military archives Reading room

Military Archive Experiences

My experiences as a student in the Italian Carabinieri Historical Archive reading room.

by Maria Letizia Annaloro, Master’s Degree in Archival and Library Science

The Committee of Military Archives thanks Maria Letizia Annaloro, Master’s Degree in Archival and Library Science, for her committment and her participation to describe her experience during the preparation of the thesis based on an archival inventory of a Carabinieri historical archive fund.

For the writing of my master degree I asked the Historical Office of the Carabinieri General whether they wanted to help me with a project to make an inventory of a part of their archives. When I rethink my experience I can only describe it as quite special.

I had to create an inventory from the beginning, a very important task, since an inventory can be considered as the most important tool to access an archive for research. It took a prolonged period of time and a daily presence within the Historical Office to do this work, as opposed to the consultation of information for a simple research.

The front page of the archival inventory of the archival fund of the Carabinieri Company of Modica (Sicily) realised by Maria Letizia Annaloro.

Making an inventory and creating an access to an archives is an archivist’s finest job, so it is not surprising that I initially tended to view this experience as something very personal, rather than something useful for the public. At the time, I was so focused on completing my task, that I forgot why I was doing it and the context in which I was doing my job.

When I entered the archives, I noticed some aspects of the place that cannot be described even by the most accurate encyclopedia: the silence, which can give great satisfaction. I seemed to be alone, but in reality I was not: the religious silence was broken by the sound of pages that were turned, by the footsteps of passers-by.

I even noticed the specks of dust visible in the beams of light coming from the windows.
After a moment of strong emotional impact, I moved on to consult the material that had kindly been made available to me. Gathering this information was useful for studying the nature of the papers and the structure of the institution.

From the first moment I definitely felt the differences between a military organization and the the civilian world, to be honest, it was a shock for me, I was even convinced I wouldn’t fit in and I wanted to leave

During my everyday experience in the reading room I understood the organisation needed to manage my request as master candidate. After some days, i saw the effort led by the personnel to support my needs and to help me in my archival inventory. So I changed my perception moving from a professional involvement to a personal one.

From the professional point of view, it has contributed to increase the empowerment and awareness acquired during the university training by adding a series of useful information for the reading of the documentation treated, in which rituals and symbols are integral parts of the context. Of fundamental support for the knowledge of the materials provided was the presence of the Maresciallo Maggiore Marcello Di Fede and the Appuntato Scelto special qualification Davide Fusco, helping me to interpret the papers so that I could complete the drafting of the inventory.

After months of hard work, I drew conclusions, exposed my work, justified my choices not only to others, but especially to myself. My goal was to highlight the uniqueness of this incredible patrimony that tells interconnected stories through documents, showing everyone that the archives is a place of study and research not only for an elite group of university students, researchers and professionals. It is a source of knowledge for everyone, making it possible to discover information about the institution, it’s history and even the culture of the territories in which it operates. It adds important pieces for the reconstruction of a history, not only it’s own but also the national history.

Nowadays, finally I could bring back values other than experience. I know that the archives represent one part of the cultural heritage; the organisation stores them as a facilitator, keeping memoris in its storage repository, but providing the full accessibility to the citiziens.

Categories
CAM meeting ICMH Congress

Athens, August 2021

The Committe of Military Archives meeting

On 29th August 2021, the Committe of Military Archives convened in Athens in the framework of the XLVI International Congress of Military History on the theme “Independence wars since the XVIII Century” (29 August – 03 September 2021).

The Hellenic Military Archives presentation by Pigi Kalogeraton

According to the agenda of the meeting, the Committee discussed for 2 hours of the main important topics as in the agenda. Ten attendees (delegates or observers) from 8 countries (Belgium, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Romania, Turkey and USA).

After a quick introduction by each attendee, the discussion took place and then two presentations were held by Pigi Kalogerakou (on the Hellenic Military Archives within the Ministry of Defence) and Kathleen Van Acker (new privacy rules and declassification). The presentations will be published in future posts.

The Hellenic Military Archives presentation by Pigi Kalogeraton (2)

The first main outcome is connected an initiative that the Committee launched some years ago. The CAM decided to continue the project launched by the previous steering committee led by Michael Steidel, the Online Guide of Military Archives

The Online Guide of Military Archives project (see below the ICMH Newsletter n. 35 – June 2021, pp. 20-21 where there is an history of the guide as well) has the aim to become a gateway the help researchers and scholars to find the most important military archives or archives with significant military archival funds.

The form is very simple and it takes about 30 minutes to be filled with the all the relevant information. No specific requirements are needed to fill the form.

At the moment, a first group of national commissions members of the ICMH sent the template filled as proposed (the template is available in the ICMH Newsletter as above, p. 22). As far as a second group of national commissions will send other filled forms, the Guide will be available on-line on the ICMH website. The subsequent forms will be added subsequently.

The declassification process presentation by Kathleen Van Acker

The second main outcome of the discussion was related to “Mars&Janus”, the CAM newsletter according to the Statutes. The newsletter has not been published since 2010. So to re-launch the information strategy of the Committe, it has been approved to transform the newletter in a permanent blog hosted on line (here the presentation). There are some reasons behind the decision. The most important, in our view, is to spread as much as we can the information and products that CAM received.

So the steering committee of the CAM decided to move to Hypotheses.org because it is a platform for humanities and social science research blogs. The texts are in open access and they are not intended at specialists solely; in this regard it could be raise more to a broad audience.

The results of the meeting have been presented to the general assembly of the International Commission of Military History on 3 September 2021.

 
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