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Monday, 10 December, 2001, 11:49 GMT
Russia's film archive goes online
Russian Film Archives Library Building
The film archive is housed at Krasnogorsk near Moscow
One of the great collections of historical film footage from the former Soviet Union can now be found on the internet.

Russia's Central Film and Stills Archive has put its main catalogue online, offering web users access to most of its collection of 38,000 feature and documentary films.

A US-based company, Abamedia, recently signed a contract with the archive to host its materials on its website.

The Krasnogorsk archive contains a virtually complete collection of newsreels from 1919 to 1985, chronicling significant events in the history of the USSR.
Tsar Nicholas II
Historical reels go back to last Tsar's coronation

It also holds hundreds of reels of pre-Soviet material, including footage of the 1896 coronation of Tsar Nicholas II shot by Camille Cerf, a cameraman for film pioneers the Lumiere Brothers.

Picturing history

The collection, held in guarded vaults, had previously only been accessible to government-approved documentary film-makers and few others.

There is material from both world wars, as well as the Soviet invasions of Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan.

We had to describe [the films] in such a way that someone looking for footage of a particular event could find it via a search engine

Archive director

There is footage from the political show trials held during the Stalinist era.

Key events from the Cold War period for which footage can be accessed include the Cuban missile crisis, the space race, Vietnam and the collapse of the Communist system.

Cataloguing effort

The first step to putting the archive online was cataloguing the materials and summarising each film in Russian and English.

"You need quite lengthy expressions and words to describe a film... we had to describe them in such a way that someone looking for footage of a particular event could find it via a search engine," Lyudmila Zapryagayeva, archive director, told Russian Moscow-based TV6.

"Say, we want footage of the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II. We enter a keyword, and up comes a detailed description of the tape and a wealth of information about it," she said.

The project aims to make money by charging film-makers, ad agencies, publishers and others who want to use the images commercially a licensing fee before downloading from the site.

Heritage preserved

The archives are housed on nine floors in an historical 19th century building situated in the town of Krasnogorsk outside Moscow.

"It would normally take about three weeks to watch everything that is on one floor," correspondent Kseniya Turkova said, reporting for the TV.

It takes seconds on the internet to view the footage you want

TV correspondent

"A prospective viewer is likely to spend hours looking for the footage he or she wants. But on the internet it takes seconds."

The film collection was first set up in 1928 in Lefortovo Palace, one of Peter the Great's former Moscow residences. It moved to its present location in Krasnogorsk in 1936.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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