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100th Anniversary of the Signing of the State Archives Decree

On 7 February 1919, Józef Piłsudski, Chief of State, signed the Decree on the Organisation of State Archives and the Custody of Archival Documents. The document served as a legal basis for the establishment and functioning of archives in the reborn Republic of Poland. It replaced the Regency Council Rescript on the archives, issued on 31 July 1918.

The Decree contains ten chapters on the organisation and tasks of creating the state archives network created from scratch. The archives were created at a very difficult time for the young state, without proper technical infrastructure and support necessary for the archives to operate smoothly. The centralised model of management adopted at that time was the only guarantee of the development of the archives network and the tasks fulfilled by the archives.

Through their superior authority, which was the Department of State Archives, the state archives were subordinated to the Ministry of Religious Denominations and Public Enlightenment. The tasks of the Department of State Archives and the state archives themselves included, among others, the collection and storage of manuscripts related to the culture and history of Poland, technical support and scientific supervision of archival resources, preservation and protection of documentary heritage from damage, as well as reclaiming Polish state-owned archival documents located outside Poland.

The organisational structure, which includes the archives in Warsaw and across the Republic of Poland, changed over time. That resulted from the gradual take-over of archives which held historical resources, but were still located outside Poland in 1919. The activities undertaken pursuant to the Decree resulted in creating collections of state archives, estimated in 1939 at 90,000 metres of records. The document applied until March 1951. Nowadays, the organisational structure of the state archives comprises the Head Office of State Archives and 33 local archives along with entities which they are in charge of.

Tomasz Matuszak, PhD