Does Russian legislation allow destroying the original paper records after digitizing or microfilming?

Read this article in Russian.

Generally speaking, the answer to this question is “No”. Current Russian legislation does not provide for the possibility to satisfy the legal and regulatory retention requirements by preserving electronic or microfilm copies in lieu of original paper records.

It should be noted, however, that since 2009 the Russian legislation is being quickly and radically reformed. Nearly all the previously existing obstacles to electronic recordkeeping in government and in business sectors have been removed. It is quite possible that at some point in the future the lawmakers will consider the possibility to store the digital and/or microfilm copies instead of bulky paper originals.

So far the Russian legislation allows permanent retention of scanned copies and destruction of the originals after scanning for a single type of records – the census questionnaires. Government Decree of July 26, 2010 No. 554 “On approval of storage procedures of forms and other records of National Population Census of 2010″ prescribes permanent preservation of scanned copies of census records and authorizes the destruction of the paper originals after completion of their processing and expiry of one-year retention period after the publication of preliminary census results.

As in many other countries, the judges of the Russian courts have a discretionary power (but not obliged) to admit the copies into evidence instead of the originals (see, for example, The Civil Procedure Code of the Russian Federation” of 14.11.2002 No. 138-FZ, Art. 67 “Assessment of evidence”,  ). Courts generally do so provided the opposing party in litigation doesn’t challenge the fidelity of the copy. In case of doubt the court asks for the originals, and their absence without good reason sufficiently reduces the probative value of copies.

Hence in the current Russian practice the organizations may digitize/microfilm and consequently destroy the paper originals of only those records which are not covered by legal or regulatory retention requirements (or the corresponding requirements are already satisfied) and are not expected to be required as evidence in litigation or investigations. Usually that’s the records that are retained by the organization solely for its internal purposes. It is recommended, however, to conduct a risk analysis in each specific case and consult with lawyers. Organizations obligated by the statutes or contractual agreements to transfer their permanent records to state archives must get the approval by the relevant archival authorities of the destruction of originals and their replacement with copies.

When making microfilm copies, one can also consult the voluntary national standard GOST 13.1.101-93 “Reprography. Micrography – Microfilm of document with the status of original – Order of manufacture, registration, storage and application” (the English title is given according to the standard itself).

Dr Natasha Khramtsovsky

Dr Natasha Khramtsovsky, Senior Records Management Expert

Your Dr Natasha Khramtsovsky – and my blog
Senior Records Management Expert
Electronic Office Systems LLP (Moscow, Russia)
Member of the Records Managers’ Guild (Russia) and ARMA International

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