Laws and archival regulations that assure open access to essential records and guarantee their preservation are essential to the ability of a free society to understand itself and assure freedom in the future. They represent a set of standards against which the administration of particular archives can be measured. The relationship of formal laws and regulations to actual archival practices is still a limited one, however. Because of this limited relationship, archivists and the scholars who use archival collections are involved in political contests with state authorities over who controls the information in an archives. The history of the archives of the U.S.S.R. and the states of the former Soviet Union exemplifies these conflicts and the necessity of adhering to professional ethical standards in the absence of legal regulation.

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