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Although the National Archives as an institution is young, the establishment of the national archives system started already at the beginning of the Republic of Estonia. Due to the Archive Committee’s first discussions on March 3, 1920, and their initiative, the Historical Archives was established in Tartu as the holding place for historically significant insitutions’ records and the State Archives in Tallinn as the keeper of records of active institutions. Directions drawn by the Archive Committee can be considered as the first steps to offer some consistent solutions for acquisition, preservation, and usage of the archival records. Also, a relationship of trust was established between the agencies and archives at that time.

The Archives Act of 1935 strengthened the role of archives in the preservation and usage of society’s valuable records. During the Soviet occupation the archives continued their work, the regional archives, which were active in larger towns, were renamed as city archives and governed by Moscow. Independent management of the archives was restored in the 1990s and the National Archives of Estonia became active on January 1, 1999, in accordance with the Archives Act passed in 1998. Since 2012, the National Archives acts on the basis of a renewed Archives Act as well as Archival rules.

Since 2017, the National Archives has its units in Tartu, Tallinn, Rakvere and Valga. The National Archives is a centre of the national archivy by leading and developing acquisition, preservation, and usability of the archival records (see also About us). Further information on recent history can be found in the overviews and annual reports of the National Archives (the first articles in the biennial overviews between 1999–2018 are available also in English).