The International Contact Group for reseearch on on issues of historical political economy in former Soviet archives was established at a conference on Stalin's Politburo at The European University Institute, Florence, 29 to 31 March 2000. The original members were Paul R. Gregory, Mark Harrison (secretary), and E. Arfon Rees; later, they were joined by Andrei Markevich.
The purpose of this website was to promote academic research in the archives of the former Soviet Union, especially by younger scholars, on issues of historical political economy including topics in economic history, economic and political institutions, and decision-making of all kinds, and also research on comparative and international lines.
In conjunction with the University of Warwick Department of Economics, the International Contact Group disseminated new research through the PERSA Working Papers. The maintenance of this site was supported by grants of The Leverhulme Trust and the University of Warwick Department of Economics.
In the twelve years of existence of the website, research in the archives of the former Soviet Union on issues of historical political economy ceased to be an esoteric activity and passed into the mainstream. It no longer needed the focus provided by the contact group and the website.
From October 1, 2012, the contact group ceased activity. The PERSA working paper series, having hosted 64 papers, many of them subsequently published in peer-reviewed books and journals, was closed. The website will be maintained for the foreseeable future as an archive of scholarship.