Dispute over the Museum of the Soviet Occupation in Ukraine


The Head of the State Archive Committee Olha Ginsburg has spoken out in favour of closing access to documents which pertain to communist repression.

She said that publishing the names of those officials complicit in the repressions connected with Holodomor [the Famine of 1932-1933] and the 1930s could have adverse effects on their descendents.

Olha Ginsburg also said that she does not plan to hand archival documents over to the Kyiv Museum of Soviet Occupation since she believes this museum to be unnecessary for Ukraine.

In the last week window were broken to the Museum, a stand destroyed and the book Kolhoz slavery stolen. Journalists wrote that the theft was discovered after a visit to the Museum by a group from the Progressive Socialist Party [PSP], led by a close associate of the Party’s leader Natalya Vitrenko.

On 7 June the PSP delegation visited the Museum, had photographs taken near the exhibits with their slogans and left strong comments in the guestbook. During the night on 8 June windows to the building were smashed. The Museum staff believe the PSP to have been involved.

The latter deny any involvement in the vandalism and theft of the book. They say that they went to the Museum to express their negative attitude to the creator of the Museum.

The Museum of Soviet Occupation is based on the exhibition “Not to be forgotten”: Chronicle of the Communist Inquisition: 1917 - 1991” which was first opened by the Kyiv organization of the Vasyl Stus Memorial Society in 2001.

The Chief Archivist in the country is firm that she does not wish to hand over archival documents to the Museum.

“There shouldn’t be such a museum in our country at all, so the archives did not give any material to it. If they approach us, I will take an entirely negative stand. Who needs this? My generation doesn’t need this. What generation needs to be told about the Soviet occupation? “

Only 3% of Ukraine’s archival documents have remained classified, the others are on open access.

Representatives of Memorial are concerned that the plans of the management of the State Archives to classify documents about communist crimes may lead to them being destroyed. They add that during Soviet times from 1917 to 1991 the NKVD and KGB murdered tens of millions of Ukrainians.

The Director of the Vasyl Stus Memorial Society Roman Krutsyk told the BBC that the refusal of a representative of the communists* to hand over material to the Museum of the Soviet Occupation is to do with the communist ideology of concealing crimes.

Mr Krutsyk is also in favour of lustration, which has already been carried out in some European countries. He considers that otherwise there will effectively be no rehabilitation of victims of the communist repressions.

“It is clear that under the present government we won’t succeed, however we plan to show not only the victims, but also the perpetrators. We see examples in Germany and Poland where lustration was carried out, and it didn’t harm any of the relatives of the people who had committed the crimes. Essentially, if we do not publish lists of those who committed the crimes, then there is no rehabilitation for the victims of the repression. Unfortunately the fifth column in our country is still strong. We will continue to have political crises if at government level we don’t tell the truth and condemn that period”.

 Mr Krutsyk also considers that despite calls from the left wing to close the Museum, and aggressive attacks on it with windows broken, stands destroyed and material stolen, the Museum as an independent civic organization will continue to exist and tell the truth.

The Russian Ambassador Viktor Chernomyrdyn has already called the creation of the Museum an affront to the Russian people.

President Yushchenko, speaking on Wednesday in Kyiv, effectively supported the creation of the Museum of the Soviet Occupation, promising to give it his own archival documents relating to crimes committed against the Ukrainian people.

Museums of the Soviet Occupation have at different times been opened in the Crimea and Rivne. They also exist in Tbilisi, Vilnius and Tallin. Speaking at the unveiling of a Monument to the Victims of Communism in Washington, President Bush called the ideology murderous and named Ukrainians among its victims.


*  Olha Ginsburg was appointed to her position fairly recently.  Her appointment aroused bemusement among many as she is an ex-National Deputy from the Communist Party of Ukraine [translator]

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