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29.03.2010

Historians appeal to SBU Head V. Khoroshkovsky

   

In an open appeal to the Head of the Security Service [SBU] Valeriy Khoroshkovsky, 21 historians address the change in attitude to historical records and archival openness which Mr Khoroshkovsky announced on taking office a month ago.

“Over recent years there have been a number of positive changes in the development of dialogue between the Security Service of Ukraine and the Ukrainian public. The SBU Central Archive has become much more accessible and open for researchers, this undoubtedly testifying to the democratic transformations n our country. The study of archival material has made it possible for scholars to provide objective coverage of equivocal, and often previously totally unknown, pages of Ukraine’s history.

From media reports we have learned of your position regarding work on making archival material held in the SBU Central Archive public. You stated, for example, that the “task of the Service is first and foremost, to protect its secrets and guard the laws which created these secrets”.

Such statements can be interpreted as indicating intention to reverse the process of declassification and opening up of archival material held in the SBU Central Archive. Your position arouses concern regarding the further work of the Central Archive. We would like to stress that the possibility of access to archival material and their study is a guarantee for public stability in the country. Research based on archival material on a number of complex historical issues can give answers to those fraught questions of public debate which have, most regrettably, been the subject of manipulation by some modern politicians.

The work of security service archival institutions in democratic countries demonstrates clearly defined standards. Archival documents pertaining to the political struggle of the middle of the last century, and especially political repressions in those countries which have moved from totalitarianism to democracy have long been open to the public. By making archival material from the security services of the totalitarian period, the State authorities show that they have finally rid themselves of the political legacy of their undemocratic past, and, what is particularly important, have given it an unequivocal assessment.

We consider that the termination of work on processing and publishing archival material of the SBU Central Archive would be a step backwards in the affirmation of democracy in our country and what is more, an adverse message for other countries regarding the Ukrainian leadership’s rejection of basic democratic values. Such actions will not promote the development of historical studies, and under certain circumstances could directly obstruct new research. The work on declassification of archival documents should remain in the legal realm as is required by current legislation and universally accepted practice in democratic countries, particularly with regard to ensuring citizens’ right to free access to information.

Published (and signed) by Taras Voznyak on his blog at “Ukrainska Pravda”, http://blogs.pravda.com.ua/authors/voznyak/4bb099592e231/

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