Ukrainian academics demand an end to State intrusion and persecution of historians


Historians from 28 Ukrainian universities and institutes of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as of 10 research organizations, State museums and archives have addressed a letter to the President, Prosecutor General and the Head of the Security Service [SBU] expressing their concern over persecution of historian Ruslan Zabily and worrying trends in State policy on national memory. This follows a letter signed by 100 well-known historians to the Head of the SBU earlier this week.
To the President, Viktor Yanukovych
The Prosecutor General, Oleksandr Medvedko
The Head of the Security Service, Valery Khoroshkovsky
We must express our protest against the unlawful detention of the Director of the National Memorial Museum of Victims of the Occupation Regimes “Tyurma na Lonskoho” in Lviv, researcher and historian Ruslan Zabily, carried out by officers of the Security Service of Ukraine [SBU] on 8 September in Kyiv. The latest instructions from the authorities in the humanitarian sphere and change in policy regarding national memory suggest that there is nothing accidental in the political repression of our colleague who is actively researching the Ukrainian national liberation movement, in particular the history of the Ukrainian Resistance Army [UPA].
The SBU officers used unacceptable methods of work which can be viewed as open psychological pressure and intimidation. The detention of Mr Zabily, the unauthorized search of the premises of the Memorial Museum “Tyurma na Lonskoho”, the removal of academic material and personal items, as well as the initiating of a criminal investigation against the historian are evidence of violations of human rights and a rapid reduction in democratic freedoms within the country.
This is a dangerous precedent also because what is in question is the attempt to carry out revision of scholarly achievements by Ukrainian researchers in studying the most complex pages of national history: Holodomor 1932-1933; the armed stage of the struggle for independence; as well as political repression in Ukraine during Soviet times.
We are convinced that the events around the detention of the Director of “Tyurma na Lonskoho” demonstrate a lack of interest by the regime in the truthful presentation of the history of the totalitarian regime which is impossible without use of material held in the SBU archives. We call for a continuation of the official declassifying of documents of Soviet party bodies and enforcement structures in accordance with Ukrainian legislation and the practice of neighbouring post-Soviet countries.
We insist that command-administrative methods with regard to Ukrainian historical scholarship in order to bring it under the subordination of the regime are unacceptable. We would stress that political persecution of scholars will inevitably gain international publicity which will have an adverse effect on Ukraine’s reputation and the authority of its governing bodies.
We demand that justice be reinstated and that the circumstances of the detention of Ruslan Zabily be investigated, the criminal proceedings against him terminated, and the full work of the Memorial Museum “Tyurma na Lonskoho” be ensured. Nor should there be any persecution in future of scholars researching Ukrainian history.
We call on all those concerned to endorse this appeal, by writing to

The appeal when first made public had 114 signatures

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