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15.06.2011

SBU to question another 16 people in Ukraine’s “historian case”

   

 

The SBU [Security Service] has decided to question another 16 people, all employees of the National Memorial Museum of Victims of the Occupation Regimes “Tyurma na Lonskoho” in Lviv regarding their work with historical documents.

The Investigation unit of the Lviv Regional SBU has summoned all 16 members of staff of the Museum. They are all being treated as “witnesses” in the criminal case initiated by the SBU over alleged preparation to divulge information constituting a State secret.

The Director of the Museum “Tyurma na Lonskoho”, historian Ruslan Zabily once again stresses that “all electronic copies of documents illegally removed from me and from the museum are historical, there are no State secrets there.”

“The SBU is still trying to classify historical material as secret although it has no grounds for this – the law prohibits the concealment of historical documents especially those containing information about violations of human rights and civil liberties, and the unlawful actions of the State authorities and their officials”, historian Volodymyr Vyatroyvch points out.

Despite this, all those who saw and worked with the historical documents, including those exhibited in the museum, from the cleaner to research staff and guides, are forced to appear for question at the SBU.

On 8 September 2010 in Kyiv, Ruslan Zabily was detained for 14 and a half hours by SBU officers who unlawfully, without any court sanction, and with numerous infringements of the law, removed a laptop and two external hard memory drives.  As well as the historian’s own academic work, the hard drives also contained copies of historical material and archival documents.

This extraordinary behaviour by the SBU led to outcry both in Ukraine and abroad, with a large number of prominent historians from many countries writing a letter of protest. 

The following is an excerpt from an article on the events by the well-known historian Timothy Snyder:

“But even more fundamentally: arresting Ukrainian historians for using Soviet-era documents is a radical change for the worse. It makes the Soviet past, and in particular the history of Stalinist repression of Ukrainians, appear to be a state secret. The SB has muddied the waters by presenting Zabilyi as their own employee, which is true because the SB had authority over the museum, but this is irrelevant. It is possible that he was chosen for the first arrest in a campaign because the SB command is aware that a historian working at a museum that emphasizes west Ukrainian nationalist resistance will seem unappealing to international observers. Thus when the international protests come, Kiev could well respond, in good Soviet style, by presenting Zabilyi as a nationalist reactionary. But the fundamental point transcends the individual. If one historian can be arrested for using documents, then others can be too. If the protest does not come, then others will be arrested. Much of what we have learned about both Stalinist repression and the Holocaust in the past twenty years has come from Ukrainian archives. The intimidation of historians is a threat not just to civic life in Ukraine, but to the advance of our knowledge of the recent past.”( http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2010/sep/21/whos-afraid-ukrainian-history/)

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