Save Hungary’s State Security Archives

Dear Sir or Madam:

As a history professor at Carleton University and having conducted research in archives across Canada and Europe, I would like to let the Association of Canadian Archivists know of a deeply problematic piece of legislation currently in the works in Hungary, which would allow for the destruction of a significant portion of the country’s national archival heritage. In December 2010, Hungary’s parliamentary secretary for justice announced that his government believes that a democratic state cannot “preserve the immoral documents of an immoral regime.” By November 2011, the Government of Hungary plans to introduce legislation that will permit the removal and destruction of Hungarian communist secret police, interior ministry and state security files currently held at the Historical Archives of Hungarian State Security in Budapest, and available to researchers, as well as to survivors and effected communities.



The new law will allow survivors to remove original and irreplaceable files from the archives and do as they wish with them, including selling them or destroying them at home. As copies will not be kept of these original documents, researchers and future generations will no longer have access to tens of thousands of files. Additionally, the logistics of removing and scattering these documents is deeply flawed, considering that most of these files refer to groups of people, rather than individuals, raising the question of who will be able to walk away with the original of any single document.

As of this morning, more than 160 Canadian, American and European academics have signed the petition that I launched in an effort to convince the Government of Hungary to reconsider its decision which, I strongly believe, serves as a very dangerous precedent for all archives and all archivists .I would like to invite members of the Association of Canadian Archivists to sign the petition as well, and to also explore the website that I have created on this issue:

Website:

http://hungarianarchives.com/

Petition:
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/hungarianarchives/

Please also read my article in the National Post on this issue:

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2011/01/13/christopher-adam-hungary-erases-the-past-and-whitewashes-the-future/

I do hope that your members will be able to support this very important initiative, as it is crucial for the Government of Hungary to see that archivists and historians in North America and around the world are concerned and paying attention to this issue. Should you be interested in receiving the Hungarian government’s perspective or comments on this issue, I would suggest that you contact the charge d’affaires of the Embassy of the Republic of Hungary in Ottawa, Mr. Tamas Kiraly, who is aware of the petition.
Sincerely,

Christopher Adam
Lecturer, Department of History, Carleton University

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2 thoughts on “Save Hungary’s State Security Archives

  1. Many thanks for posting my letter and information on the on-going petition. International pressure is very important in convincing the Hungarian government to reconsider its plans to allow for the removal of archival documents. I invite you to make your voice heard by writing to Mr. Tamás Király (tkiraly@kum ), or to the nearest Hungarian embassy.

    1. Thank you very much for the initiative. We must do everything in our power to stop it.
      In countries with volatile or complicated past (I am from Croatia and I know it first hand) opportunities to integrate historical memories are already limited. Historical school text books are changed so often that we all have been struggling trying to figure out what actually happen (even if you do remember after a while you are not sure if you can rely on your own memory). Media, typically, does not help producing its own spin.
      The archives are, in my opinion, our only chance to reconnect to our past and a source of healing for any country, especially for so-called countries in transition. If Hungary goes ahead I am afraid everybody else will see a green light to do the same. I will write a letter to Mr. Tamás Király (and change the email, thank you!).

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