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:
Please also read my article in the National Post on this issue:
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.
Lecturer, Department of History, Carleton University
- EU to detail objections to Hungary media law in letter (reuters.com)