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      Planned Legislation Feared to Destroy Hungarian Archives

      Mar 15, 2011
      The Hungarian government is planning to release documents left behind by its communist-era secret police. According to an article on The Economist, the 20-year conundrum of what to do with these files has finally been resolved, and the government is planning legislation that will allow the subjects of files compiled by the security services to take home those documents that refer to them. Then, the individuals are free to do what they would like with the documents – whether that be to destroy or, in some cases, to publish them.

      The Hungarian government is planning to release documents left behind by its communist-era secret police. According to an article on The Economist, the 20-year conundrum of what to do with these files has finally been resolved, and the government is planning legislation that will allow the subjects of files compiled by the security services to take home those documents that refer to them. Then, the individuals are free to do what they would like with the documents – whether that be to destroy or, in some cases, to publish them.

      Junior Minister Bence Rétvári is in charge of drafting the legislation, which is due to be passed in November. Rétvári said the reports are the "immoral documents of an immoral regime… The individual should decide whether he wants to make them public or put them in a drawer."

      The article noted that secret police archives have been a problem throughout ex-communist Europe. The archives have been said to provide material to blackmailers and cause problems when files revealed betrayals and deceptions. 

      The documents are mainly valid to the subjects involved, but together they account for a piece of Hungary’s history, marking the post-war era. The article stated that some are concerned that once the documents are released, there will be no archive to account for the 20th century in Hungary.

      "Without the archive, we lose the ability to find out who we are as a society," said János Kenedi, historian for Hungary’s security services. "And it’s society as a whole that’s committing hara-kiri, because it’ll be the files’ own subjects who’ll destroy the archive.”

      According to the article, historians are worried about the release of the documents. Christopher Adam, a historian at Carleton University in Canada, has started a protest petition and has had several world-class historians sign the petition.

      “It is very difficult to see the destruction of Hungarian archives as anything other than a crude political move on the part of politicians who are concerned about potentially unpleasant and embarrassing documents on their relationship with the former regime that may one day be found by historians. Such documents may even suggest that some of the most fervent anti-communist politicians today were of a rather different opinion only two decades ago,” wrote Adams.

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