Czechs to get institute on totalitarian past

27th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

27 June 2007, Prague (dpa) - Czech President Vaclav Klaus signed into law a controversial bill establishing an institute to study the country's 20th-century totalitarian past, a spokesman for the president said. The bill paving the way for the foundation of the Institute for Studies of Totalitarian Regimes has sparked much controversy during its bumpy ride through the Czech parliament. The leftist opposition has opposed the institute's founding, charging that it would offer a distorted view of the Czech co

27 June 2007

Prague (dpa) - Czech President Vaclav Klaus signed into law a controversial bill establishing an institute to study the country's 20th-century totalitarian past, a spokesman for the president said.

The bill paving the way for the foundation of the Institute for Studies of Totalitarian Regimes has sparked much controversy during its bumpy ride through the Czech parliament.

The leftist opposition has opposed the institute's founding, charging that it would offer a distorted view of the Czech communist- era history and that politicians would influence its work, a claim contested by the centre-right ruling coalition.

At the core of the dispute has been the question of whether it is better to let the country's troubling history rest, or to attempt to come to terms with the unpleasant past by shedding more light on it.

"It has been a dispute on the shape of coming to terms with the past, and on the role the state should play in it," historian and supporter of the bill Petr Blazek told Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

As well as conducting research the new institute is to administer communist-era secret police and intelligence files that survived the mass shredding after the fall of communism 17 years ago.

The institute will take over responsibility for the files from the Interior Ministry and intelligence services. Some of the documents will be made public for the first time, Blazek said.

Researchers and the public will be able to view the documents, which could include sensitive or unfavorable information on many living Czechs, under the roof of one institution.

"These documents will finally become objects of historical research," Blazek said, adding that intelligence services will no longer be able to use them for their goals.

The institute will also prepare records for sensitive security screenings required for public servants dealing with classified information.

The checks have long been criticized as it has been revealed that communist-era spies - who are deemed a security risk - have passed.

The institute also has ambitious plans to make its archives even more accessible by gradually posting them online.

Such plans have not been received well by some communist-era dissidents as spies had logged details from their private lives.

The Czech Republic has followed in the footsteps of other central and eastern European countries such as Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary which have already founded similar institutes with the aim of coming to terms with their own totalitarian history.

DPA

Subject: German news

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