Experts: The law on declassification of the Soviet special services’ archives solves all problems with access to documents. Now it’s important to have sufficient funding and maintenance of archives

Experts: The law on declassification of the Soviet special services’ archives solves all problems with access to documents. Now it’s important to have sufficient funding and maintenance of archives
December 24, 2015.

Kyiv, December 24, 2015. The Law of Ukraine “On Access to archives of repressive totalitarian communist regime in 1917-1991” is a part of decommunisation legislation adopted in April 2015. This law introduces a number of qualitatively new principles. According to the principle of complete openness, all archives of the Soviet special services will be opened. The only restriction is the request of victims of repression or their relatives to restrict access to information that could harm them or their families. All information is provided in full, except for the exempted under Ukrainian law. The law allows free access to information and copying materials, said Igor Rozkladai, Lawyer at the Media Law Institute, Director of Reanimation Package of Reforms group “National Memory Policy”, at a briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. He also noted that Ukraine was late with the adoption of the law, because doing it earlier, it could have prevented conflicts. “When there is no information – appears mythology. People begin to put forward the hypotheses that at some point become theses or statements. Then, conflicts begin,” said Mr. Rozkladai.

He noted that they plan to establish a branch archive at the Institute of National Remembrance. It will have offices in Kyiv and the regions of Ukraine. They also discuss the importance of transferring materials from law enforcement archives to it. Digitization of documents will be carried out as well.

Andriy Kogut, Acting Director of the Liberation Movement Research Center, explained that Soviet label “secret” and “top secret” now have no legal force. There are only “secret” and “top secret” under the Ukrainian legislation. He added that the practice of public archives to charge for access to documents and copying them does not meet the law. Mr. Kogut also said that under the current legislation the archivist is not responsible for further use of information. Now this responsibility rests solely with the person working with information.

Anna Oliynyk, Analyst at the Liberation Movement Research Center, cited statistics according to which only 34 percent of the respondents are satisfied with the quality of work in the archives. Among the complaints are limited opportunities to use photocopying services, high price for such services, prohibition to use your own camera, lack of electronic copies, limited access to specific cases and so on.

At the same time, interest for archives has increased significantly: over the past year, the number of Ukrainians interested in their past has gone up by 46 percent. Archives received 2,160 appeals (including 224 – from foreigners). 409 people visited reading rooms of archives 1,194 times.

“Now the main emphasis is on the way archives can ensure implementation of the adopted law. Firstly, it is the issue of proper funding and supporting archives, so that they are able to meet the requirements of Ukrainian legislation,” concluded Mr. Kogut.

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