Archivist Frank Kirkwood recently forwarded the following thread to a contributor to EE Online. Contact details have been removed from the tread for obvious reasons, but rest assured, EE Online has them and can verify their authenicity. The thread is posted here as some within the Estonian community abroad have expressed concerns about what seems to benot only similar actions in Estonia but also with regard to the future of local archives within the diaspora. Estonian refugees from all forms of totalitarianism, but most especially from communism, did not keep, collect, and systematically archive records documenting the struggle for freedom abroad so that vested interest groups could have access that might mean either destruction or removal of material critical to these efforts.
EE Online intends to keep readers posted on these issues, and welcomes all feedback, hoping for comments of a nature that are not knee-jerk and uninformed.
Kirkwood wrote: “in 2007-2008 while I was a member of the IFLA FAIFE committee we developed a position against the destruction of historical census records and other personal archival data and in favour of long-term access to them, as a part of the historical record of a free and democratic society. A joint FAIFE-GENLOC programme at the Québec WLIC in 2008 further explored this question.
In what follows you will find information on a threat to such documentation in Hungary, where ideological posturing has led politicians to propose the removal or destruction of the entire body of secret police, interior ministry and state security archives from the Communist era. Appended also is the strong protest against this policy just sent to the government of Hungary by the Association of Canadian Archivists.
I urge FAIFE and IFLA to take a similar advocacy stand against the despoiling of the Hungarian Communist archives, in accordance with FAIFE's established position of 2008. In particular, IFLA should make representations to UNESCO and to the Blue Shield to bring appropriate measures to bear against the government of Hungary in this matter.
Member, IFLA Reference & Information Services SC
Member, Crimea Conference International Organizing Committee
Convenor, Access to Information Network – Africa
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Subject: Hungarian archives in danger
To: The Association of Canadian Archivists
11 February 2011
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. Mr. Kiraly's e-mail address is: .
Department of History
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Date: Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 12:54 PM
Subject: [Arcan-l] ACA advocacy letter - the Hungarian Archives
Dear Archival Colleagues,
The following letter has been sent on behalf of the Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA) to the Ambassador of the Republic of Hungary concerning the Hungarian government’s decision to introduce legislation that would permit the removal and destruction of Hungarian communist secret police, interior ministry, and state security files currently held at the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security in Budapest. Hungary's parliamentary secretary for justice announced that his government believes that a democratic state cannot "preserve the immoral documents of an immoral regime."
To see a PDF copy of the ACA's letter, please go to the Submissions & Letters webpage on the ACA website:
For more information on this issue or to sign a petition, please go
His Excellency Dr. László Pordány
Ambassador of the Republic of Hungary
299 Waverley Street
Ottawa, ON K2P 0V9
Dear Dr. Pordány:
I am writing you on behalf of the Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA) to express our deep concern with the Hungarian government’s decision to introduce legislation that would permit the removal and destruction of Hungarian communist secret police, interior ministry, and state security files currently held at the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security in Budapest.
Established in 1975, the ACA is a national professional organization that represents English-speaking archivists in Canada. Archivists have a professional obligation to preserve authentic and reliable records for evidentiary and historical purposes. As archivists, we strongly believe that archives are the foundation of democracy, social justice, and social memory.
We reject the notion that a democratic state cannot "preserve the immoral documents of an immoral regime". On the contrary, records that provide evidence of injustices hold accountable those responsible for abuses of trust and power. Archival records provide evidence documenting the actions of public leaders and protecting the rights of all citizens. As Canadian archivist Terry Cook states, archival records have allowed "citizens to seek justice in righting past wrongs, from aboriginal displacements to war crimes, from medical neglect to ethnic discrimination." Removing documents from the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security because they are deemed to have been created by "immoral" authorities would only weaken Hungarians' ability to hold those officials accountable and would thus undermine a fundamental pillar of democracy.
Further, we strongly believe that de-accessioning these irreplaceable documents would impoverish Hungary's archival heritage. It would undermine our ability to know and understand an important aspect Hungary's past. Preserving the Hungarian communist secret police, interior ministry, and state security files supports an accurate account of the past and ensures that collective amnesia does not prevail.
The Association of Canadian Archivists believes that the Hungarian communist secret police, interior ministry, and state security files currently held at the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security have enduring value as reliable memories of the past. We urge the government of Hungary to take all steps consistent with professional archival practice to preserve these unique and important records. Anything less is an abdication of your government's responsibility to uphold democratic values and to preserve and to protect Hungary's collective memory.
Loryl MacDonald, President
Association of Canadian Archivists
Hungarian archives in danger (7)