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Legislation

Access to records of the security forces of the Communist regimes

Legislative framework

Most of the records have been made accessible pursuant to Act No. 499/2004 Coll.,  on archival science and record services and on the amendments to some acts which was adopted on 30 June 2004 and entered into effect as of 1 January 2005. It is a very liberal law which transfers the responsibility for the publication of information contained in the archival records to the researcher and which, but for a few exceptions, allows the study of documents without anonymisation, because selected documents created before 1990 are not subject to the Act on protection of personal data (currently, the constitutionality of this norm is being verified by the Constitutional court of the Czech Republic). Prior to the entry into force of Act No. 499/2004 Coll., the agent, operative and personnel files (personal files of staff members of the Ministry of interior) were made accessible pursuant to Act No. 140/1996 Coll., in the wording of Act No. 107/2002 Coll. on the access to records created by the activity of the State security. In practice this translated into massive anonymisation of personal data, often badly legible copies of documents and long waiting times for obtaining the documents. Unfortunately, these documents which were made accessible to researchers prior to 1 January 2005 based on then valid legislation continue to be presented to researchers only in digital copies with some of the information anonymised. However, this pertains only to documents younger than 30 years and older materials from previous times can be studied by researchers without anonymisation. The procedure for requesting access to records is available on the website of the Security Services Archive. For a better idea we recommend to visit the Resources page.     

Institutions in charge of the archival records

The Security Services Archive (ABS) was created based on Act No. 181/2007 Coll., on the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes and the Security Services Archive, and on amendments to some acts. It is an administrative institution, being directly controlled by the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes and in the specialised activity in archival science and record services by the Ministry of interior of the Czech Republic. The archive administers and provides access to documents created by the activity of the security forces and by the Communist party of Czechoslovakia and the organisations of the National front working within these forces. The total holdings of the archive comprise  17, 907.7 running metres (rm). Currently, the records are subdivided into more than 550 archival funds and collections from the time of non-freedom and from the time of Communist totalitarian power (see the Guide to the Collections of the ABS).

Legislative framework

Access to most records is provided pursuant to Act No. 395/2002 Coll., on archives and record services. This legal norm is less liberal than the archival law in effect in the Czech Republic, where an exemption from the protection of personal data is valid for the provision of access to the archival records in question. Based on the Slovak law, the archive must not provide access to documents if this would “threaten the rights and rightfully protected interests of living persons“. Here the norm clashes with Act No. 553/2002 Coll., on the Nation’s Memory Institute, which on the contrary entrusts the state with uncovering and providing access to information proving the participation of concrete persons in the creation and upholding of the criminal, illegitimate and deplorable Communist regime. This interest is higher than the interest of personal data protection. The access to documents is also limited in case this could threaten “the security of the state, its defence, foreign, political, economic or financial interests, or if this follows from international treaties which are binding for the Slovak Republic or from commitments ensuing from its membership in international organisations“. In the past years, the respective archival institution has been forthcoming to the researchers and has been providing access to most documents without limitations.

Institutions in charge of the archival records

The Nation’s Memory Institute (ÚPN) officially assumed its function as a public institution on 1 May 2003. It was created baed on Act No. 553/2002 Coll., on the Nation’s Memory Institute and on the amendment to further acts, which was adopted by the National council of the Slovak Republic in 2002. Its institutional component is the ÚPN Archive which took into its custody documents created by the activity of the State security and its security forces in the period from 18 April 1939 until 31 December 1989 and evidenced in record or archival aids (registries) of these forces or their superior bodies from those times. The holdings comprise 1,783 running metres. The ÚPN Archive is currently in charge of altogether 638 archival funds and collections. The procedure of providing access to records is set in the research rules available on the website of the Archive. In the field of archival science the ÚPN Archive is controlled by the Section on archives and record services of the Ministry of interior of the Slovak Republic.    

 

Contacts:

Address: Archive of the Nation’s Memory Institute, Miletičova 7, 821 08 Bratislava, Slovak Republic

E-mail: badatelna@upn.gov.sk

Tel.:: +421 0255 571 764 

Legislative framework

Most documents are now being made accessible pursuant to the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance – Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation which was adopted on 18 December 1998. Since 2007, its liberal amendment is in effect, which transferred the responsibility for the publication of information from the archive to the researchers. This has made it possible to make the vast majority of documents accessible to researchers without anonymisation of personal information. The law distinguishes among several types of requests for access to documents – official, journalist and scientific. The concrete procedure for requesting access to records is available on the website of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN). The Polish institute gradually converts the documents which it is in charge of into digital form. Currently, it has the best digitisation results among all similar institutions in the countries of the former Soviet bloc.  

Institution in charge of the archival records

The Institute of National Remembrance – Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation (IPN) was established based on the eponymous Act of 18 December 1998. It began its work only in the year 2000 when its first President was elected after long political negotiations. Part of the Institute is the Office for Preservation and Dissemination of Archival Records which is in charge of the records of the security forces documenting Nazi and Communist crimes and further cases of politically motivated repressions from the period September 1939 – July 1990. The archival holdings amount to 90,285.94 running metres. Approximately two-thirds of the archival documents are deposited in the regional branches. Based on an amendment of the Act, the IPN has published electronic inventories and further archival aids for the individual funds and collections on its website. Basic information is also available in the electronic version of the book which depicts the state of the collections at the end of 2008. Based on an amendment to the vetting (lustration) law, the IPN also publishes information on persons who held office in the Communist party and the security apparatus within the given time period. The electronic catalogues also contain information on persons against whom the Communist security apparatus organised actions (provided the persons in question give their consent to publication).

Contacts:

Address:

Institute of National Remembrance


ul. Wołoska 7


02-675 Warszawa


Poland

e-mail: sekretariat.ipn@ipn.gov.pl

tel.: 22 581 89 04

fax: 22 581 86 37

The contacts of the regional branches of the IPN are available on the website of the IPN.