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Old 24th December 2015, 23:37
Hannia Hannia is offline
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KGB Records Declassified

UKRAINE CRISIS MEDIA CENTER Dec 24, 2015

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 (VIDEO)

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.

available in several languages 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 | Ukraine Crisis Media Center | UACRISIS.ORG
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Old 21st January 2016, 22:01
stephencureatzj stephencureatzj is offline
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This is wonderful news for so many!
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Old 22nd January 2016, 00:00
PaulGorecki49 PaulGorecki49 is offline
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excellent. I just wait for an index of its content and a digital access to this. Perhaps our webpage administrators could ask a few dollars from each of these:
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Old 10th March 2016, 05:13
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Meet the new secret police, same as the old secret police Why Russia’s federal cops refuse to declassify documents from 80 years ago
MEDUZA Gleb Belichenko 12:10, 22 July 2015

Sergei Prudovsky has once again launched a court appeal in Moscow. Previously, the court ruled to extend the official secrecy of a state document concerning the repression of Prudovsky’s grandfather in Manchuria in the 1930s. Despite the fact that the document was declassified and published in Ukraine, the Russian court still believes it must remain secret, due to “exceptional circumstances” and a “particular sensitivity for Russia.” On assignment for Meduza, Gleb Belichenko, a lawyer with the human rights group Team 29, explains how a document in Russia can remain secret, even when it’s freely available on the Internet.
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In 1992, Russian President Boris Yeltsin issued a decree declassifying all materials concerning repression and human rights abuses in Russia from 1917-1991. Later that year, the Law on State Secrets was introduced, setting the maximum time information can remain classified at 30 years. The law doesn’t provide clear language, however, about whether this applies to documents created before 1993.

For a long time, members of the state security services, using the principle of “ex post facto” (which forbids laws from being implemented retroactively), have insisted that this law doesn’t affect documents produced before the state secrets law came into effect in 1993. Nikita Petrov, a historian with the human rights group Memorial, has run into this excuse numerous times.

Petrov specializes in the history of the Soviet security services. In 2010, he asked the FSB to declassify several documents connected with the activities of the NKVD and MGB (forerunners of the KGB) in Germany from 1945 to 1953. Officials refused his request, after an expert analysis found elements concerning state secrets in the documents. Together with lawyers from Team 29, Petrov contested the decision in Russia’s Constitutional Court. The plaintiffs managed to get the court to insist on a more concrete justification for refusing to hand over archival documents under Article 13 of the state secrets law.

“No sooner had we gotten them over a barrell and the the Constitutional Court declared their position illegal, then they were forced to come up with a way out of the situation. They thought long, and came up with one—and it requires very painstaking work [from people requesting documents]. Now the decision [to comply with a request] has to be taken on every [individual] document,” says Ivan Pavlov, a lawyer. Pavlov, who heads Team 29, has been working on cases dealing with state secrets and the freedom of information for more than 20 years. At the end of the 1990s, Pavlov defended journalist Grigory Pasko, who was accused of spying, and later Aleksandr Nikitin, who was accused of state treason. In the spring of 2015, Pavlov managed to squash a criminal investigation against Svetlana Davydova, a mother of seven who was briefly accused of treason for calling a Ukrainian embassy to report Russian troop movements.

According to Pavlov, the state security organs took an unprecedented step after the Constitutional Court’s ruling: they classified a massive archive of documents. On March 12, 2014, the Inter-Agency Commision for Defense of State Secrets adopted a new protocol, under which the classification of a wide array of police information from 1917-1991 was extended until 2044. The new protocol affects 23 different categories of information.

“The commission gave no justification for the extension of the classification of these documents. In our view, this decision violates Article 13 of the Law on State Secrets. We haven’t been able to get any explanation about why this happened. What’s more, these reasons are supposed to be exceptional,” Pavlov says.

The decree concerns, among other things, information about the results of investigations and searches, the identity of informers, the funding of special operations, and information about police methods for combatting organized crime and corruption. Currently, even if a document was created during the Soviet period but, for example, contains information about factual or planned expenditures for anti-terrorist activities, the FSB is not obligated to declassify.

The public first learned of this extension on classified documents thanks to Sergei Prudovsky’s case. Prudovsky was researching the life of his grandfather, Stepan Kuznetsov, who was repressed under the “Harbinite Affair,” while working on the East China Railway. Harbin is a town in Manchuria, founded at the end of the 19th century by Russian emigres. Almost all of them were hired to work on the railway. After the revolution, Harbin’s Russian-speaking population grew, thanks to a flow of White Russian immigrants. In the mid-1930s, Manchuria was occupied by Japan. The USSR sold off its share of the East China Railway and forcibly repatriated all the Russian-speakers to its territory, where criminal charges were brought against the overwhelming majority of these citizens. In total, about 40,000 people were arrested in the Harbinite Affair. About 30,000 were shot.

The impetus for the campaign against the Harbinites was a letter from the head of the NKVD, Nikolai Yezhov, sent out to police departments across the country. The letter described a category of citizens who were to be investigated, as well as a detailed plan for the secret operation.

Prudovsky attempted to get this letter declassified through a court order, despite the fact that it has been freely available since 2011, when Ukrainian archives granted https://meduza.io/en/feature/2015/04...alinist-crimes access to the document. Prudovsky says his campaign is a matter of honor, but a Moscow court refused, supporting the police’s decision to extend the letter’s classification. Russia’s High Court also sided with the authorities.

“They presented the letter as containing information about the results of investigative activities. But, from [the letter’s] contents, it’s clear that innocent people (including many who have been rehabilitated, if only posthumously) were labeled spies. I mean we’re talking about indisputable repressions. All the same, the High Court of the Russian Federation prefered not to take note of this,” Memorial historian Nikita Petrov told Meduza.

According to Nikita Petrov, the decision to extend the official secrecy of these documents has made studying certain parts of Soviet history impossible. Petrov has even come up against cases where documents vital to his research have been reclassified. He considers this a relatively new trend.

“In 1992, Boris Yeltsin’s special decree was understood as a call to action. There was work being carried out in different archives, and a great many documents were being declassified. But now we’re seeing how similar orders are being interpreted in the archives. Even documents obviously connected to repression remain classified, and they find a thousand reasons not to share them with the public,” Petrov says.

Prudovsky and human rights workers at Team 29 appealed the decision of the Inter-Agency Commision for Defense of State Secrets back in autumn 2014, but they were turned down. They have now made an appeal of cassation (which does not examine the facts of the case but merely the implementation of the law) and plan to learn more about the “exceptional circumstances” under which the secrecy of the letter was extended. Members of Team 29, attempting to raise public awareness of the issue, launched a petition that has attracted almost 12,000 signatures in the past two months. The petition is still welcomes new supporters.

Both Prudovsky and Petrov are convinced that the reason for this shift in policy lies in the “hyper-triumphant professional courage” that has seized members of the security forces. At the hearing, the FSB insisted that Yezhov’s letter contained information that remains sensitive for Russia today.

“It’s difficult to imagine that information about events in the 1920s and 1930s could remain sensitive for today’s FSB agents. So much has changed since that time, there are no people, structures, or laws remaining [from that period]. But they live with one thought in their heads: ‘If we give them everything they want on their first request, then we are no longer masters of the archives. So we will decide what is necessary,’” says Petrov.

According to Prudovsky, the practice of “eternal secrecy” is systemic in nature, even if the issue involves a person who was rehabilitated, as was the case with his grandfather. Recently, he encountered a similar situation in another case, involving a suspect who was also later exonerated. Prudovsky believes that another reason for this secrecy is the post-Soviet continuity of practices and professional ethics in the state security services.

“In the archival investigative cases, there are many pages that are classified, even though there’s nothing that could be secret there,” Prudovsky explains. “For example, I recently became acquainted with the case of a former boss of the NKVD’s Moscow department. His casefile was 800-odd-pages long and almost half of it was classified. All queries about information up to the point of his transfer to Sukhanovskaya prison were off limits. The FSB’s archival staff told me that the agency’s working methods couldn’t be revealed. I was surprised and asked incredulously if they still use the same methods. ‘Yes, the same,’ they answered.”
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Old 9th April 2016, 19:49
veramiller veramiller is offline
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Have communist persecution records been transferred to Office of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory yet?
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Old 12th April 2016, 19:55
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The records are still in the process of being transferred from various sources. Recently the Czech Republic had transferred some UPA records they held. All digitization is being performed by a small group of volunteers, and that makes it slow going.

Given the fact that there is currently a war going on, the above is understandable.
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Old 22nd April 2017, 17:04
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Two Years On, No Second Thoughts On Opening Ukraine's KGB Archives 'To Everyone'
RADIO FREE EUROPE Dmitry Volchek April 22, 2017

Just over two years ago, on April 9, 2015, Ukraine's parliament adopted a historic law on opening up the country's Soviet-era secret-police archives. In the new law's first full year in effect, requests for information and access boomed by 138 percent.

"It is very important for us that everyone has the chance to look at the complex history of the 20th century through the prism of their own family," says Andriy Kohut, director of the historical archives of Ukraine's SBU security service. "It is one thing when they speak of enormous historical events without any connection to real people. It is something else entirely when you see how these historical events are connected to you."

The new rules of archive access could hardly be simpler, Kohut said.

"The law contains the formula 'everything open to everyone,'" he explained in an online interview with RFE/RL's Russian Service. "It doesn't matter if you are a citizen of Ukraine or not, if you are a relative or have some other relationship to those mentioned in the documents. Everyone has an equal right to access."

Under the law, the archive is not even allowed to charge for providing copies of its documents. Eventually, the entire archive will be transferred from the SBU to the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory.

There are no exemptions for privacy or other such considerations. The law prioritizes "the right of society to know what happened under the totalitarian regime," Kohut says. Access to documents also cannot be restricted based on Soviet secrecy classifications.

The new system has been welcomed by researchers.

"It is simply a pleasure to work in the Ukrainian archives," says Czech historian Stepan Cernousek. "While in Russia everything is 'top secret,' in Ukraine, everything is freely available."

Cernousek is researching the fate of a Czechoslovak citizen named Albert Bloch, who escaped from a Nazi concentration camp only to be arrested by Stalin's secret police and sent to the gulag.

"There are thousands of cases like his," Cernousek says.

Kohut warns, however, that the Ukrainian archives are not complete.

"Documents weren't always saved in their entirety through World War II [when Ukraine was occupied by Nazi Germany]," Kohut says. "Moreover, after the democratic opposition captured the Stasi archives [in East Germany], the KGB in 1990 ordered a purging of some records."

Although it is not known exactly what was destroyed at that time, Kohut says the deeper back the records go, the more intact they seem to be.

"The cases of the Great Terror period [of the mid-1930s] seem to be fairly well preserved," he says.

The new openness law also covers all denunciations written by ordinary citizens and preserved in the KGB's files. It particularly states that privacy laws do not apply to anyone who participated in political repressions in any way.

"This is not very pleasant news for those who wrote denunciations," Kohut says. "But if we don't open these closets with skeletons in them, if we do not speak about the complex history of Ukraine in the 20th century, then it will speak for us. As our current situation shows, it won't just speak for us, it will manipulate us."

He warns that such documents, however, can be the most problematic, as denunciations as a rule contain a mixture of truth, half-truths, and lies.

The archives also contain a wealth of records relating to the Holodomor, the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine that killed millions. These documents, Kohut said, can be upsetting to read.

"There are many cases related to charges of cannibalism," he says. "Of course, these documents are shocking.

"These are the archives of the communist special services," he adds. "Very often, what they did does not make very pleasant reading."

In addition to responding to research requests from citizens, Kohut's archive also responds to inquiries from state agencies pertaining to a 2014 lustration law that bars former KGB employees from working in state institutions. The archive carries out background checks and reports on perspective employees.

"We've even had cases when individuals wrote to us to ask us if we have any information on whether they were a KGB employee because they want to apply for some state position," he notes.

Kohut's archive has no contact with similar archives in Russia, which remain strictly closed.

"The development of our region – Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic states – shows that we are moving in the direction of acknowledging the communist regime for what it really was – a criminal regime," Kohut says. "It acted in a criminal manner and it was fundamentally criminal. I hope Russia will come to this awareness as well."
Two Years On, No Second Thoughts On Opening Ukraine's KGB Archives 'To Everyone'
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