Researchers welcome ruling protecting access to historical archives
Czech historians researching the totalitarian era breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday, when the Constitutional Court ruled that the accessibility of archives from that period will remain unchanged. The ruling overturns a proposal by the Supreme Court which was against an exception giving historians easy access to documents from the Nazi and Communist regimes.
However, the Constitutional Court has ruled, by a narrow majority, that looking into such archival documents does not encroach on the rights of the people mentioned in them. Nevertheless, researchers have to take into account the protection of delicate personal data in case they decide to publish them.
Světlana Ptáčníková is the director of the Security Services Archives, which administers acres of such files. She says she feels a great deal of relief on her own part, but also on behalf of all historians and researchers.
According to Světlana Ptáčníková, the archive deals with up to 39,000 files every year and each of them contains dozens or even hundreds of names. The process would take such a long time that it would practically paralyse the research.
Mikuláš Kroupa, chairman of the non-governmental organisation Post Bellum, which documents 20th century history through eyewitness accounts, has also welcomed the ruling. He says it pleased him to see that a majority of the judges recognised the importance of studying historical sources and bringing testimony to the totalitarian systems.
With the current legislation on historical research staying unchanged, the Czech legal regulation remains one of the most open in Europe.