StB files made open to public but full accessibility still some way off

The dreaded StB secret police were disbanded on February 15 1990, less than three months after the start of the Velvet Revolution. But only now have the authorities come up with an adequate system of allowing the public access to StB files, in a new project called Open Past (Otevrena Minulost). But the Interior Ministry still has some way to go - of an estimated 17 km of files, only 3.5 percent has been thoroughly processed so far.

If you have been following the Czech news, you will be aware that allegations of StB collaboration have been coming thick and fast lately. Pavel Zacek is the recently installed head of the StB files archive - I spoke to him at the launch of Open Past and first asked him: why so many revelations now?

"I think it's maybe a question generations changing. Now we are 17 years from the fall of communism...maybe our team is not so sensitive like before.

"Another reason is we have know-how as to how to open these files, how to work with these files. And of course we have a law which supports citizens, to know what happened in Czechoslovakia, how traumatic the communist regime was and so on.

"So there are many, many things are changing, even the support of our citizens - we have 500 percent more people who are interested in these files, and now we are working for much more people than three years ago or so."

What influences which files you investigate?

"Actually we don't choose - it's a question of the people who ask our archive for the files. We have no preferences, we want to be fair to everybody."

Do you think we can expect more revelations like we've seen recently?

"Actually, that's a very interesting question, it's a common question now...We don't know - maybe yes, maybe no. But what we know is we have to do it. There is only one way to open our past and it's this project...if we don't do that we will still have these problems. This is fair and it's systematic and it's the only way how to open our files."

Apparently you have 17 kilometres of files. Given that perhaps it's unrealistic to expect all of them to be investigated, do you think it's kind of unfair to some people? Some people will be outed, will be accused of being StB collaborators and so on - others won't be, simply because you have so much material.

"You know it depends. If you compare our situation to Romania or East Germany - they have 120 kilometres of Securitate material, 150 kilometres of Stasi....The problem is we are starting now.

"If...there is no if - we started at the end of last year and we are just at the beginning. But still it's fair to do that - not to wait for another decade."

You've apparently made public 3 or 4 percent of the files so far. When do you think you might even reach the point of say 50 percent?

"A few years. We still don't know the right number of files, we don't know what kind of number we will have in our archive in six months. So we have to wait...I believe with digitalistion it will take three or four years."