>Czech Republic: Proposed Institute of National Memory stirs new decommunization controversy

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A research student sends a link to a very interesting essay by Michal Kopeček, a young historian based at Prague’s Institute for Contemporary, which discuses the current Czech debate about the possible creation of an Institute of National Memory along Polish or Hungarian lines to manage archive including (presumably) the archives of the StB, the former communist secret police (Lidové noviny 18 November).

Kopeček condemns the proposal as an abuse of the notion of ‘national memory’ as a historian would understand the term and sees it (probably accurately) as an attempt by decommunizers to gain further ground. The centralization of archives and historical research into the communist past in a single, politicized organization with a brief to oversee ‘national memory’, he suggests, would be a retrograde step, reducing pluralism of debate and reinforcing the tendency to view the past in polarized simplistic terms characteristic of both communist historiography and a newer tendency seeking ‘historical sovereignty’, which he links to a new sense of national vulnerability linked to EU accession. He also makes the point – interesting from the point of view of the political science debate about the party political preconditions and triggers of decommunization measures- that the existence of the Czech Republic’s large hard line Communist Party also provides a focus for decommunization entrepreneurs. The issue of institutional management and control of the archives is perhaps a neglected area in decommunization research, which has tended to be over preoccupied with lustration, trials etc. Interestingly, it seems that in a Romanian context there is also debate a centralizing the archives (or not) although here the opponents appeared to those afraid of the political consequences of some form of lustration, rather than those seeking to move beyond it in the name of a liberal pluralist history. Perhaps decommunization research should focus as much on the strategies of decommunizers as the forms of decommunization that emerge. Decommunization in any case seems a never ending story

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