PARLIAMENT is due to vote on a new director for the Nation's Memory Institute on February 1, but even if it manages to select a name seven months after former head Ján Langoš was killed in a car crash, doubts over the future of the Institute are unlikely to go away.
While six men will be vying for the post, the two favorites are opposition MP František Mikloško and young historian Ivan Petranský, the candidate of the ruling Slovak National Party (SNS).
Unlike the SNS's previous six unsuccessful candidates, Petranský is prepared to criticize the fascist Second World War Slovak state, which the SNS regards as an formative in the Slovak identity.
"It has to be said very clearly that many mistakes and crimes occurred, and these have to be documented and published today," Petranský said when asked about his attitude to the 1938-1945 regime.
The Institute administers and publishes state documents concerning Slovakia's fascist and communist past, which is why its director cannot afford to sympathize with either regime.
Mikloško, meanwhile, is a former communist-era dissident, and is widely respected for his 17-year political career.
But whoever takes the reins of the Institute following Langoš, its founder in 2002, there is no doubt that its existence make some in the current government - 11 of 16 of whom are former communists - uncomfortable.
The Institute's critics were encouraged in their opposition by the discovery, following Langoš's death, that three archive files from the former ŠtB communist secret police had gone unaccountably missing from the Institute, as had the ŠtB file of Juraj Široký, one of the richest men in the country with a major influence on PM Robert Fico's ruling Smer party.
While Široký is in the ŠtB files as an intelligence agenct who worked under diplomatic cover at the Czechoslovak Embassy in Washington, he denies any relationship to the ŠtB.
At first, the Institute said the files could have disappeared in the immediate aftermath of his death, as Langoš's office had been open - giving rise to the claim that Langoš had left the files lying around. The disappearance is still being investigated by the police.
However, Ladislav Bukovszky, the head of the Institute's archive section, told The Slovak Spectator that Langoš had not been responsible for the loss of Široký's file. "Someone requested the file of Juraj Široký, and it was removed from the archives so that a duplicate could be made," he said.
In the end, he said, the original of the file had been given by an employee of the Institute, rather than the copy, as protocol required.
Bukovszky refused to say who had asked so see Široký's file.
The original was in fact copied, and two further copies were made with information blacked out to conform with the Act on the Protection of Personal Data. None of these copies has any legal validity.
"After two months, when the material was to be taken back to the archives, we found that the Široký file was missing," Bukovszky said.
Bukovszky said that the loss of the file was not evidence of a systematic weakness at the Institute, "but of the personal actions of certain concrete people".
While initially the government seemed more inclined to abolish or scale down the Institute, such as to an office within the Slovak Academy of Sciences, on January 14 Deputy Prime Minister Dušan Čaplovič said on the STV public broadcaster that the Institute would be preserved.
"The coalition agreed that the Institute would continue to function," he said, promising to find the Institute new quarters following its summary eviction last month by the Justice Ministry.
It's almost as if the loss of the Široký file has given the Institute a new lease on life, in removing a threat hanging over an influential friend of the coalition, and allowing the blame to be pinned on Langoš, who is not around to defend himself.
PM Robert Fico, never one of the Institute's biggest supporters, said he had never trusted Langoš: "Let the earth lie lightly on him, I never believed a word he said. There was certainly some meddling with files."
29. Jan 2007 at 0:00 | Ľuba Lesná