IF YOU try hard, you may be able to get a Slovak to recount stories of life under the communist regime (or socialist as you will be pointedly reminded), but it is not a subject most Slovaks willingly discuss unless pressed.
Perhaps the opening up of the communist secret service (ŠtB) archives in the National Memory Institute will eventually encourage discussion on those 40 years of Slovak history. So far, though, people seem to be content to let sleeping collaborators lie.
The daily SME recently reported that 13 of the 100 best-known Slovak companies are run by former ŠtB agents or collaborators, and another 23 by ŠtB informants. The paper did not name either the firms or the individuals involved.
While most people are not willing to recount the darker side of living under the shadow of Moscow, the older generation are all too willing to tell everyone how much better life was back in the days when everything was cheap and plentiful.
If the collective memory of Slovakia is allowed to forget the restrictions on travel, on freedom of information, and on the range of goods available in shops, it is only a matter of time before the young - who never lived through the communist era - look back on it through the rose-tinted spectacles of their grandparents and see it as a golden age. And from there it is a short step to trying the great socialist experiment once again.
The process has already begun with the unreformed communists back in parliament. And, in a poll conducted in June last year, more than two-thirds of respondents stated that they thought life was better before the 1989 split with Czechoslovakia and will only get worse.
Now the Slovak state has thrown open the doors of the ŠtB archives, the Slovak press must show its courage by reminding the public what today's elite did in the days before the country's and their own reform. People may believe that it is time to forgive the past, but to forget it would be a grave mistake. It would be inviting history to repeat itself.
12. May 2003 at 0:00