THE NATIONAL Memory Institute stirred things up after publishing files from the former communist secret service on the Internet. Opponents say the information comes too late to be of any use. Others say former communist spies should own up to the past or clear their names legally.
At the heart of the debate is what the publication means to Slovakia 15 years after the fall of communism, and whether former ŠtB collaborators should hold political positions in modern-day Slovakia.
The online registry, the first in a series, lists some 20,000 entries from the files of ŠtB’s Eastern Slovakia division. Published on November 16 at www.upn.gov.sk, the files revealed the names of former ŠtB agents, some of whom are active in public life.
Deputy Construction Minister Ján Hurný, a member of the ruling Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), for example, was implicated as an active ŠtB agent. Names of non-agent personnel, including trustees and candidate agents, are included as well.
The National Memory Institute is specific about distinguishing between those people who willingly acted as spies and those who might not have known they were being used by the secret service. According to National Memory Institute spokesman Michal Dzurjanin, ŠtB agents signed conscious cooperation documents with the ŠtB as a rule.
“Those persons registered in non-agent categories, such as ‘trustee’, ‘secret cooperation candidate’ and ‘secret collaborator of confident contact’ were not necessarily aware of their conspiratorial roles with the ŠtB, based on a statement made by the Czechoslovak Federation Constitutional Court in 1992,” the National Memory Institute states.
According to the Czechoslovak Federation Constitutional Court, the “registration [of non-agents]...only has a conditional character. It does not confirm a conscious cooperation, but rather a plan by the ŠtB bodies to gain these persons for future conscious cooperation”.
Agents, on the other hand, are generally regarded as taking active, willing roles in the service of the ŠtB .
In addition to Hurný, other politicians listed as agents in the ŠtB’s Eastern Slovakia files are Košice Municipal MPs Ladislav Lancoš of the Christian Democrat (KDH) party, and Ladislav Olexa of New Citizen’s Alliance (ANO).
Reacting to his name appearing in the ŠtB’s files as an agent, Deputy Construction Minister Hurný said his conscience was clear.
“I never signed anything [cooperating with the ŠtB], I never informed on anyone and I was never an ŠtB agent,” Hurný said. The Slovak Prime Minister and SDKÚ chairman Mikuláš Dzurinda said he believes Hurný’s statement. Other than that, the party has not commented on the case.
According to the Construction Ministry spokesman László Juhász, Hurný was “shocked” at finding out that he the ŠtB registered him as an agent.
Other powerful people named as agents in the files include independent MP Vojtech Tkáč, and several current and former businessmen.
Jozef Banáš, an SDKÚ member who recently joined the party after leaving ANO, said that he expects to find himself listed once the National Memory Institute publishes the remaining ŠtB files.
Such a revelation was especially surprising considering that Banáš was just elected the Deputy Chairman of NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly in Brussels.
Banáš said that he talked about the issue with officials from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly before his election. He said that NATO had no problem with it because the ŠtB files are unreliable.
“They don’t consider the files trustworthy because they were drawn up by the ŠtB,” said Banáš.
He added that if the media labels him as a communist spy after the local files are published, he would call a press conference to expose all the documents prepared by the ŠtB about him.
Access to detailed personal information, which is a part of the secret service files, is restricted to the persons mentioned in the ŠtB files.
Several politicians started debating the morality of publishing the files 15 years after the fall of communism. Some said it was too late for society to gain anything from the information and that it would set off a witch-hunt against former ŠtB registrants.
Others insisted that the move by the National Memory Institute was a necessary part of getting Slovak society to deal with its past.
Diana Štrofová from the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), for instance, said that former ŠtB agents should leave public life, as is the case in the Czech Republic.
She admitted that in some cases, a zero-tolerance position could potentially harm a few innocent people, but she insisted that removing former ŠtB agents from public life was justified.
“Thus it is that the past is connected to the present,” the HZDS MP told the SITA news agency.
Her party chairman, Vladimír Mečiar, argued against the publication of the files, describing the publication as a “dirty method of cleaning society”.
The ruling ANO MP Eva Černá, as well as Jozef Buček from the opposition party Smer, agreed that it was too late to expose people’s cooperation with the ŠtB.
Political analyst Soňa Szomolányi from the Comenius University in Bratislava supports the decision of the National Memory Institute to publish the files. She says that facing the past makes sense, and that 15 years is not such a long time to make a nation disinterested in addressing its communist past.
“The issue may not be interesting to some groups of people, but society as a whole should be interested in addressing it. It is a part of coming to terms with our past,” Szomolányi said.
“It is important that this topic become an issue in public discourse, even if it is 15 years after the fall of communism, because in Slovakia, this topic was not debated the way it was in the Czech Republic,” she said.
“Clearly, all listed should have a right to clear their names in a legal manner. But it is important that people have access to this information, especially if it implicates people holding public office,” said the analyst.
“It does not necessarily have to mean [those listed] are not acceptable to hold positions, but it is important that the electorate has this information before they decide on a candidate,” Szomolányi said.
According to the National Memory Institute’s spokesman, Michal Dzurjanin, files from Central and Western Slovakia ŠtB divisions would be published within six months.
Environmental non-governmental and civic organisations banded together last week to establish Fond Tatry, a fund to help the sustainable restoration of the High and Low Tatra Mountain region devastated by the November 19 windstorms. Groups participating in Fond Tatry include the Ekopolis Foundation, the forest protection group Vlk and OZ Tatry.
Individuals, companies, schools and other groups can deposit their donations into bank account number 10073-1915050/4900. Ekopolis has already deposited Sk100,000 (€2,500) to the fund. The money will be distributed to various grant projects supporting the affected areas. For more information, visit www.ekopolis.sk.
The Slovak cabinet established a central account for the renewal and development of the High Tatras. The account number in the state treasury is 7000185158/8180.
29. Nov 2004 at 0:00 | Martina Jurinová