ŠtB

LESS MIGHTY than the Russian KGB, less notorious than the East German Stasi, and less feared than the Romanian Securitate, Štátna Bezpečnosť (ŠtB) was nonetheless a cornerstone of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. Its archives are open and anyone can check whether their neighbour, teacher, local councillor, or a member of the government served the cause of totalitarianism. And not all the former spies like it.

LESS MIGHTY than the Russian KGB, less notorious than the East German Stasi, and less feared than the Romanian Securitate, Štátna Bezpečnosť (ŠtB) was nonetheless a cornerstone of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. Its archives are open and anyone can check whether their neighbour, teacher, local councillor, or a member of the government served the cause of totalitarianism. And not all the former spies like it.

František Blanárik heads the National Security Office, which is responsible for handing out security clearances to state officials and businessmen. He was nominated for the position by a junior coalition party, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), and has for weeks had to answer questions about his thick and colourful ŠtB file, which suggests deep involvement with the communist spy network.

Prime Minister Robert Fico, known for his fond recollections of the communist era and for leading an administration full of former apparatchiks, said last month that he distrusts the files, and therefore has no problem with a former pro-Soviet spy dealing with NATO security checks. Those inclined to disregard the files won a further victory this week when the media learned that a court had ruled that parts of the ŠtB records on another alleged agent, Jozef Šesták, a former state secretary also nominated by the HZDS, are not accurate. The decision is certain to increase the number of those doubting the reliability of information released from the files, and refusing to take action against those registered as agents. And that’s a tragedy.

The country has no better way of dealing with its totalitarian past than identifying those who helped create an atmosphere of fear and distrust. Former agents ought to feel the consequences of their actions. One of those consequences should be their exclusion from high office. No archive is perfect, but the credibility of the secret-agent files needs to be nurtured, so that never again is there any need to use a word like ŠtB.

(Lukáš Fila is the deputy editor-in-chief of the Sme daily)

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