More than 2,200 Canadian, American and European academics signed our petition protesting Resolution 1283/2010 of the Hungarian government, which will allow for the removal, scattering and destruction of archival collections documenting the activities of the country’s former communist secret police. János Kenedi, the former chairman of the government-appointed commission into state security files, wrote an introduction to the petition document, entitled A Witness to the Past, which we submitted to the Government of Hungary, through the Hungarian embassy in Ottawa, as well as to the Delegation of the European Union to Canada. Hungary’s National Széchenyi Library has added A Witness to the Past to its digital collection and the document is now available on their website, as well as the site of the 1956 Institute, in Budapest.
The petition was sent by courrier precisely one month ago, but the Hungarian government has unfortunately failed to respond to the concerns raised in this document; those shared by thousands of scholars and a dozen academic organizations throughout Europe and North America. Other than a brief letter from Hungarian Ambassador László Pordány simply confirming reception of the petition (which you will find attached to this e-mail) the Hungarian government has sent me no formal response to this initiative whatsoever, despite significant media attention both in Hungary and abroad. As you may have seen, this story was covered by the Associated Press and picked up by dozens of newspapers around the world, as well as by The Economist and Radio France Internationale. Hungarian weekly Élet és Irodalom has published a handful of articles on the petition campaign since it began in December 2010. I was also interviewed on two occasions by Klubrádió in Budapest and wrote a column for Canada’s National Post.
Lajos Bokros, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), wrote that he full-heartedly supports this initiative aimed at saving endangered archival documents.
This week, 168 Óra, one of Hungary’s largest weekly magazines, published a detailed report on this issue, quoting prominent Hungarian historians, including Krisztián Ungváry, János Kenedi and László Varga. According to Dr. Ungváry, the government’s proposed legislation “is about as a realistic as a public bus route between the sun and the moon.” Mr. Kenedi notes that if legislation is enacted as proposed by November 30th, 2011, Hungary may follow in the footsteps of Bulgaria, in terms of the treatment of archival documents, where, at first, “they were sold in flea markets, next to onions and potatoes.”
The following organizations have mailed formal advocacy letters to the Hungarian government, in an effort to convince officials to reconsider the proposed legislation:
Association of Canadian Archivists – Addressed to Ambassador László Pordány in Ottawa
Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies — Addressed to Ambassador György Szapáry in Washington, DC
Czech Centre for Human Rights and Democratization — Addressed to Ambassador László Szőke in Prague
Royal Society of Dutch Archivists –Addressed to Ambassador Gyula Sümeghy in the Netherlands
Society of American Archivists — Addressed to Ambassador György Szapáry in Washington, DC
Society of Greek Archivists–Addressed to Ambassador József Tóth in Athens
Those who have initiated, supported and helped distribute this petition campaign, and who have all expressed clear concern about the implications of Resolution 1283/2010, merit a formal response from Hungary’s Ministry of Public Administration and Justice. Once I receive such a response from the Ministry, I will publish this on our website.
Thank you very much for your continued interest in this important matter.