The New Director of the Ukrainian National Memory Institute: Historical Memory Policy is a Safeguard Against Repeating the Crimes of the Past

The New Director of the Ukrainian National Memory Institute Volodymyr Viatrovych asserts that implementation of a historical memory policy safeguards against the use of authoritarian and totalitarian practices in Ukraine. 

On March 25, 2014, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine published its resolution on the appointment of Volodymyr Viatrovych as the Director of the National Memory Institute of Ukraine. Volodymyr Viatrovych, PhD (cand) (36), will be leaving his position at the National University of “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy” to take on this new role.  As Director of the Security Service of Ukraine Archives in 2008-2010, he opened the KGB archives to the public. Mr. Viatrovych was a senior visiting scholar at Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) for a year. He is the author of 6 books and co-author of 3.

Mr Viatrovych is convinced that recent events in Ukraine, in particular the criminal use of arms against peaceful protesters, is a result of the fact that in the past 23 years Ukraine did not analyze its history and did not specify tools to overcome the consequences of totalitarianism, specifically by not condemning its crimes.

“Before having the ability to perform a critical analysis of history, it is necessary to tell it first. While limitations continue to exist in accessing archives, there are limitations in accessing historical facts,” explains Viatrovych. The new Director of the Ukrainian National Memory Institute has set the goal of creating an Archive of National Memory, the creation of which will begin with the removal of all archival materials of the Soviet repressive system from the jurisdiction of the current special and security services (Security Service of Ukraine, Ministry of Interior of Ukraine, Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine).  “This will provide an opportunity to create an open access policy regarding these documents. This is a vital step, as these documents describe the real situation during the time of the totalitarian regime and the specifics of its functioning. This knowledge is a safeguard from repeating totalitarian crimes”, states Volodymyr Viatroych .

Viatrovich plans to reform the Ukrainian National Memory Institute. This organization will follow the  example of similar institutions in other post-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe, where National Memory Institutes are state institutions with special status. They have access to the archives of punitive special services; they inform society of their historical research, and they oversee the administration of historical sites (monuments; museums; tombs of victims of repressions, soldiers, and those who fought for independence).

“We will show people what happens in societies where the regime neglects human rights. I am convinced that a proactive position of civil society will prevent the repetition of crimes in the future. Our task is to ensure that each person can have access to the facts and to make individual conclusions that will not be influenced by anyone else, especially not by the State.”

Viatrovych notes that during the time of Victor Yanukovych’s regime, the National Memory Institute Director was a representative of the Communist Party.

One week ago the Security Service of Ukraine appointed its new Archive Director, Ihor Kulyk (31), an expert with access to the archives of the Center for Research on the Liberation Movement. This archive  houses the majority of the KGB archival materials.  Mr Kulyk announced that he would ease access to these KGB materials and is intent upon releasing the archival materials from 1918-1991, currently under the Security Service of Ukraine’s jurisdiction, to the National Memory Institute’s jurisdiction.

Viatrovych, Kulyk, a group of representatives of the Ukrainian academic community, civic organizations, and human rights protection institutions initiated the preparation of new laws, which will specify the status of the Ukrainian National Memory Institute and will put in place a legal procedure to access the documents of the Soviet punitive-repression system.

 

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Volodymyr Viatrovych (www.facebook.com/volodymyr.viatrovych) is 36 years old, a historian, publicist, and civic activist. Mr Viatrovych is currently the director of the Center for History of State-Building in Ukraine at the National University of “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy”. As the Director of the Security Service of Ukraine Archives in 2008-2010, he opened the KGB archives to the public. In 2010-2011 he was a senior visiting scholar at Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. In 2012 he worked with the Hoover Institute archives (Stanford University). In 2002 he founded the Center for Research on the Liberation Movement (www.cdvr.org.ua ),  a non-governmental research institution which is a member of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience (memoryandconscience.eu) since 2012. In 2009, the Center for Research on the Liberation Movement in cooperation with the Security Service of Ukraine co-founded the Lontsky Prison National Memorial Museum in Lviv, at the site of the previous KGB and Gestapo prison (lonckoho.lviv.ua). Defending the right to access the Soviet period archives, the Center for Research on the Liberation Movement in cooperation with the Lviv National University of Ivan Franko created a Digital Archive of the Ukrainian Liberation Movement (avr.org.ua) in 2013. The Digital Archive contains more than 14 thousand documents. Volodymyr Viatrovych is the author of 6 books and co-author of 3. In 2013-2014 he was a leading activist of the Civic Sector of EuroMaidan.


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28.03.2014