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Czech researchers use Ukrainian secret services archive

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Prague, Aug 13 (CTK) – Czech historians use documents from the archive of the Ukrainian secret services to map the fates of the Czechs who fell victim to the Great Terror in Ukraine in the 1930s, Ukrainian and Czech experts told reporters Thursday.

Researchers from the Czech Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes (USTR) have started cooperating with their Ukrainian colleagues and they are preparing several books together, Ukrainian Archive of the Security Forces (SBU) director Igor Kulyk, his colleague Natalia Serdyuk and Czech historian Stepan Cernousek, from the USTR, said at an informal meeting with journalists.

“The opening of the SBU archive means a great help for us since we have access to a lot of material and investigation files of Czechoslovak citizens who were imprisoned in the Soviet Union in the 1930s and 1940s and were sent to gulags or prisons,” Cernousek said.

The Ukrainian archives include documents about the work of repressive bodies dating back to the 1920s, Serdyuk said, adding that they are looking after these documents jointly with their colleagues from Germany and Poland and now they have established cooperation with Czechs.

Czechoslovak citizens are mentioned, for instance, in the documents from the period of the Great Terror in Ukraine in 1937-1938 when Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s purges culminated.

The first of the planned three books, entitled The Czech Dimensions of the Great Terror, is mapping this period. It is to be published next year.

According to the USTR historians’ estimates, up to 25,000 Czechs or Czechoslovak citizens living in Ukraine suffered from persecution and repression by the Soviet regime, Cernousek said.

“Those were Czechs living in Ukraine from the 19th century as well as citizens of Czechoslovakia of various nationalities – Ruthenians, Jews, Czechs and Slovaks,” he added.

Four new laws that took effect in Ukraine in May have enabled to open the archives to researchers eventually, Kulyk said, adding that his country was thereby settling accounts with the totalitarian past after years.

The most broadly debated was the law condemning the Soviet and Nazi regimes in Ukraine, which bans the promotion of the Communist regime and orders to remove the symbols of the Soviet Union from all public areas. It applies to the names of towns and villages, organisations and political parties as well as hundreds of statues of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Kulyk added.

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