Opening the KGB Archives: Andriy Kohut Tells Ukraine's Story

KGB ArchivesArchival documents are a rich source of data for students and scholars conducting original research. For those studying the Soviet period, gaining access to the right information can prove difficult, if not impossible, as access to sensitive collections is often tightly restricted. However, as several Harvard students (such as Anna Ivanova) have noted, conducting archival research in Ukraine is much easier than in Russia. That's in part because the country has decided to open far more of its Soviet archives, including KGB documents.

On Thursday, October 6, 2016, Andriy Kohut joins HURI to discuss Ukraine's decision to provide open access to its KGB archives and the state of the archives since the adoption of the law "On Access to the Archives of Repressive Organs of the Communist Totalitarian Regime of 1917-1991," which was passed by the Ukrainian Parliament on April 9, 2015.

This law "significantly changed the practice of access to Communist secret services documents," Kohut said. "Since then, the right to know about Soviet repressions has been set above the right for privacy in Ukraine. The Law coincides with the Central European practice of judicial regulation of access to totalitarian special services archives."

"Its main aim is to prevent a recurrence of totalitarian experience. It guarantees free access to CheKa-OGPU-NKVD-KGB documents for every interested person." 

Initial groundwork for the legislation began in 2010, Kohut explained. 

"The Law opened access to the largest open array of KGB files to date. There are more than 800 thousand files, including more than 109 thousand in Kyiv and more than 735 thousand at the regional branches, which are stored in the State Archives Department of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU)," said Kohut.

These files could be divided into:

  1. Personal (archive criminal files, employees and agents’ personal files, so-called lettered files, and investigation and search operations’ files)
  2. Printed editions
  3. Normative legal and executive documents
  4. Documents of the Communist secret services’ units

"The majority of SBU Archives’ documents cover the period since 1918 to 1991. Many of them relate not only to Ukraine but also to the whole Soviet Union and other countries," he added. 

Join us at 4:15 on Thursday to hear more about Ukraine's KGB archives.

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