Czechs wait thirteen years for official names of secret police collaborators

Ask Czechs what is unique about their behaviour, many will admit a lack of directness. For reasons why, you do not have to look far. Forty years of Communist rule and the fear of being watched whenever and wherever taught many Czechs to guard their behaviour and rarely trust their neighbours - for good reason. An unofficial list compiled by former dissident Petr Cibulka in the early 1990's revealed 200,000 names of people believed to have spied on their friends, neighbours, and even family. After years of speculation over the list's reliability the Interior Ministry has finally released an official list, erasing any question of doubt. Dita Asiedu reports.

Government's official list, photo: CTKGovernment's official list, photo: CTK Marie Masarikova from the Interior Ministry's press department says, the amount of interest in the list had been underestimated. On the first day it was released the ministry's web site had four times more visitors than usual, causing the site to collapse for two days. The ministry is also running out of printed copies - each 5,000-pages long bound in 12 volumes, weighing eight kilos in all. Only some three hundred out of three thousand copies were left on Friday and due to run out soon. Having cost the ministry some 4.5 million Czech crowns, it is yet to decide whether more will be published.

Since 1997, every Czech citizen has been able to look at his own secret police file, but this new step for coming to terms with the Communist past has been met with mixed feelings:

"Well, as far as I know, there was an older list from Mr Cibulka and I heard that there seemed to be a lot more names than on the government's official list. I didn't have a look at either of them but I suppose that the new list is a little more reliable. Somehow I had the impression that Mr Cibulka takes it as the main goal in life to keep up such a list. I don't think it's a question of how many names are on that list but rather how society deals with the old problems."

"I think it's too late, it should have been done thirteen years ago and it should be dealt with by the courts."

"I don't understand why it has taken thirteen years to open the list. I think it wasn't necessary to wait for such a long time. There was the private activity by Mr Cibulka and now there are two lists of agents. I can't compare which is more correct and more truthful. For me personally, it isn't a problem and in general I think it's quite good to open the list."

The list reveals some 75,000 names, out of which a little over 3000 are collaborators who informed the secret police from abroad about Czechs in exile. The Ministry says it contains less names than that of Petr Cibulka because it only lists those who collaborated with the StB knowingly, and not people who were considered as potential informants. With the split of Czechoslovakia, it furthermore was authorised to only provide the names of current Czech citizens. According to the British daily, The Guardian, every 130th Czechoslovak citizen collaborated with the secret police.