Monday, September 20, 2010

Closure of Russian Archives

Ruth Derksen Siemens brought attention to a somewhat distressing situation in Russia when she released an email that describes limitations in the Russian archives.  It is now impossible to access information on an event or person until 75 years later.  These limitations were put in place in 2006.  A gathering of scholars at the 4th International Scholarly Conference on Germans of Siberia: History and Culture, in Omsk, released a plea to the Russian government asking for the archives to be reopened.  The strangest part of this whole situation is how quietly it happened.
Strangely, this restriction escaped the notice of mainstream media, international universities and many scholars. Since 2006, researchers searching the archives of the former Soviet Union can only access documents 75 years after an event has occurred. This is disturbing and distressing. Records of events that occurred after 1935 cannot be examined. The letters from the Regehr family stopped in 1937. What happened when the letters stopped? Why did they stop? Which political and ideological forces affected the letter writers? Why cannot I (or other researchers) explore archival documents that would assist me to understand the silence? (Quotation from Ruth's Email)
Now, let's look back at all the censorship issues going on in North America.  Let's think about how easy it would be to implement systems that would limit the amount of information available to the public and to academics for research purposes.  This incident with the Russian archives is very unfortunate and needs to be dealt with, and so do instances of censorship and withheld information in North America.  Help fight for the rights of people to read what they want to read in Libraries and Classrooms.  Help researchers and institutions keep archives open and available.  Let's keep information available to everyone

Are you with me?

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