Press room

Open Letter

To: Director-General Robert-Jan Smits
Directorate-General for Research and Innovation
European Commission
ORBN 2/65
B-1049 Brussels-Belgium

Dear Mr. Director-General,
OSA Archives, one of the largest Cold War archives in the world, which houses the former archives of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Research Institute, and which also has one of the largest samizdat holdings in Europe, would like to call attention to a fundamental anomaly in the Horizon 2020 call of the European Union. In its decision dated July 22, 2014, the European Commission included in the Horizon Work Program, under “Reflective Societies: Cultural Heritage and European Identities”, the subprogram 4-2015: “Cultural opposition in the former socialist countries”. The document states: “…The comparative research will firstly examine various types of collections witnessing the widest possible spectrum of the cultural opposition movements and activities in former socialist countries…It should analyse to what extent and how the objects in these collections… are known and used for informing EU citizens, and especially the young people of the EU, on the anti-communist past… various types of the country-specific cultural opposition movements in the former socialist countries and in exile should be analysed and ways how their activities reflected diverse alternatives to the oppressive communist regime should be investigated.” According to the General Rules of the Call, Russian institutions are not automatically eligible for funding.
         As was well-known among contemporaries, including the authorities and the secret police, and which has further been substantiated by subsequent research, anti-communist oppositional activities, their ideas, sources, and the repertoire of techniques they used, was influenced not only by country-specific autochthonous developments, but also to a great extent by technologies that originated from different periods of Soviet anti-communist oppositional practices. The Soviet opposition was the source of the most prolific and influential samizdat production and, in particular with the help of Soviet dissidents, émigrés in the West, and through the channels of Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe, those publications and the ideas they transmitted had a defining impact on the development of anti-communist oppositions, including cultural opposition in other socialist countries as well. Oppositional or future oppositional intellectuals from East and Central Europe met Soviet dissidents in the West, they took part together at conferences and important oppositional gatherings, corresponded with, and influenced one another. Western, and especially French, West-German and British intellectuals and public figures engaged in long-lasting, serious dialogues with Soviet oppositional figures. Émigrés and dissidents were influenced by Soviet samizdat literary works smuggled to the West and published by Western publishing houses, while revisionist Western intellectual developments and public statements, reflecting on Soviet opposition activities, in turn influenced the oppositions behind the iron curtain.
          Besides the important Soviet oppositional archives housed today in institutions of the member states of the European Union, there exist collections in Russia which are indispensible for any meaningful research on cultural opposition in the former socialist countries. These Russian institutions, such as the Memorial Center in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the Sakharov Center in Moscow, and the Unofficial Art Museum at Yekaterinburg State University, are still actively collecting documents of the former opposition, mostly from still living members of the anti-communist opposition, their descendents and from other, sometimes obscure private sources. These civil organizations have long-standing connections with major former oppositional figures. Sadly enough, as a result of official Russian policy today, these and other private and semi-private institutions face grave financial difficulties, and as a result, some of them, like the Narodnyi Arkhiv (an archive of everyday life under Communism, including documents related to the cultural opposition), ended up in state collections (in this case, at the State Archive of the Russian Federation). Leonid Talochkin’s collection that had originally been donated to the Russian State University for the Humanities, but due to a lack of adequate funding, became part of the collection of the State Tretyakov Gallery.
           Although over the years, and in particular before 1989, some important samizdat and other oppositional collections came into being in the West, some of the most important materials can still only be found in Russia and other former Soviet republics. Since the late 1980s, these Russian institutions have acquired solid professional expertise, they have specific experience, locally-grounded knowledge, and special skills not easily available anywhere else, and which is indispensable for any meaningful, successful research on cultural opposition.
          Members of the anti-communist oppositions in East and Central Europe sacrificed their existential interests, took enormous risks, suffered incarceration, and spent long years in the Gulag in order to end the division of Europe, to make the East-West divide a thing of the past. It is surely not the intention of the Commission – especially in the framework of this Call – to reconstruct the intellectual borderlines between Europe, the European Union, and the inheritors of the anti-communist opposition, who are forced by the Russian authorities to continue the fight for democracy, the rule of law, and for the proper historical place of the anti-communist opposition in historical memory. It would be inappropriate, and both professionally and morally unacceptable, to leave the relevant, civil Russian institutions out of the framework of the Call.
           According to the General Rule of the Call:
“Applicants from non-EU countries… are always free to take part in Horizon 2020 programs – even if the call for proposals or topic text do not state this explicitly. They are not always automatically entitled to funding.All applications must meet the minimum conditions in the Rules for Participation…Applicants from non-EU countries fall into 2 categories:
- those automatically eligible for funding
- those not automatically eligible for funding (though they may still be funded in exceptional cases)”
But the official document clearly states: “Applicants from other non-EU countries may be granted funding if: Their participation is deemed essential for carrying out the action by the Commission or the relevant funding body because it provides:
- outstanding competence/expertise
- access to research infrastructure
- access to particular geographical environments
- access to data.”
In our view, the participation of relevant, civil Russian institutions is pertinent precisely because of their outstanding competence and expertise, because of their access to specific, relevant and needed research infrastructure, and because of their access to unique data.
          We therefore ask the Commission to rethink and amend the Call, and make the professional participation of the relevant Russian institutions – in this case, primarily non-state institutions – possible.
And we further ask all European institutions to whom the Call has been addressed, to support our call.

In the name of OSA Archives, Budapest, September 27, 2014.

István Rév
Director

http://www.rferl.org/content/russia-closing-of-memorial-rights-group-/26...