Historians around the world are in uproar over a proposal by Hungary’s government that would allow those spied upon by the former Communist regime the right to take home their files from the secret service archives, and, if they wish, destroy them.

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He who controls the past controls the future, wrote George Orwell, and as the author of 1984, he would know better than most. Nowhere is his aphorism more true than central and eastern Europe, where more than two decades after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the region’s young democracies are still grappling with the ruinous legacy of four decades of Communist rule.

That’s why historians and archivists around the world are in uproar over an unprecedented proposal by Hungary’s right-of-centre government that would allow those spied upon by the former Communist regime the right to take home their files from the secret service archives, and, if they wish, destroy them.

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