How to Open the KGB Archives to Journalists
As experienced by the Center for Research on the Liberation Movement and its project "Deconstruction: The Role of Media in Post-Totalitarian Societies"
In order to encourage Ukrainian, Polish, Slovakian and Czech journalists to resort to the records of declassified Soviet repressive agencies archives a training workshop took place in Kyiv and a resource book was developed. Owing to the entries contributed by 25 project members there has been a significant surge in interest to the topic shown by journalists and non-professionals alongside new issues having been brought up. Ukrainian journalists had an opportunity to work in Polish, Czech and Slovakian archives while journalists from these countries had a chance to work in Ukrainian archive institutions. Telling stories based on archive records turned out to be far easier for those journalists who had no prior experience of working with historical discourse. The accomplishments of the project would be useful to a wider circle of journalists and citizens willing to work with archives for scientific reasons as well as for family history research.
The knowledge of history is also a question of national security. Among the typical tools exploited by Kremlin in a hybrid war against Ukraine and the tools aimed at influencing post-Soviet societies are various kinds of falsifications: the fabrication of historical events; the negation of the objective facts dealing with Soviet regime policies; the production of propagandistic messages based on lies and quasi-truth. Russian and pro-Russian mass media, social networks and politicians communicate ideas of the cult of Victory instead of depicting accurate WWII history; denial of the Holodomor; diminishing the scope of Stalinist repressions; viewing the Soviet government as a source of well-being for "underdeveloped agricultural" Ukraine; atrocities of Ukrainian nationalists and justifications for Soviet secret services. To combat fakes and misinformation one needs truth, true facts underpinned with tangible evidence, which are testimonies and documents. Documentary evidence of how history myths were created and promoted and how history was distorted can be found in the archives of the Soviet secret service. For this reason working with archive records can help expose both outdated and up-to-date manipulations.

The Revolution of Dignity provided numerous opportunities for research. The Supreme Council of Ukraine adopted the so-called Decommunization laws on the 9th of April, 2015. One of them is the law "On access to the archives of repressive agencies of the communist totalitarian regime of 1917-1991" which came into force on the 21st of May, 2015. It was developed with the help of the public within the framework of the program "Open archives" by the Center for Research of the Liberation Movement and with the assistance of the International Renaissance Foundation. The law ensures free access to archives to read, copy and work with all the documents of the repressive agencies created up till 1991. Alongside relatives of the repressed and historians a unique opportunity to access numerous stories was open for Ukrainian and foreign mass media.
The law ensures free access to archives to read, copy and work with all the documents of the repressive agencies created up till 1991.
Opening of the archives was expected to become a national sensation, but it didn't happen so. Mass media focused on more "scandalous" innovations of the Decommunization laws such as banning Soviet symbols and renaming localities. Law criticism raised by left-wing scientists and activists was yet another thing to draw the attention of journalists. Opening of the archives didn't receive such an amount of aggressive criticism, apart from occasional publications, which resulted in lack of public discussion in the media. This whole situation is utterly ironic since manipulations and scandals could have brought this new opportunity to the attention of society.

Despite the fact that the Security Council of Ukraine and the Center for Research of the Liberation Movement have put a lot of effort into spreading the information about the archives being open and – what is more – accessible, the news didn't find a receptive audience straightaway. A relatively small number of journalists and enthusiasts turned to archives within the first years. The number of written applications received by the Archive of SCU has increased from 2160 in 2015 to 3530 in 2017; the number of visitors – from 218 to 429. There has been a rise in the number of foreign visitors as well (it has doubled from 42 to 94). However, these rates are far from the expected ones taking into consideration the fact that millions of Ukrainian families have been affected by the Soviet repressions.
The number of written applications received by the Archive of SCU has increased from 2160 in 2015 to 3530 in 2017; the number of visitors – from 218 to 429. There has been a rise in the number of foreign visitors as well (it has doubled from 42 to 94).
Although various mass media (BBC Ukraine, "Radio Liberty", "Historical Truth" etc.) published sensational revelations based on the records from open archives, a stronger stimulus was needed to make journalists and non-professionals resort to these materials.

The Center for Research of the Liberation Movement in collaboration with the International Visegrad Fund, the Dutch MFA and the program "Transition" by the Embassy of the Czech Republic ventured to give impetus to the case and to organize an international workshop for the purpose of sharing experience among Ukrainian, Polish, Czech and Slovakian media and researchers. Foreign journalists willing to work with archive records along with Ukrainian colleagues were invited to join the project "Deconstruction: The Role of Media in Post-Totalitarian Societies". A workshop titled "KGB archives for media" was held in Kyiv on July 6-8, 2018. Project lecturers have also developed a resource book for journalists which contains information on the security service archives in Ukraine, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic; guidelines on how to search records, how to work with them and the experts to turn to; how to verify information from archive records and how to write press material based on it.
Direct work with media, promotion of the resource book that can be used by a wider circle of journalists and enthusiasts and new publications based on archive records were geared to evoke interest for Soviet secret service archives, topics, personalities and stories among journalists. At the same time Polish, Slovakian and Czech materials developed on the basis of records from the Archive of SCU can raise awareness of Ukrainian archives among their local researchers as well as acquaint the societies of the countries with the truth - especially in Poland, where there is a particular problem of anti-Ukrainian history myths and propaganda fakes that have their roots in Russia as well as in local populist forces.

Who lectured

Historians, archive specialists, journalists, editors, documentarians and TV journalists from Ukraine, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia were involved in the project. Among the lecturers and coaches of the international workshop were:
Volodymyr Birchak
academic program manager at the Center for Research of the Liberation Movement, UCU Institute of Church History, former deputy director of the Archive of SBU
Anatoliy Bondarenko
deputy editor-in-chef, infographics and data journalism task manager at
Volodymyr Viatrovych
PhD, historian, head of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance
Otar Dovzhenko
media expert, lecturer at Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) School of Journalism
Oleksandr Zinchenko
TV presenter, "History Unleashed" project founder (UA:Pershyi Channel)
Vakhtang Kipiani
TV presenter, "Historical Truth" project founder (ZIK Channel)
Andriy Kohut
director of the SBU Archive
Anna Oliinyk
acting director of the Center for Research of the Liberation Movement
Anna Ostapenko
"Alive TV" project coordinator
Ivan Patryliak
dean of the faculty of history at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv
Olga Popovych
historian, "Our Choice" fund, Poland
Serhii Riabenko
representative of Ukraine in the project International Justice for the Communist Crimes
Natalka Fitsych
TV presenter, "The Cult of Ancestors" project founder (Priamyi Channel)
Štěpán Černoušek
director of NGO, the Czech Republic
Michal Šmigeľ
historian, Matej Bel University, Banská Bystrica, Slovakia
Workshop participants presented their visions on how they would prepare their materials using the information from the secret service archives. These visions were soon transformed into individual and group projects and went through pitching to implementation. International teams were built to work on joint projects. The journalists were assisted by coaching historians and archive specialists.

What was lectured

How KGB archive records look like, where to look for them, how to work with them. How to check information from secret service documents. Archive and criminal file analysis.
Experience in working with Slovakian secret service archives. What documents are available, where to start the search, ways to get into archives for journalists, records of interest to Ukrainian journalists.
Experience in working with Czech secret service archives. What documents are available, where to start the search, ways to get into archives for journalists, records of interest to Ukrainian journalists.
Requirements to history in terms of TV product format. How to deconstruct old myths without creating new ones. What does it take to run a full-on TV project on history, what content sources are available, how to manage teamwork.
How NGOs and non-core media develop projects based on archive records.
What can be found in communist secret service archives. Sexpionage, psychological terror, hunt on foreigners and other stories that seem fake, but actually happened.
Archive record analysis (group work).
Tools to be used when working with considerable data sets and records that contain extensive statistics. What to do to apply events to a map.
How to write simple texts on complex topics. What details should be omitted in a publicistic text, how to unfold a fascinating story based on archive records. Tips on how to work with text.
How to unfold a video narrative that would catch viewers' attention. Typical mistakes in video production.
Creating mediahistory based on archive records (group work).
How archive records can help journalists report on Polish-Ukrainian historical debate.
What should be done before going to an archive. What to start the search with, what web resources provide the information needed and why isn't it necessary to go to an archive to work with records.
Informal communication and collaboration among participants, experts and organizers were the focal points of the project. One of the advantages of the project was that novice journalists who were dealing with historical discourse for the first time were assisted by experienced colleagues. It provided both of them with an opportunity to gain new experience and to get a fresh perspective on well-known facts and topics. Yet another benefit was cooperation between Ukrainian specialists and guests from other countries. 3 Polish, 2 Czech and 2 Slovakian journalists were engaged in the project. 14 out of 18 Ukrainian participants represented Kyiv media sector, 2 representatives them came from Lviv, 1 from Odesa and 1 from Dnipro.

The resource book developed by project organizers is aimed at helping journalists use the archives of the Soviet repressive agencies effectively. It can be of use to researchers, students and people who are interested in the case. The book includes a step-by-step guide on how to apply to an archive and how to get the documents; the classification of archive materials (investigation case files, intelligence case files, operational case files and other documents); tips for journalists on how to write about historical discourse; material on historical hoaxes and propaganda in mass media. In the afterword to the book a board member of the National Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine Yurii Makarov dwells on the subject of media standards in the post-truth era.
"KGB archives for media
Розсекречені архіви радянських спецслужб допоможуть журналістам знаходити нові теми для своїх матеріалів, а також перевіряти інформацію, яка апелює до історії ХХ століття. Уміння читати архіви КҐБ стане в нагоді медійникам, які хочуть навчитись протидіяти пропаганді й дезінформації в інфопросторі. Автори посібника розповідають, як працювати з документами комуністичних спецслужб та перетворювати їх на історію.
download pdf

Challenges faced by project organizers

To motivate journalists. Passive media response to the opening of the Soviet secret service archives was not only subject to lack of knowledge or misunderstanding of the source potential. Historical discourse has traditionally been viewed as a marginal one among the majority of the Ukrainian media.

Sensitive subjects like Volyn tragedy, the Holodomor, leaders of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists serve as an exception and are used in political manipulations. Publications dealing with these topics are issued either at the time of heightened tension in the society or on memorable dates. In both cases authors rarely resort to original sources and documents.
There are examples of successful projects that were developed on the base of archive materials (for instance, a joint project on Ukrainian insurgents created by the Center for Research of the Liberation Movement and TSN (1+1 Channel).

It is ironical that as recently as in 2012 Ukrainian media would write about history without going into details and using references to modern politicians and public figures rather than referring to researchers and documents. It was at the time prior to socio-political escalation and Russian aggression when historian Marian Mudryi called Ukraine a country "poisoned with history".
In Ukraine there's lack of specialized publications writing about popular history. These include "Historical Truth", "The History plus", online-media "WAS" and a couple of more specific projects. Vakhtang Kipiani, the chief editor of "Historical Truth" and the host of a TV program on ZIK Channel with the same title, often emphasizes the fact that the number of historical magazines in Ukraine is scarce (some of the exceptions are a not so well-known "History" magazine and a newly founded issue from Lviv titled "Local history"). While in the US there are plenty of similar issues, Ukraine tends to fall behind due to lack of media willing to publish archive investigations.

Lack of attention to major historical topics is also a part of a wider problem within Ukrainian media. It consists in all-out economy with respect to time and human resources. Preparing material based on archive records requires a journalist to spend a few days' time outside the editorial office. In the meantime journalists have to prepare timely materials on a daily basis.
Lack of attention to major historical topics is also a part of a wider problem within Ukrainian media. It consists in all-out economy with respect to time and human resources.
From a pragmatic point of view it is unsustainable to assign journalists with the task of working on crucial historical issues. There's an example of a regional journalist who has taken leave to work on material about repressed Ukrainians in an archive. Eventually the texts were published by other issues since the journalist's editor showed no interest in them. In this respect sending a journalist abroad to work in a foreign archive doesn't make any sense.

The experience of communication with prospective project participants revealed that archive bureaucracy and fear of dealing with new material discourage journalists. Therefore the project sought to create a simple guide that could be used by journalists with no prior training. Yet another objective was to explain that working with archive records is not that intimidating as it seems to be and that one does not need to be a historian to do it.
The resource book includes recommendations on access procedures, information about document typology, tips on how to read documents, check the information provided and how to use these records for fact-checking.

Project participants consider the knowledge they gained to be sufficient for full-on work with archive records while preparing publications.

To reduce bureaucracy. Project organizers have taken over the accreditation application for journalists to provide them with maximal access to the Archive of SBU. At the same time in Polish archives it is obligatory to pay for copying digital records. Moreover, a Polish archive may refuse to provide documents. Project participants note that access procedure was "as simple and convenient as possible", although some of them pointed out that without the organizers' assistance it would have been much harder to gain access to archives.
To help journalists find the topics. Project participants worked on their own ideas for publications. Still, organizers and lecturers/coaches suggested a range of topical themes that haven't received proper coverage in the media. Some journalists required help in search for experts and subjects of articles. Also they needed further clarification of certain files and documents they dealt with.

To discipline project participants. Part of the journalists worked on their materials within the framework of the project and outside their work. Only a couple of them managed to meet the deadline and to publish their work timely. 45 articles were issued in total. Some texts and TV programs are still in the development or about to be published.

Challenges faced by project participants

Lack of knowledge and historical awareness.
Some of the journalists were dealing with historical discourse for the first time. "I had no idea what I was looking for. I chose "Anti-Soviet Activities" filing and went well from there," said one of the journalists. There were project participants who failed to address their topics and to find valuable records both in Ukrainian and in foreign archives. Nevertheless their materials were published – in particular the publications dealing with the displacement of Ukrainians in Czechoslovakia.
Working abroad.
The journalists who went to archives in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia had difficulties understanding local languages, especially when it was the language of the material that needed to be processed shortly. "It's a pity that from the very beginning I wasn't aware of the online catalogue. It could have made my search far easier," – says project participant who worked in a Polish archive. It is obvious that a few days' trip is not enough for a substantial work with archive records in another coutry, especially if they involve materials in unfamiliar languages. This factor alongside time limitations may influence the quality of publication.
Problems receiving documents.
One of the project participants claims that in the Archive of SCU she was refused to scan files that she needed. "It should be taken into account that receiving materials – particularly the ones from regional archives – takes time," – mentions another project participant. The journalists recommend clarifying the time frame required to receive archive records. Some participants complained about the lack of time which affected the way their material was produced.
Material quality and quantity.
Normally Ukrainian journalists don't work with such a large volume of contradictory and dubious information – even while working on major topics. In addition, many journalists had no prior experience with archives. One of the project participants claims that many files are fabricated and that it's hard to differentiate between truth and lies. "The hardest thing is to decipher handwriting when reading a file. It takes a lot of time. There are the documents that you spend so much time on and after all they turn out to be of no value. Alternatively, it happens that you miss a document and you notice it when you go over it once again. Too much confusion - and documents can lie," – shares one of the journalists. She adds that in order to gain a deeper understating of human history or some historical episode, one needs to work with various sources, consult historians and apply complex approach in general.

Publications of project participants

Eduard Andriushchenko
Voice in the wilderness. Attempts of Czechs and Slovaks to 'get through' to Soviet friends in August 1968.

Глас вопиющего. Как чехи и словаки пытались «достучаться» до советских друзей в августе 1968 года
Current time | «Настоящее время»
"Take a gun and put a bullet in your head." Letters of Soviet soldiers in Czechoslovakia from the KGB archives

«Взять автомат и пустить пулю в лоб». Письма советских солдат в Чехословакии из архивов КГБ
Current time | «Настоящее время»
'The gallows' for Lenin and a "'Black cat' gang": 'Anti-Soviet' tricks of children of Donbass

«Виселица» для Ленина и «банда "Черный кот"»: «антисоветские» проделки детей Донбасса
OstroV |«Остров»
From the KGB archives. Reaction of the Soviet Donbass to the Prague Spring and its suppression

Из архивов КГБ. Как советский Донбасс реагировал на Пражскую весну и ее подавление
OstroV | «Остров»
A picture from an exhibition. The way the KGB beat the Ukrainian diaspora at Expo '67 in Montreal?

Картинка з виставки. Як КҐБ обіграло українську діаспору на Експо-67 у Монреалі
Texty | «Тексти»
Maria Sosiura: muse, wife, agent of the NKVD

Марія Сосюра: муза, дружина, агент НКВС
"This is a cry of a free man who is dying"

«Це крик вільної людини, що вмирає»
The Ukrainian Week | «Тиждень»
Archive Inside: 30 years ago, Hungarian diplomats and special services already 'worked' in Transcarpathia

Архівний інсайд: 30 років тому угорські дипломати та спецслужби вже «працювали» на Закарпатті
"I want to find the file of a repressed relative in the SSU archive. How to do it?"

«Хочу знайти в архіві СБУ справу репресованого родича. Як це зробити?»
The Babel
A historian and freelance journalist Eduard Andriushchenko produced the largest number of materials. Two of them, devoted to the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and published on Radio Liberty web-resource – Current Time, addressed to a broad post-Soviet audience. Materials by Eduard were published by such Ukrainian periodicals as Texty (Texts), Ukrainian Week, WAS, OstroV, The Babel and Insider.

WAS is the only online magazine from this list focused on historical themes. For the others, these publications have actually become an expansion to their typical themes. For his articles, Eduard chose little-known or unknown to Ukrainians stories, including the first political self-immolation in Poland,
the collaboration of Volodymyr Sosiura's wife with the KGB,
the confrontation between the KGB and the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada, and so on. At the same time, he took into account the themes of the periodicals where his articles were published - in particular, two publications in the OstroV devoted to the life of the Donetsk region tell of the little-known pages of the Soviet Donbass history.

An article about Hungarian agents in Transcarpathia published in the online newspaper Insider has been made thematic by the current diplomatic conflict between Ukraine and Hungary. Eduard's materials are a clear demonstration of the fact that stories found in archives can be thrilling, detective, action-packed, and relevant to the present.

Daryna Rohachuk
The Historical Truth
«Історична правда»
A mysterious story of Vinkovetskyi nadraion leader of the OUN

Загадкова історія керівника Віньковецького надрайонного проводу ОУН
The Historical Truth | «Історична правда»
25 years of camps for correspondence with the rebel. A story of Mariia Rohachuk
(the author is Sofiia Sereda)

25 років таборів за листування з повстанцем. Історія Марії Рогачук
(автор — Софія Середа)
Radio Liberty | Радіо Свобода
Daryna Rohachuk`s text can be called a strong debut of young journalism in the historical sphere. In addition to archival documents, she used comments of eyewitnesses from the village where the described events were taking place.
At the same time, Daryna`s family history became a topic for the work of Sofia Sereda on Radio Liberty, and Daryna was the heroine of this article, an example of modern youth`s interest in the history of their ancestors and how they find it in the archives.

Sofiia Sereda
Radio Liberty
Радіо Свобода
'Compromising photos' of Soviet Ukraine by the French spy Galeotti

«Компрометуючі» фотографії радянської України французького шпигуна Галеотті

(in english: The KGB Stalked A Snap-Happy French Tourist For Eight Years. But Was He A Spy?)
Radio Liberty | Радіо Свобода
The way a repressed soldier of the UPA cheated the Soviet security officers (Chekists). A story of Halyna Chorna`s family

Як репресований вояк УПА вправно дурив радянських чекістів. Історія родини Галини Чорної
Radio Liberty | Радіо Свобода
'Enemy`s voice' the KGB held Radio Liberty up at gunpoint

«Ворожий голос» Радіо Свобода під прицілом КДБ
Radio Liberty | Радіо Свобода
Sofiia Sereda managed to open a new (or, at least, not widely known) page of history not only of Ukraine, but also of Radio Liberty itself. The work is especially important given the current issues of censorship and freedom of speech that are mainly implemented in the public space by the political heirs of the Communist Party. As for the form, all the materials published by Sofiia on Radio Liberty are rather laconic and readable as well as brilliantly illustrated that is convenient for the perception of an audience, not very deeply familiar with the subject.

Oleh Kryshtopa
5 channel
5-й канал
Cooperation between the UPA and the Polish Home Army: an attack on the city of Hrubeshiv (Hrubieszów)

Співпраця УПА та Польської Армії Крайової: атака на місто Грубещів
5 channel | 5-й канал
The history of the joint struggle of the Ukrainian and Polish insurgents against the Nazis is extremely important as a counterweight to modern Polish and Russian propaganda that depicts the Ukrainian insurgent army as killers and enemies of the Poles. The Ukrainian media have repeatedly reminded of this episode in recent years, which confirms, at least, a partial commonality of the UPA and the Home Army interests, but these reminders were not enough to completely counter the propaganda.
A solid research shot in a popular way by a professional documentarian is a clear advantage (unfortunately, 5 Channel does little to promote its content on the Internet, so the edition of Time Machine has only over 200 views). Participation in the project allowed Oleh Kryshtopa to complement his program with documents from Polish archives.

Svitlana Shevtsova
Archives of the KGB: Academician Bazhan through the eyes of informers

Архіви КҐБ: академік Бажан очима донощиків
Ukrinform | Укрінформ
Svetlana Shevtsova tried to combine research about Ukrainian poet Mykola Bazhan and a general introduction to archives of Soviet repressive organs as well as access to them, which led to the loss of focus in the text. The article begins "from afar", with the narrative about repressive bodies and decommunization, about the practice of denunciations, and
even then the author brings Bazhan's case as "extremely revealing." Despite the interesting and valuable story detailed in the material of Svitlana, such a construction of the text and oversaturation of the introductory part with the reference information makes it less suitable for perception.

Viacheslav Shramovych
BBC Ukraine
ВВС Україна
Reaction of the Soviet Ukraine to suppression of 'The Prague Spring'

Як у радянській Україні сприйняли придушення «Празької весни»
BBC Ukraine | ВВС Україна
Confiscation of currency from the players of Dynamo Kiev by the KGB

Як КДБ у гравців київського «Динамо» валюту забирало
BBC Ukraine | ВВС Україна
The materials of Viacheslav Shramovych are easy-to-read, concise, thematically focused, written in the BBC format, and therefore read as coherent stories. The special advantage of the second article is the relevance to the history of one of the most popular football teams in Ukraine, which guarantees attention of those readers who, under other circumstances, have little interest in history.

Oksana Rasulova
University of repressions

Університет репресій
Studway | «Студвей»
The online edition Studway is devoted to the lives of students and is addressed to young audiences, who are usually little interested in historical themes, so the author ingeniously linked her research with student related topics. This is a panoramic material that describes various examples of the intervention of Soviet special services in the education and life of students. It somewhat contrasts with the typical content of the publication, but it can also be an advantage - such an unusual article may attract attention.
However, combination of diverse stories into an extensive material could be avoided turning it into a series of articles. It is also possible to assume that students of the largest modern universities would be interested in learning more about the KGB agents among teachers who worked in Soviet times, given that some of them still work at universities.

Anton Semyzhenko
Neither our people nor strangers

Ні свої, ні чужі
The material of Anton Semyzhenko has a beautiful page layout which was made with the help of the multimedia stories designer Tilda, but has not yet been published in the media. The information is well illustrated, but collected mainly from other sources - according to Anton, his hope to find documents in Slovak archives has not been fulfilled.

Darka Hirna
Hromadske TV
Громадське телебачення
'He acted as a prosecutor': dissident Mykola Kuntsevych - about Medvedchuk

«Він поводився як прокурор»: дисидент Микола Кунцевич — про Медведчука
Hromadske TV | Громадське телебачення
One of the most relevant materials created within the project is the story of the dissident of the Soviet era, who was "defended" by Viktor Medvedchuk. It appeared at the moment of discussions about whether the current pro-Russian politician had done everything he could for his clients. Dariia Hirna has long been engaged in the topic of Soviet dissidents, so she feels to be competent in it.
However, she could not use the archival materials, since Mykola Kuntsevych's file in the SSU archive was not found, and only received confirmation that the documents were destroyed by the Soviet special service in 1990. In fact, the question of who tells the truth – Kuntsevych or Medvedchuk – remains open.

Serhii Stukanov
Hromadske Radio
Громадське радіо
Ukrainian dissidents fought for the expansion of civil liberties and for the Ukrainian language – Ivan Dziuba

Українські дисиденти боролися за розширення громадянських свобод і за українську мову – Іван Дзюба
Hromadske Radio | Громадське радіо
Participation in the project helped Sergii Stukanov prepare for a conversation with Ivan Dziuba about the persecution of Ukrainian dissidents and their confrontation with the Soviet regime.

Petro Bondar
2.3 snitchers per thousand people. Agent of the NKVD Yevheniia successfully 'jailed' the Kyiv intelligentsia, but the OUN members got her figured out (+ infographics)

2.3 стукача на тисячу населення. Агент НКВС Євгенія успішно «садила» київську інтелігенцію, та ОУНівці її розкусили (+інфографіка)
Texty | «Тексти»
A worthy and exemplary work where modern data visualization tools were used to illustrate and bring the Soviet special services' archives closer to people. The publication had over 13,000 views, which is a very good result for the material on this topic

Mykhailo Kolesnikov
Prague Spring of 1968. How much is it similar to Russia's current occupation?

The parallel between the Prague Spring of 1968 and the current events in this video material seems somewhat remote, but obviously this was the only way to actualize the issue for the ICTV editorial, which traditionally pays much attention at criticism of Russia.

Yuliia Valakh
Espreso TV
Tortures of captives: methods of the USSR and militants

Катування полонених: методи СРСР і бойовиків
Espreso TV | «Еспресо»
This plot is a very good example of visualization of archival materials, not transformed into a series of screenshots and talking heads. This was achieved thanks to footage from video archive and live comments of experts.

Olena Kalinovska
Dnipro TV
Дніпро TV
Story of Andrii Fabra in a series of programmes
'Genius of the city' on the Dnipro TV
Historical documentary 'Revolutionary Dnipro. 1917'
Dnipro journalist Olena Kalinovska used archival documents to supplement her historical television programmes. A documentary about Katerynoslav of 1917 had 3,400 views, and that is only in Facebook. This is evidence that articles of regional journalists who use materials from open archives can have a great resonance and coverage.
In addition, the target audience of regional media is often not covered by the central, especially online publications, where most of the articles of project participants were published. So, cooperation with local television is a successful way of increasing the number of people who will learn about the open archives of the repressive bodies of the USSR.

Paweł Bobołowicz
Forgotten Soldiers of Independence

Zapomniani bohaterowie niepodległości
«Kurier WNET»

Ľubomír Smatana
(Czech Republic)
He did not agree with August '68, arranged by the KGB. The archives told about a previously unknown Ukrainian dissident

Nesúhlasil s Augustom 68, zničila ho KGB. Archívy odhalili doteraz neznámeho ukrajinského disidenta
«Denník N»
Evidence from the KGB's archives: seven years in prison for Ukrainians who were against the occupation of Czechoslovakia

Svědectví z archivů KGB: sedm roků vězení pro Ukrajince, který byl proti okupaci Československa
They criticized the occupation of Czechoslovakia, and therefore suffered - the Kyiv historian describes previously unknown stories from Ukraine

Kritizovali okupaci Československa, a proto trpěli, líčí kyjevský historik dosud neznámé příběhy z Ukrajiny

Ľuba Koľová
RTVS channel
A series of information materials on the occupation of Czechoslovakia

Dariusz Materniak
Portal Polsko-Ukrainski
Anti-Bolshevik bloc of peoples

Archiwa KGB: Antybolszewicki Blok Narodów
Portal Polsko-Ukrainski
Journalists from the Czech Republic and Slovakia focused on the subject of national relevance - the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in their countries in 1968 (a kind of "informational pretext" for this was the fiftieth anniversary of those events). Polish journalist Dariusz Materniak told about
the organization "Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Peoples", which is also relevant given the acute moments of Polish-Ukrainian relations. At the same time, foreign participants of the project chose the theme of a narrow focus (see the recommendations below).

Recommendations of project participants

In general, journalists who participated in the project say that they appreciated the potential of archives as a source of themes, heroes and facts for their works. Among the recommendations they give in the questionnaires are:
become familiar with the structure of archives to know where to look for the right information;
clearly define the subject and go to the archive with a clear request that will help archivists to find the right documents;
carefully prepare for work with archival documents before you come to the archive;
consult with experts - historians and archivists, and, if available, with witnesses of the events you are writing about;
to note interesting topics and sources that occur when searching for the necessary documents to study them later;
do not hurry, it will take time to study archival documents, and not to make premature conclusions;
pay special attention to the details in the documents, because they sometimes hide the most interesting things;
"do not expect the documents to be clear. They may defy common sense, therefore, one must carefully study the methods of work of the KGB, know what to look for, and involve experts";
take into account the time required to wait for documents and study them.

How to improve the efficiency of such projects in the future

To explain and, if possible, simplify the procedure for access to archives. Despite the fact that this procedure is considered relatively democratic, the experience of the Deconstruction project: The Role of Media in Post-Totalitarian Societies, has demonstrated the problems with the access regime that even trained journalists experience. In this situation the organizers were responsible for issuing access passes (other journalists will have to do it on their own). A clear instruction on access to archives, similar to that in Eduard Andriushchenko's article on The Babel, should be accessible to all interested journalists and distributed among editorial offices.

Considering positive comments of journalists working in foreign archives concerning convenient online catalogues, the SSU Archive should accelerate the creation of a public catalog of archival documents that will simplify the process of obtaining them from the archives of the Soviet special services.

To create a contact database of historians who are experts in this sphere. Project participants point out that the assistance of archivists and historians was extremely important for their work. For a wide range of journalists, it would be useful to create a service like the one the Ukrainian Catholic University has, which is called "Find an expert". Participation of experts in the database should be voluntary; they can give their direct contacts or comment all requests online. The system of theme tags will help journalists formulate their request narrowly enough to find a historian competent in the topic they need.

To expand the audience. Most Ukrainian participants in the first project were professional journalists (on-staff and freelance) from Kyiv. However, in addition to this, there are at least three potential audiences who will effectively participate in the project:
  • journalists and bloggers - people who formally have nothing to do with journalism, but write texts and sometimes have wider audience than traditional media;
  • students (historians, political scientists, sociologists, etc.) who are looking for a topic for research or are already studying the Soviet period of Ukrainian history; encouraging future scholars to write popular articles for the media will benefit both the media and science;
  • journalists of the regional mass media; they participated in the Deconstruction project: The Role of Media in Post-Totalitarian Societies, but it is possible to organize a special training project for journalists from the regions.

Meanwhile, when working with journalists from regions, more attention should be paid to the training in journalistic techniques, because, in addition to the knowledge and skills they need to work in the archive, they often need to improve their own professional level and get acquainted with new storytelling formats.

To create additional opportunities for television journalists. Documentalists and video journalists, especially foreign ones, who always have problem finding a spectacular and exclusive video which is at the same time relevant to the content. Most TV journalists used videos shot in an archive and interviews with experts which is not enough. Cooperation with cinema archives, which are ready to provide Soviet-era recordings (newsreels, TV programs, etc.) can partly solve this problem, especially for foreign TV journalists who do not have an archive of Ukrainian videos.

To prepare thematic proposals for foreign journalists. The problem "I do not know what to look for in the archives" is acute for Ukrainians, but for foreigners who deal with documents in an unfamiliar language and know little about history of the Soviet period of Ukraine, it can be a key problem. They do not see and cannot see all possible connections between the history of their country and ours. In order for foreign participants not to study the most widely available topics but to find less known stories, Ukrainian historians can offer them a list of themes or subjects that can be made relevant to their audience, and suggest where to find documents for articles and visualization.

To create a multimedia guide. The opportunities for distribution of printed guides are limited, besides, some information in it may be outdated. The solution is the creation on the website of the Center for Research of the Liberation Movement or the Archive of the SSU the constantly updated multimedia guide, which should include:
  • visualized instructions on access to archives;
  • types of archival documents;
  • a wide range of advice for journalists working on certain topics;
  • a library of examples of great topics (within and outside the project);
  • experts` contacts, etc.

Such a publicly accessible guide could help a wide range of people who want to get access to archives - both journalists and non-journalists.
Author of the Case-Study
Otar Dovzhenko
media expert, lecturer at Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) School of Journalism
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The project "Deconstruction: The Role of Media in Post-Totalitarian Societies" is implemented with the support of:
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