Since its foundation in 2008, the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes (ÚSTR) has carried out academic research into two periods of repression in the modern history of Czechoslovakia: the period of Nazi occupation in 1939–1945 and the period of Communist rule in 1948–1989, naturally also taking in the intervening years. It focuses on the anti-democratic activities of state security agencies as well as analysing the circumstances in which an authoritarian regime can emerge in democratic conditions. The Institute is based on the conviction that with better understanding of the principles on which control of society was constructed in the past we will be better able to resist present and future threats of human rights restrictions.
ÚSTR also has a very rich educational programme and is more deeply involved in popularization and education than other academic institutions in the Czech Republic. Science, education and popularization enjoy equal status in its mission. It cooperates with many Czech and foreign schools and contributes greatly to the modernisation of the teaching of history and other subjects.
ÚSTR’s partner organisation is the Security Services Archive (ABS), which comes under the same chapter of the state budget. It administers the majority of written materials left behind by the Communist-era security services (not just the State Security and the Public Security but the civilian and military intelligence, etc.) and in part from the period of Nazism. All archival materials are accessible to everybody, in compliance with the law on archives.
The Institute’s operations are established by law
The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes and the Security Services Archive have their “own law” – no. 181/2007 Coll. Among other things it states that the Institute examines and impartially evaluates the Nazi period and the period of Communist totalitarian power; explores the anti-democratic and criminal actions of state bodies, in particular the security services, and the criminal activities of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and other organisations based on its ideology; analyses the causes of the destruction of the democratic regime and the methods employed; documents the participation of domestic and foreign persons in both support for the Communist regime and resistance to it; and acquires and makes accessible documents relating to the Nazi period and the period of Communist totalitarian power, in particular the activities of the security forces and forms of both persecution and resistance.
Where one can encounter the Institute’s work
- Our historians often appear in the media and comment on key events in modern history
- We supply Czech elementary and secondary schools with free materials aimed at delivering more meaningful history teaching
- Hundreds of history teachers take part in our educational seminars
- Our exhibitions, of which there are around 20 a year, appear at many places in Czechia and abroad
- Each year we publish two magazines; one academic, one popularizing
- We organise regular lectures and seminars for the general public
- We organise and co-organise academic conferences
- Our staff digitalise documents used in the research of modern history and make them accessible on our website
- We monitor places where democracy may come under threat and highlight that risk, in our country and internationally
What the Institute is not
- The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes is not an archive so does not make accessible any archival materials, not even State Security documents, which many people seek from us. That is the area of the Security Services Archive.
- The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes does not have any police or investigative powers, so (unlike some institutes of memory elsewhere) cannot arrest or charge anybody. In the Czech Republic those powers belong to the Office for the Documentation and Investigation of the Crimes of Communism.
- While the Security Services Archive is part of the same budget chapter as the Institute, and falls under the same law, it is an independent, separate institution. Therefore if you are looking for any information from the archives of the former State Security or other security services relating to particular individuals, contact directly the Security Services Archive.
- If you are seeking information from the archival materials of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ), contact the National Archives.