Dealing with Communist Spies

Dr. Vincent Post, photo supplied

Dr. Vincent Post, photo supplied

The University of Winnipeg’s Department of Political Science presents the lecture Dealing with Communist Spies by Dr. Vincent Post on Friday, March 10, 2017 from 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm in Room 1L13. To answer these questions, Post has explored the way in which the Czech Republic and Slovakia have addressed their shared communist past. Using interviews, media coverage, and archival data, he traces the debates in history in both countries to see if anti-communist legislation has fanned the flames or has put out the fire. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.

The communist party-states that crumbled in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s left behind the confounding legacy of the secret police. These bureaucracies employed hundreds of thousands and recruited many more citizens to inform on their neighbors, colleagues, friends, and families. Over the decades, massive archives of secretly-gathered information were built up.

After communism, new democracies attempted to deal with this legacy in a number of different ways. For instance, former collaborators and secret police officers were barred from serving as bureaucrats or holding political office. In addition, the public was given access to the files collected by the secret service, and dedicated state bodies, or “memory institutes,” were set up to implement these laws and inform the public about the work of the secret police.

But have these policies been able to resolve the controversies and conspiracies that surrounded the communist past? Or have they made that past more divisive and politically salient? These questions are important, especially as the Soviet era continues to be a subject of debate in countries such as Ukraine, which has passed a number of anti-communist bills in recent years.

Post holds a PhD in Political Science from McGill University, where he taught and wrote a dissertation entitled Putting out the Fire, or Fanning the Flames? How Regulating Secret Service Files and Personnel Affects Contestation over the Communist Past. He is currently an instructor at UWinnipeg.


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