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One challenge the government has not addressed is that the pages in the files usually contain information about more than one person. So, if an original page is removed from the files and given to someone included in the report, it would be impossible for the others to see what was written about them.

Janos Kenedi, a writer and researcher who until Jan. 3 headed an official committee in charge of evaluating thousands of pre-1990 secret files still in the hands of the current secret services, says laws already provide spied-upon individuals protection while still leaving files intact.

“All victims have the right to ask the state security archives to classify any files relating to them for 90 years,” Kenedi said. “But anyone who cuts out pages from the original files with a razor denies others the right to access their own history.”

Also, personal information in the files, such as someone’s religion or sexual orientation, is not available even to researchers.

The House of Terror was one of the highlights of Orban’s first premiership from 1998 to 2002. Many also still remember his groundbreaking speech in 1989 — when Hungary’s transition to democracy was still uncertain — calling for the removal of Soviet troops stationed in the country.

Experts are surprised by Orban’s latest move, as they feel he was finally exposing Hungary’s troubled past. Yet now, they say, he is playing a role in destroying it.

Many say the plan for the archives fits in with several other steps taken by the government since Fidesz, Orban’s party, won a two-thirds parliamentary majority in April 2010 elections.

The overwhelming popular support has emboldened the government to disregard most dissent, weaken basic democratic institutions and distort the system of check and balances.

It has curtailed the powers of the Constitutional Court, neutered the Fiscal Council, a budget watchdog, and created a media law which attracted heavy criticism from the European Union and is feared will allow the government to clamp down on the opposition press.

Many institutions, including the 1956 Institute which studies that year’s anti-Soviet revolution, have seen the government cut their budget and their fate is uncertain.

“The government thinks it can put an end to the past,” Kenedi said. “For Fidesz, history starts and ends with them and what came before in Hungarian history does not exist. Their aim is collective amnesia.”

Politicians may also be hoping to do away with potentially damaging information, experts said.

“It is very difficult to see the destruction of Hungarian archives as anything other than a crude political move on the part of politicians who are concerned about potentially unpleasant and embarrassing documents on their relationship with the former regime that may one day be found by historians,” wrote Adam, the Canadian lecturer and archivist.

An online petition launched by Adam to ensure the archives’ integrity has attracted nearly 2,000 signatures.

Hungary lags behind other former members of the Soviet bloc in fully opening its archives and nearly 30 percent of the files are still classified and under the control of state security.

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