AMBASSADOR'S BLOG - CAN UKRAINE LEARN FROM THE STASI?

Kyiv
19.09.10




Want to see how a Berlin schoolgirl volunteered to work with the East German State Security Ministry (Stasi)?  How Dynamo Dresden striker Peter Kotte was relegated to the 7th Division in 1980 on suspicion of wanting to flee to the West?  Or how a West Berlin member of parliament tricked a woman engineer from Leipzig into trying to cross the border in the boot of a car so she could be arrested red-handed?  A terrific new exhibition at the Ukrainian House (Український дім) in Kyiv called "The Dissenter is the Enemy" ("Feind ist, wer anders denkt") sets out the history of the Stasi in all its spine-chilling detail.

Feind ist, wer anders denktIntroducing the exhibition the German Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the Former German Democratic Republic, Marian Birthler, likens erosion of freedoms to an illness.  When you're healthy for a long time, she says, you don't notice the warning signs.  That makes it important, she says, to watch out for those warning signs; and for countries which want to be free to be constantly vigilant.

On a day which, by chance, is the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of the Ukrainian journalist Georgiy Gongadze, this seems an excellent message for any country, including Ukraine.  Seeing how Germany today is dealing with the legacy of the Stasi is also a reminder of how different societies balance the need for security with the need for freedom of speech, a subject on which I blogged last December ("I can burn your face").  I recommend the exhibition, which is running until 28 September.

Leigh Turner
British Ambassador to Ukraine


NOTE:  You can read all of Ambassador Turner's blogs by visiting: http://blogs.fco.gov/roller/turner 




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