30+ Years of Freedom of Information Action

About the U.S.-Soviet Flashpoints Project

Begun in 1992 in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse and the demise of communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe, the Openness Project evolved into a full-scale, multinational undertaking that included collaborative investigations of contemporary history, joint publications, multinational conferences, technical assistance, training and seed funding, in cooperation with institutions and individuals in Warsaw, Budapest, Moscow, Bucharest, Sofia, Prague, Potsdam and elsewhere.

Project goals:

To contribute to the development of “civil society” in Central and Eastern Europe by supporting non-governmental, non-commercial institutions and researchers involved in recovering the previously suppressed history of the region.

  • To assist these pioneering organizations and individuals in promoting greater openness and accountability in government, mirroring the National Security Archive’s ongoing activities with respect to the U.S. government.
  • To investigate key turning points and crises in the region’s history by encouraging more extensive public access to archives, especially those of key repressive institutions such as the Communist Party and secret police.
  • To press for the public release of previously secret documentation from all sides, while balancing the privacy rights of victims and ordinary citizens.
  • To create venues for the dissemination of new archival information and broader public debate on their significance, thus providing multiple perspectives on, and a more sophisticated understanding of, our mutual recent history.
  • To help build constituencies among journalists, academics and citizens for statutory processes of access to government information, similar to the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.
  • To conduct all these activities in a spirit of collegiality and full reciprocity, recognizing that the end of the Cold War also requires a systematic reassessment of its legacy in the United States and the expansion of openness in America as well.

The Openness Project encompasses collaborative relationships not only with partners in Central and Eastern Europe but also in the United States.  The Cold War International History Project (CWIHP) at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. deserves particular mention.  In addition, an extraordinary range of scholars and archivists have contributed their expertise, time – and documents – to this multinational effort.  Too numerous to name here, their presence is felt (and, we hope, properly acknowledged) in each of the project’s activities and publications described on this site.