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Logo of the Ukraine Lustration Committee

Lustration is a recently coined term that refers to the purge of government officials once affiliated with the Communist system in Eastern Europe.[1] Various forms of lustration were employed in post-communist Europe.[2] The concept might resemble de-Nazification in post-World War II Europe, and the de-Ba'athification in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, and therefore resonates with concepts such as possible accountability for past human rights abuses, corruption or injustice.[3] The term is taken from the Roman lustrum purification rituals.[4]

Policies and laws[edit]

After the fall of the various European Communist governments in 1989–1991, the term came to refer to government-sanctioned policies of "mass disqualification of those associated with the abuses under the prior regime".[3] Procedures excluded participation of former communists, and especially of informants of the communist secret police, in successor political positions, or even in civil service positions. This exclusion formed part of the wider decommunization campaigns. In some countries, however, lustration laws did not lead to exclusion and disqualification. Lustration law in Hungary (1994–2003) was based on the exposure of compromised state officials, while lustration law in Poland (1999–2005) depended on confession.[5]

Lustration law "is a special public employment law that regulates the process of examining whether a person holding certain higher public positions worked or collaborated with the repressive apparatus of the communist regime".[2] The "special" nature of lustration law refers to its transitional character. As of 1996, various lustration laws of varying scope were implemented in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia), Germany, Poland, and Romania[citation needed]. As of 1996 lustration laws had not been passed in Belarus, nor in the former Soviet Central Asian Republics (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) (Ellis, 1996).


Lustration can serve as a form of instant revenge for those who were abused by a past government,[citation needed] and prevent that those colluded with past abuses might benefit from their positions of power. It is claimed that lustration systems based on dismissal or confession might be able to increase trust in government,[6] while those based on confession might be able to promote social reconciliation.[7]


Lustration in Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic[edit]

Unlike many of the neighbouring states, the new government in the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic did not adjudicate under court trials, but rather took a non-judicial approach to ensure changes would be made and purify the country of past human rights abusers.

Per a law passed on 4 October 1991, all those involved with the StB, the Communist-era secret police, were blacklisted from certain high public offices. This included upper reaches of the civil service, the judiciary, procuracy, the security service (BIS), army positions, management of state owned enterprises, the central bank, the railways, high academic positions and the public electronic media. This law continued in effect in the Czech Republic after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, and expired in 2000.

The lustration laws in Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic were not meant to serve as a form of justice, but to ensure that events such as the Communist coup of February 1948 would not happen again.[8]

Lustration in Germany[edit]

See Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records.

Lustration in Poland[edit]

See Lustration in Poland and Institute of National Remembrance.

Lustration in Ukraine[edit]

On 26 February 2014, Ehor Sobolev was nominated to lead the "Committee on Lustration" in the new Yatsenyuk Government.[9] On 14 August 2014, the Ukrainian parliament adopted a bill on government lustration that introduced "procedures for conducting checks of government officials and people nominated for government position with the purpose of deciding whether they meet certain criteria for occupying relevant post".[10] The bill was passed with the support of 252 out of 450 MPs.[10][11] According to Volodymyr Yavorsky of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group the bill was "unreasonable" and its implementation would be a "serious systematic violations of human rights"; (among other reasons) because too many people would lose their jobs because of it, including a complete dismissal of some officials even if they could not be easily replaced.[12] Tuesday 16 September 2014 the Ukrainian parliament at the third reading adopted the law on lustration. The head of the working group which finalized the bill on lustration, Yuriy Derevianko, said that the adopted document differed from the bill considered by the parliament at first reading.[13]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ "In Ukraine's Corridors Of Power, An Effort To Toss Out The Old". NPR. 2014-05-07. Retrieved 2014-05-07. 
  2. ^ a b Roman David, "Lustration Laws in Action: The Motives and Evaluation of Lustration Policy in the Czech Republic and Poland (1989-2001), Law & Social Inquiry 28(2):387-439 (2003),
  3. ^ a b Eric Brahm, "Lustration", Beyond, June 2004, 8 Sep 2009
  4. ^  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Lustration". Encyclopædia Britannica 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 131. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Roman David, Lustration and Transitional Justice: Personnel Systems in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011, p. 183
  7. ^ Roman David, Lustration and Transitional Justice: Personnel Systems in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011, p. 209.
  8. ^ Kieran Williams, "Lustration", Central Europe Review
  9. ^ Arseniy Yatseniuk nominated to lead new government as Ukraine prime minister "KyivPost Feb 27, 2014"
  10. ^ a b Rada passes bill on government lustration in first reading, Interfax-Ukraine (14 August 2014)
  11. ^ Ukraine OKs Malaysian experts' access to MH17 crash site, China Central Television (12 August 2014)
  12. ^ Volodymyr Yavorsky: Proposed lustration law has serious defects, Kyiv Post (14 August 2014)
  13. ^ [1], Kyiv Post (16 September 2014)