My father was approached by StB, Švejnar admits

Pavel Vondra and Aktuálně.cz Reporters
1. 2. 2008 19:40
Presidential hopeful comes clean to prevent harm
Maximum transparency is the only way to deal with this, said Jan Švejnar
Maximum transparency is the only way to deal with this, said Jan Švejnar | Foto: Ludvík Hradilek

Prague - With just one week left before the Czech lawmakers meet to elect the new head of state, family matters of one of the candidates became a subject of the campaign.

But instead of the usual violent attack on a perceived soft spot of an opponent, it came in the form of a pre-emptive admission.

Jan Švejnar who is challenging the incumbent president Václav Klaus in the election revealed potentially compromising information about his father's past dealings with the communist secret police, known under its acronym StB (Státní bezpečnost, or State Security).

For the benefit of the science

On his presidential campaign's webpage Švejnar published a facsimile of a document taken from the archives of the Ministry of the Interior which makes it clear that his father signed a pledge in 1961 "to cooperate with the ministry officials for the benefit of the Czechoslovak science's further development".

Facsimile of the archive file on Mr. Švejnar's father
Facsimile of the archive file on Mr. Švejnar's father | Foto:

At the time, Švejnar's father was employed by the Economics Institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences and was to attend a scientific conference organized by the United Nations.

Other documents published on Švejnar's webpage suggest that his father never left for the conference and the envisaged cooperation was terminated in 1962.

Maximum transparency

Švejnar allegedly learned of an attempt to use materials connected to his family's past to discredit him. To prevent this, he now published the complete file he had received from the ministry.

"I had left Czechoslovakia as a teenage boy. Despite the fact that children are not responsible for their parents' or relatives' acts, I asked for an access to all the archived files which have a connection with me of my family," Švejnar explained, stressing that the "maximum transparency" was the only way to come to terms with the past.

The Švejnars were reform-oriented economists who decided to leave the country after the reform movement of 1968 known as the Prague Spring was crushed by the Soviet invasion in August of the same year.

Jan Švejnar, who was 17 at the time, later settled in the United States. He teaches economy at the University of Michigan and is married to an American wife. He said he was ready to give up his US citizenship in case he gets elected.


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