General information

History of Foundation

The foundation of the Archives was due to an Act of the Constitutional Court of Hungary. In 1994, the Constitutional Court was examining the constitutionality of the law that had ordered the lustration of people in important public positions. They stated that the Parliament acted against the Constitution by not providing for people’s informational self-determination when they ordered their lustration. At the same time the Parliament was obligated to make an end to this anti-constitutional situation by legislating people’s right to become acquainted with all the personal data gathered and kept by State Security Organizations. Modifying the Law of Screening in 1997, the Parliament set up the Historical Office, which was archives despite its name. In 2003, as a by-product of the scandal following the publicity of the State Security past of the then Prime Minister, Parliament founded the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security (hereafter: Historical Archives or ÁBTL) by a new Act. The Historical Archives is the legal successor of the Historical Office.

Legal Commission and Tasks

The Historical Archives preserves and handles the documents of the former State Security Organizations dating from the period between December 21, 1944, and February 14, 1990 (December 21, 1944, was the day when the Interim National Assembly had its session; on February 14, 1990, State Security Organizations ceased to exist with or without legal successors), and the documents of the committee controlling certain persons performing important, public confidence and public opinion forming positions (hereafter: Screening Committee). The Screening Committee was in operation between 1994 and 2005. The Act determines the tasks of the Historical Archives in § 8 (3) as follows:

The Archives

The tasks mentioned under a) and c) are detailed in Part 5 of this text. b) Means that we took part in screening. Screening in Hungary was carried out by a body of judges and the Archives (like other organizations) supplied them with data. Screening has been finished, but the Act makes it possible for anybody to ask for information concerning the possible state security past of any public personalities (See Part 5 for details.)

We explore our documents according to our tasks determined by the Archives Act. ÁBTL has a small own research department. The research of the Historical Archives has been focused on the post-war organization and operation of the political police in Hungary, furthermore on exploring the relationship between the Communist Party, the governmental organs and the public security authorities. The results of these researches have been made public in monographs, articles and selected document publications

Since 2007 the on-line journal Betekintő of ÁBTL has become better and better known, and is regularly referenced by historians. The aim of this journal is to publish documents of the state security services before 1990, to present the organization, operation and the methods of the secret police, and to publish articles about state the security services before 1990.

As far as the conferences organized by the Historical Archives are concerned, among the speakers not only our own scholars and researchers can be found, but also well-known professionals from Hungary and abroad. In addition, our colleagues provide information on their recent research results and achievements at national and international conferences.

Exhibitions organised by ÁBTL also serve the aim of education. These exhibitions usually are touring exhibitions in Hungary and abroad. The Historical Archives of the State Security launched a series of lectures in 2011 entitled Historical Café (Történelmi KávéháZ) which take place every second Thursday afternoon each month. The aim if this program to present the scientific research of ÁBTL. It is open to visitors and guests who can listen to the lectures and participate in discussion.

Rehabilitation of the victims is not one of the Archives’ responsibilities. This problem was settled by the Acts of Annulations and Amendment. The Act of Annulations had already annulled the political sentences, and the Act of Amendment had given financial amendment well before the legal predecessor of the Archives was established. Amendment is still going on in one field: partakers in the 1956 Revolution may get a pension supplement. The Archives can give them the documents that prove that they are entitled to get that supplement in a significant number of cases. Victims who turn to our institute often need personal attention as well, which they get from the Archives if possible.

Legal Form and Structure of the Institute

The Historical Archives is a state-owned special Archives. The responsible leader of the Archives is the Director-General. The Director-General and the Deputy are chosen by open competition and nominated for seven years by the President of Parliament. Before the nomination, the candidates are interviewed by the National Security Committee and the Cultural Committee of the Hungarian Parliament. The rules of incompatibility are very strict. Nobody who has been a member of the Government, a State Secretary, an official or employee of a national organization of one of the political parties in the past ten years before the nomination can become Director-General or Deputy Director-General. The same regulation applies to those who were employed by the former State Security Organizations, received their reports or acted as an agent. Any person in this position can pursue an extra profession only in the fields of science, education or the arts.

The work of the Historical Archives is controlled by the President of Parliament. The Director-General has to report annually to the committees that interviewed him or her before his or her nomination. The circumstances under which the mandate of the leaders of the Archives ceases to exist are regulated by law. This rule practically ensures absolute independence for the institution. The Archives is a national institution with no regional organs. The number of employees is 99. The Archives is an independent, publicly financed institution. The budget is defined by Parliament in the annual budget law. According to experience so far, sources are continually available. No elections or government crisis have endangered continual work so far.

  1. shall ensure the exercise of the right to the familiarization with their personal data for those concerned under the conditions provided for by this Act;
  2. shall provide for the data supply to the organizations performing the fact-finding as determined in the law on the publicisation of the national security past of persons playing public life roles;
  3. shall ensure the pursue of the research activity with the conditions laid down by this Act;
  4. shall perform the tasks specified in the Archival Act.


Act LXVI of 1995

Act No. III of 2003