Editorial: never delete history

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Photo: Toomas Tatar

It’s been embarrassing to track the time-consuming search to find ways to prove why the recordings of meetings at Riigikogu committees must not and cannot be preserved for a longer time. Strange how the desire to hide mechanisms of legislation is so great in the very Estonia trying to sell itself globally as an open and flexible small nation.

Despite the juridical or bureaucratic foam whipped up around the recordings, these without doubt are historic sources – originals at that – the value of which can only be assessed from a certain distance. Thus, it is clearly not the solution right now to destroy the recordings; rather, the decisions have to be based on the need of preservation – where and with what order of access, these are the secondary questions.

Yesterday, Estonian National Archives also refuted the artificial argument that they were not interested in preserving the recordings. Obviously, National Archives have the options for that and that would also be the right place for long-term keeping of Riigikogu working materials.

Sensing the obvious absurdity of the situation, a national official and former journalist Toomas Mattson on Tuesday said via social media that he would be ready to personally store the recordings on his hard disks and stands ready to systematise them. The beauty of the proposal lies in this not being impossible at all in practice and technically. While in 1956 a 5 megabyte IBM hard disk weighed over a tonne and cost thousands of dollars, a 2 terabyte hard disk – 400,000 times the capacity – can be purchased at a store for under €100 and it fits nicely in one’s pocket.

Mr Mattson, a man who over the years has systematised and edited a vast amount of materials related to National Audit Office history, would doubtless manage to sort out parliamentary stuff. But it doesn’t have to be a job for one. Preserving Estonia’s history for the future must verily be the task for the state.

The claims about the «unarranged mass» of Riigikogu recordings sound hollow also for who knows what technical solutions we might have handy in 25 years, say. At the moment, for instance, Google – a company that has openly stated its mission to sort out all the information available in the world thus making it publicly accessible and useful – can in an instant perform a search which, only at the end of the last century, would have taken days, weeks or months of fumbling through papers. Someday, today’s recordings may come alive as holograms via which the next generation historians may directly participate at the Riigikogu constitutional committee meeting on January 13th 2015, for instance, deliberating Estonian security with virtual Security Police chief Arnold Sinisalu and Information Board head Rainer Saks.