purify from


Lustration has two meanings, historical and modern.

Historically- It was the term for various ancient Greek and Roman purification rituals.

Modern- In the period after the fall of the various European Communist states in 1989 – 1991, the term came to refer to the policy of limiting the participation of former communists, and especially informants of the communist secret police, in the successor governments or even in civil service positions. In modern times, lustration has borrowed the meaning "to purify" from the Latin historical sense and has applied it to the procedure in which a country will go through in order to deal with past human rights abuses or injustices that have occurred.

Modern use

In the period of post-communism, after the fall of the various European Communist states in 1989 – 1991, the term came to refer to the policy of limiting participation of former communists, and especially informants of the communist secret police, in the successor governments or even in civil service positions, as part of the wider decommunization campaigns.

As of 1996 various lustration laws of varying scope were implemented in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Albania, Bulgaria, the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia), Germany, Poland, Romania; it should be noted that regional differences were very significant (for example, in the Czech Republic and Germany the lustration was much stronger than in other countries). As of 1996 lustration laws did not exist in Belarus, nor in the former Soviet Central Asian Republics (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) (Ellis, 1996).

The main goal of lustration is to rid these countries of any past abuses that had occurred under a former regime. This purification process is carried in many ways such as banning former members of the communist parties, or people involved, from being involved in public positions.


Lustration can serve as a form of instant revenge for those who were abused by a past government. Political figures are often banned from government immediately and therefore serves as a more efficient form of justice. Whereas court trials (another method used when dealing with transitional justice) can be extremely expensive, lengthy, and may be unsuccessful.

Legitimacy is a key factor in having efficient governance. Lustration laws serve as a new set of rules to be implemented in order to create an efficient new regime and governmental. structures.


Since instant revenge and justice is served, the innocent can also be wrongfully accused and held responsible for crimes they may not have committed. Often records are tampered with, and the wrongfully accused are held accountable. This often occurs for the political gain of a new party.

The excluded people are often the most experienced in doing their jobs. Loss of these experienced workers is problematic.


Lustration in Czech Republic

The Czech transition to democracy was quite different from that of other countries. Unlike many of its neighbouring states they did not participate in court trials, but rather took a more non-judicial approach to ensure changes would be made.

A regime has been organized to purify their country of all past human rights abusers. All those involved with the Communist Secret Police (StB) were blacklisted from being a part of public office.

This included:

-Upper reaches of the civil service

-the judiciary


-the security service (BIS)

-army positions

-management of state owned enterprises

-the central bank

-the railways

-high academic positions

-the public electronic media

The lustration laws in the Czech Republic were not meant to serve as a form of justice, but rather to ensure that history would not repeat itself and that the Communist coup of February 1948 would never happen again.

Lustration in Germany

  • Vergangenheitsbewältigung, Germany's "struggle to come to terms with the past" after the Nazi era is a forerunner of, and in some ways similar to, the later problem of coming to terms with the legacy of East German communist rule.

Lustration in Poland

See also

Further reading

  • "A Scorecard for Czech Lustration", from "Central Europe Review"
  • Jiřina Šiklová, "Lustration or the Czech Way of Screening" in East European Constitutional Review, Vol.5, No.1, Winter l996 - Quarterly - Univ. of Chicago Law School and Central European University
  • Struggling with the Past - Poland's controversial Lustration trials
  • Human Rights Watch -
  • Lavinia Stan, "Lustration in Romania: The Story of a Failure," Studia Politica, Vol. 6, No. 1 (April 2006), pp. 135-156.
  • Lavinia Stan and Lucian Turcescu, "The Devil's Confessors: Priests, Communists, Spies, and Informers," East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 19, No. 4 (November 2005), pp. 655-685.
  • Lavinia Stan, "Moral Cleansing Romanian Style," Problems of Post-Communism, Vol. 49, No. 4 (2002), pp. 52-62.
  • Lavinia Stan, "Access to Securitate Files: The Trials and Tribulations of a Romanian Law," East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 16, No. 1 (December 2002), pp. 55-90.
  • Lavinia Stan, Goulash Justice for Goulash Communism?," Studia Politica, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Summer 2007), pp. 269-292.
  • Lavinia Stan, "Transition, Justice and Transitional Justice in Poland," Studia Politica, Vol. 6, No. 2 (July 2006), pp. 257-284.
  • Lavinia Stan, "The Politics of Memory in Poland: Lustration, File Access and Court Proceedings," Studies in Post-Communism Occasional Paper No. 10 (April 2006), 56 pages.
  • Lavinia Stan, "Modele de lustratie," Revista 22 (8-18 September 2006), available online at
  • Lavinia Stan, "Lungul drum al lustratiei in Europa de Est," Sfera politicii, Nos. 120-122 (June 2006).
  • Lavinia Stan, "Zece mituri ale decomunizarii," Revista 22 (23-29 June and 30 June-5 July 2006), available online at


  • 1904 (Merriam) Webster's International Dictionary of the English Language says: ""a sacrifice, or ceremony, by which cities, fields, armies, or people, defiled by crimes, pestilence, or other cause of uncleanness, were purified""


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