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Monday, March 19, 2007

Remembering Katyn

The Poland Blog Beatroot touts the activites of Russian human rights organization Memorial to remind the Russian people of one of the world's most shocking incidents of mass murder, the Katyn Forest killing of thousands of Polish officers by the Red Army. The post has generated three dozen comments, click through to read them.

The Russian NGO Memorial has pledged to pursue all legal means to get Moscow to recognize Soviet responsibility for the deaths of over 20,000 Polish [soldiers including 8,000 officers] in the Katyn massacre of 1940.

This is a turn up for the (history) books. A group of Russians are fighting to get Putin and others to face up to Soviet war crimes.And for a group of Russians to campaign on behalf of Poles is truly refreshing. Reuters (no link) reports that Director of the Memorial NGO, Arseny Roginsky, has said that, “A Russian court, specifically a Russian court, must examine all aspects of the crime of Katyn and give its verdict.”

So far, Moscow has failed to acknowledge the extent of the crime, even though the rest of the world thinks it's self evident. In November, 2005, after years of investigation, Chief Russian Military Prosecutor Alexander Savenkov announced, to Poles disbelief, that the criminal case was now closed because investigators didn’t find any evidence of genocide in the 1940 Katyn killings. And in March, 2006, Moscow informed the Polish government that they would not recognize the massacre as an act of political repression.

In April and May 1940, the Soviet secret police (NKVD) executed over 20,000 Polish officers and policemen imprisoned in camps Kozyelsk, Ostashkov and Starobelsk as well as Poles imprisoned in the Western regions of Belarus and Ukraine. When the Nazis found evidence of the massacre they blamed the Soviets. The Soviets blamed the Nazis. But it soon became evident that, this time, the Nazis were right. In 1990, Moscow finally acknowledged that NKVD officers did commit the crime, but claimed it was not a 'political crime'. But a memo sent by Stalin refered to the Polish prisoners as 'counter-revolutionaries', and ordered his, by then, usual remidy to get rid of the problem.

Katyn is a location a few kilometers off Smolensk city where the burial site of one group of victims was first found. There is something about modern day Russia whch makes it incapable of coming to terms with its past. So it's good to see this Russian Memorial group trying to change that. There is a link to more photos like the one above taken by Nazis as they uncovered the remains of those who were murdered here.

See a translation of Stalin's order to kill the Polish prisoners here.

It's a no-brainer, Moscow. Own up now! What couild it have been but genocide? And if something is a war crime then somebody has to be prosecuted.

See Memorial NGO web site here.

The City of Baltimore, which has a large Polish community, has erected a memorial (created in Poland) to the outrage. Click here to read about it. A commenter has pointed out that there are two Russian memorials to Katyn, you can read about one in English here.


Sergey Romanov said...

Once again: it's not "over 20,000 officers". It's "over 22,000 POWs, at least 8,000 of them officers".

Also: "But a memo sent by Stalin refered to the Polish prisoners as 'counter-revolutionaries', and ordered his, by then, usual remidy to get rid of the problem."

The memo was sent by Beria to PB, not by Stalin. Stalin agreed to Beria's proposal.

"The City of Baltimore, which has a large Polish community, has erected a memorial (created in Poland) to the outrage. Click here to read about it. Baltimore, USA, but not Russia. That just about says it all."

Get your facts straight.

Here's state memorial complex Katyn:

Here's state memorial complex Mednoe:

La Russophobe said...


You are probably right about the officer figure, although we're not sure what difference it makes, and we'll take your word for the Beria/Stalin point -- although on both counts it would be helpful if you provided some source material.

Killing even one officer in cold blood for political reasons in this manner, much less 8,000, makes Russia guilty of perhaps the single most heinous war crime in world history.

Thanks very much for your links to the Russian memorials. We stand corrected! The post has been updated accordingly.

Anonymous said...

"...makes Russia guilty of perhaps the single most heinous war crime in world history."

Correction, "makes the Soviet Union" guilty. Although there are some disturbing "neo-Soviet" trends in today's Russia, as you keep hammering on about, it is a fundamental mistake to equate Russia with the USSR. All you seem to want to see are the similarities. I also see the vast differences. Have you ever lived in or visited the USSR in the bad old days? To compare then to now as being equivalent is absolutely ludicrous.

I for one am extremely encouraged by the many people who are attending church more and more. I remember what it was like back in 1974, when churchgoers were persecuted, and most attending were old ladies.

As a Reagan Conservative Republican (BTW, Reagan knew the difference between the "Evil Empire" and the suffering Russian people, the first and foremost victims of communist terror), just as I believe the US, and Europe, should return to their original Christian (or in some cases judeo-christian) roots and values (the Pope also is sending this message), I believe Russia is in the process of doing the same. This will in turn put it on the path to truth and justice as God intended. But it will take some time.

Anyone who knows anything about Orthodox Christianity (and I'm not talking about know-nothings who haven't got a clue), knows that sobornost' and truth and justice are very positive qualities that have not totally disappeared from the Russian character, although 74 years of communism tried to stamp them out. After the spiritual vacuum of communism, Russians are seeking their true historical identity as a people, and not just as victims of governments. I recently read a great article by Leon Aron talking about Russia becoming a nation of Fandorins (I doubt whether you would carry the article). True, the people suffered tremendously, but they are making a comeback. Just wait and see. Also, there have been several prophecies regarding these times. If Russia repents, it will see these prophecies come true. It all starts with individuals and families. Russians are sick of corruption and alcoholism. Don't discount Russia's own "silent majority."

La Russophobe said...


We certainly don't discount that silent majority! They are the main reason this blog exists! It's true that it was the USSR that committed the Katyn outrage, but it's also true that the USSR was a colonial empire run largely by and for the benefit of Russia. Russians did little to stop its worst excesses, and they are doing even less now, even though Putin is far less formidable than Stalin. We'd like to see that situation change and we think it's possible, but we're not very optimistic. With every day that passes, Putin's power is that much more consolidated.

Sergey Romanov said...

My sources are original Soviet documents published in Russia. For example in this book:

Particularly, several information notes about Polish POWs and documents from the camps.

I don't see how Katyn massacre, however horrible, can "outdo" the treatment of the Soviet POWs by the Nazis - even if merely quantitatively.