The Katyn Massacre (19-04-2010)

"Katyn" stands for the massacre of 21.857 Polish prisoners of war by the Soviet Secret Police (NKVD) in April 1940; 4143 of them massacred in the Katyn forest near Smolensk military airport. I briefly mentioned the massacre as the third - separate - Soviet secret on page 77 in my book Western Cooperation Origins and history. 2009. It took Russia until 1992 to acknowledge the massacre, when President Jeltsin handed over the principal documents to Polish President Lech Walesa. Document 1.4.6 reprinted an English translation of Stalin`s order of 5 March 1940. The document must be seen in relation to the secret clauses attached to the Molotov-von Ribbentrop Treaty, also reprinted as Document 1.2.12. The massacre of the elite of the Polish nation was part of the joint German-Soviet policy to erase Poland from the map of Europe. Moscow vehemently denied responsibility to the point of breaking off relations with the Polish Government in exile. In communist Poland after the war, Katyn was a forbidden subject. For the first time in 1987, Polish intellectuals wrote an open letter to their Soviet colleagues appealing them to openly speak out on it. The Letter is reprinted in my European Unification in the Twentieth Century ,1998 on page 208.

Since 1992, the Russian authorities have not been very helpful in working towards a reconciliation with Poland. Relatives of the victims have in vain been seeking justice in Russian Courts and finally brought a lawsuit against Russia in the European Court of Human Rights. In reaction to the summons by the Court, Russia refused to accept rehabilitation of the victims and even alleged that it was not at all sure that they had been murdered.

On 8 April 2010 Polish premier Donald Tusk and Russian premier Vladimir Putin for the first time conducted a joint ceremony commemorating the massacre now 70 years ago. Putin nevertheless stopped short of the required reconcliation by linking the fate of the Polish officers to that of the Soviet citizens who had been victims of Stalin`s repression and to Red Army soldiers shot by the Nazis - as if Poland and Russia had shared a common fate. 

The gulf separating the two countries had not been bridged when Polish President Lech Kaczynski with a large and high level delegation left for Smolensk in the early morning of Saturday 10 April 2010 for a second commemorative ceremony. As all readers know, the airplane carrying the President and mrs. Kaczynski crashed on its approach to Smolensk military airport. Nobody survived. Among the victims was Stanislaw Komorowski, formerly Ambassador to the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The Russian reaction to this unimaginable tragedy was impeccable acoording to Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski. Premier Putin gave all possible cooperation, President Medvedev attended the state funeral yesterday in Krakow and Andrzej Wajda`s filmdrama Katyn  was shown on Russian state television. The attached document comes from his website : Katyn.

Could this disaster contribute, finally, to Polish-Russian reconciliation and improved relations? Would Russia finally be willing to fully research and clarify what happened in Katyn and elsewhere so as to fully dispel the Soviet lie?


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