Advancing a Free Society

Russia Admits Guilt on Katyn at Last

Monday, November 29, 2010

Russia’s Duma admitted, after more than a half century of denial, that the Katyn massacre of more than 22,000 Polish officers and administrators was ordered by Stalin and signed off by the Politburo. Historians have had access to the Katyn “smoking gun” document since the early 1990s: a request from Lavrenty Beria to the Politburo for permission to execute the Polish POWs in Soviet hands signed by Stalin and other members of the Politburo. The Russian cover up began after German forces were driven from Eastern Poland, Belorussia, and Ukraine. The cover story was that the Poles had been executed by the Germans, and that was Stalin’s position during the Nuremburg Trials. In order to maintain good relations with Communist Poland after the war, Russia was forced into some weak admissions – that perhaps the Poles were executed by rogue elements of the secret police without permission from the Kremlin. Only during the Yeltsin years was the smoking gun document handed to the Polish side. The Putin administration avoided any outright admissions of guilt and did not restrain a cult of “Katyn deniers,” who claimed that it was the Nazis after all who executed the Polish officers. Recent suits of Polish family members in Russian courts brought no satisfaction: there was too little evidence, the bodies had never been identified, and the culprits were long dead anyway.

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