Tag Archives: katyn

Sokolov on Katyn

Paul Goble reports:

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has received enormous and largely uncritical international praise for taking part in the commemoration of the Katyn tragedy and for allowing Andrzej Wajda’s film about the Soviet execution of 22,000 Polish officers there in 1940 to be shown on Russian television.  But a careful reading of his remarks, Boris Sokolov suggests in an essay posted on Grani.ru, shows that Putin not only was unprepared to acknowledge many aspects of that horrific act but openly lied about it to bring pressure on Poland to stop raising the issue either bilaterally or internationally.

In his speech, the Grani.ru commentator notes, Putin spoke about “the joint path to making sense of national memory and historical wounds” as being a means to allowing Russians and Poles to “avoid the dead-end of a lack of understanding and eternal settling of scores, the primitive division of peoples into right and guilty, as some dirty politicians sometimes try to do.”  The Russian prime minister added that “in our country has been given a clear political, legal and moral assessment of the misdeeds of the totalitarian regime, and such assessment is not subject to any revisions.” His Polish counterpart Donald Tusk agreed that “the truth about Katyn must not divide the Russian and Polish peoples.”

Such words sound entirely correct, and compared to earlier statements by Russian officials, they represent a significant step forward. But one cannot fail to be struck, Sokolov says, that “the Russian premier spoke more about his sympathy to the victims and said almost nothing about the responsibility of [their] executioners.”  Moreover, Putin declared that for decades, people had attempted to distort “the truth about the Katyn shootings” and to “lay the blame [for them] on the Russian people.” Such a formulation misstates the case of all those who have examined the Katyn murders: those who do hold responsible for them “not the Russian people but the Russian state.”

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A New Film on Russia’s Katyn Atrocity


The New York Times reports on a new movie about Russian atrocities in Katyn; if you are in New York City, go out and support this film, which calls for justice as a neo-Soviet regime rises in Moscow (if you’ve seen it already, we’d love to hear your reactions in a comment or e-mail):

The first scene in “Katyn,” Andrzej Wajda’s solemn and searing new film, takes place on a bridge somewhere in Poland in mid-September 1939. The bridge is aswarm with people fleeing in opposite directions. Panicked families trying to escape the Germans, who invaded on the first of the month, collide with equally terrified compatriots coming from the eastern part of the country, scene of a recent Soviet intervention.

The chaos and terror form a living tableau of Poland’s terrible predicament in the middle of the last century, when it was caught in the pincers of two toxic strains of European totalitarianism. In 1939 Hitler and Stalin pledged mutual nonaggression, a pact that lasted long enough for their armies to collude in the destruction of Polish sovereignty.

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