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.”