Katyn Massacre unsolved issue in Russia: Russian historian

Eighty years have passed since the Katyn Massacre was perpetrated on Polish army officers and thirty years have passed since the responsibility for the crime was accepted by the USSR but the historic event still remains an unsolved issue, particularly due to Russia’s contradictory official position, Alexander Guryanov from the Russian “Memorial” Research and Education Centre, has written in Russian “Vedomosti” daily.

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Mr Guryanov, who is in charge of the research of Stalinist crimes as part of the “Memorial” agenda, detailed the circumstances in which the massacre had been ordered on March 5, 1940, by the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union at the motion of People’s Internal Affairs Commissioner Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria. The historian describes the execution of the order in 1940 and the consequent discovery of mass graves of Polish soldiers in 1943.

“The Katyn Massacre stands out against the other Stalinist crimes, not due to the number of victims, but the fact that war prisoners were murdered without a trial. Their murder was and continues to be seen as a disgrace and a severe war crime,” wrote Mr Guryanov.

The Soviet state “ruthlessly and cynically lied” initially that it had not known anything about the fate of the Polish prisoners, then they claimed that these were Germans who murdered them in the Summer of 1941.

“The Soviet Union acknowledged its responsibility only half a century after [the massacre was perpetrated],” wrote Mr Guryanov, recalling an investigation that was initiated in the 1990s by Russia’s Chief Army Prosecutor’s Office.

“The admittance of the Katyn Massacre was enacted by force of a special resolution of the State Duma [Lower House of the Russian parliament] on November 26, 2010,” the historian wrote. The resolution declared the Katyn Massacre the Stalinist regime’s crime.

Despite the fact, the historian argues, “the official stance of Russia [on the massacre] is contradictory” as the prosecutor’s office had refused to recognise individual people, who were listed by name in the documents of the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs, as the victims of the massacre carried out by the secret police. The prosecutor’s office also refused to acknowledge the political motives behind the massacre. “This reflects the efforts of the [Russian] state to erase the memory about the executed [Poles], to maintain their status of an anonymous mass of nameless victims, and to repress the memory of the Katyn Massacre in the society.”

Mr Guryanov also recalled that the investigation was dropped by the decision of the Chief Army Prosecutor’s Office under the pretext of the decease of all people responsible for the massacre. The historian argued that by not listing the responsible people by name the prosecutor’s office avoided showing Stalin and his collaborator’s responsibility for the crime. All the prosecutor’s office did was to call the perpetrators people from the NKVD leadership.

“These elements of the official position contradict the recognition of the USSR responsibility for the Katyn Massacre in the 1990s and demonstrate a very bad moral and legal condition of [Russia],” Mr Guryanov wrote, adding that “complete declassification and publication of investigation materials of the Chief Army Prosecutor’s Office” was indispensable, just like “an adequate legal assessment of the Katyn execution as a war crime and a crime against humanity.”

The historian also wrote that “finding Stalin and the members of the Politburo [who signed the decision on March 5, 1940, to execute the Poles] responsible for the [Katyn] Massacre” was necessary. Mr Guryanov also stressed the need for the identification of the names of all the victims and to restore every single one of them to the memory.

The Katyn Massacre was a series of mass executions of Polish military officers and intelligentsia carried out by the Soviet Union, specifically the Soviet security agency NKVD in April and May 1940. Most of the executions took place in Katyn Forest in western Russia, murdering about 22,000 Poles.

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