While Russia did not commemorate the 75th anniversary of Katyn this year, they are planning to build a museum near the site to commemorate victims of “political repression”. A memorial complex has already been built at the site to both the Polish and the Soviet victims of the Stalin regime, and the museum has apparently been planned for awhile, but the money has finally been made available.
“124 million rubles have been allocated to the new museum, despite the [government’s] current austerity policy.” Russia’s Vesti reported in February.
“At the place where Soviet citizens were shot, a museum of the history of political repression will be erected.”
The director of the Katyn complex, Vladimir Teslin, noted that the museum would talk about political repression from the Bolshevik revolution through the 1950s under Stalin’s regime. According to him, there are up to 3,000 people buried in the area.
Construction of the complex had begun in the early 2000s, but the museum has still not been built. The funds from the Russian government are supposed to be spent on the completion of this project, slated to be completed by the summer of 2017.
“It is planned that at the museum visitors will learn the history of political repression, not only in the “Katyn period” of the late 1930s and early 1940s, but the revolution, the civil war, as well as the crimes of the Nazis in occupied Smolensk.”
But even researchers say that while it is known that Soviet citizens were shot dead in the vicinity, they don’t know who they were, or how many there were.
The problem is not that the museum is being built. Russia needs to come to terms with the fact that political repression on a massive scale took place under the Stalin regime. A museum commemorating this fact could be a useful tool in making this known to a broader audience. And it is a great step forward if it is done correctly.
But to place the museum in Smolensk draws attention away from the war crime that the Soviets committed at Katyn by massacring 20,000 Poles. And it continues the narrative of the Russian people as victims of a horrific regime over which they had no control. And as long as this way of thinking continues, Russia cannot move forward.