Yesterday was the 75th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, when Stalin ordered the murder of approximately 22,000 officers and prominent citizens of Poland.  Russia’s government has made some attempts to reach a rapprochement with the Polish government in the past few years, including passing a statement in Parliament acknowledging Stalin’s role in 2010.  However, Russia did not commemorate the anniversary this year.

Vitaly Portnikov had a short piece on Radio Svaboda (in Russian) discussing Russia’s indifference to the anniversary this year.

Russia did finally concede to its role in the Katyn massacre, he says, but it “is still a tragedy that divides not only Russia and Poland, but also Russia and Europe.”

“Europe would like to see Russia as any civilized country, remembering the crimes of the state no less and even more so than its successes and victories.  Similarly, as it is impossible to erase Hitler, the Holocaust, and World War 2 from the history of Germany, it is impossible to remove Stalin, the Gulag, and Katyn from the history of Russia.”

Yes, the Russian authorities apologized for their regime’s role at Katyn, Portnikov says, but you cannot just acknowledge a tragedy like this and then ignore it.

“Because after an apology, in theory, this tragedy ceases to be Polish, and becomes Russian, as the Holocaust was after recognizing that what happened in Germany was first of all a German and not a Jewish tragedy.”

And the Soviet Union did not single-handedly defeat Nazism, Portnikov says.

“It did, however, like the rest of the world, eventually find itself in the anti-Hitler coalition, but it did not want to fight…. The Soviet Union had to fight not because it wanted to crush the Nazis, but because it was treacherously attacked, and it had to fight for survival.  And among the rest of the allies in the struggle against Nazism, Stalin is distinguished only by the fact that before this attack he was not against Hitler, but next to Hitler.  And this is why Katyn occurred.”


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