Monday, May 01, 2006


An article in this week’s Independent Weekly has had me reading online about the Katyn horror - partly, I’m ashamed to say, as a way of avoiding research into political libertarianism for a presentation I’m to give to my philosophy group.

Relatives of some of the Poles killed are to take the case before the European Court of Human Rights to try to force the Russians to disclose what they know, at the very least. According to the Wikipedia article on the massacre (or series of massacres):

In March 2005 Russian authorities ended the decade-long investigation with no one charged. Russian Chief Military Prosecutor Alexander Savenkov put the final Katyn death toll at 14,540 and declared that the massacre was not a genocide - a war crime - or a crime against humanity but a military crime for which the 50-year term of limitation has expired and that consequently there is absolutely no basis to talk about this in judicial terms. Despite earlier declarations, President Vladimir Putin's government refused to allow Polish investigators to travel to Moscow in late 2004 and 116 out of 183 volumes of files gathered during the Russian investigation, as well as the decision to put an end to it, were classified.

The Polish authorities have been doing their utmost to pressure their Russian counterparts into disclosure, as well as into recategorising the crime. Now the families of seventy of the murdered Poles are taking the case to the ECHR in Strasbourg. Their motives appear to be mixed, with some insisting on prosecutions, others simply wanting the truth exposed as far as it can be, and an acknowledgement by the Russians of the enormity of the atrocity.

Throughout history there has been little love lost between the Russians and the Poles, and Katyn stands as a symbol of the bad blood between them, though of course it’s also much more than that. The Russian side is clearly greatly at fault here, and they should act now before their hand is forced. If they don’t, relations could be damaged even further.



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