We hear a lot these days from the current Russian government about the wrongs that Russians suffer at the hands of Ukrainians, Balts and other nations strangely ungrateful for what Moscow did to, oh sorry, for, them in the course of the Twentieth Century, but this story shows just how seriously the world should take those complaints.
It begins with the mass murder by the Soviets of thousands of Polish officers at Katyn in 1940, a crime that was nothing less than an exercise in social and cultural genocide, a savage attempt to decapitate Polish society. Warsaw has long wanted an accounting. Moscow has long responded with lies and evasion. Not enough, it seems, has changed.
“Kieres, head of Poland’s Institute for National Remembrance of the War, came to Moscow this week with Polish war crimes prosecutors. He was cruelly disappointed. Russian prosecutors told him that the crimes took place too long ago to be acted upon and refused to even divulge how many of the suspects were still alive. While promising to share some information with Warsaw, the Russians insisted that the crime could not be classified as genocide, a move that would allow prosecutions to go ahead. The Polish side was furious. “This was genocide, whether they want to call it that or not. That is the reality, the painful reality for us and for them,” Anna Wolinska, who lost her father and uncle in the massacres, told TV Polonia.”
As the Independent points out, this is the second Russian insult to the Poles in as many second weeks. Another of the squalid chapters in the Soviet Union’s very mixed record between 1939 and 1945 was the decision of the nearby Red Army to watch passively as the Germans crushed the Warsaw Rising in 1944. Conveniently for Stalin, the slaughter of yet more of Poland’s best and brightest by the Nazis removed another obstacle to the communist takeover of Poland that he had planned for so long.
Moscow is also refusing to apologize for this betrayal of a supposedly allied country. Russia’s foreign ministry merely contents itself with the comment that it considers ” it inappropriate and blasphemous to the memory of the fallen to get into public polemics on this score.” In reality, of course, it is the failure of the current Russian leadership to acknowledge the horrors of the Soviet past that is the real blasphemy.
A Soviet Nuremberg remains long overdue. Without it, Russia can never truly become a ‘normal’ country.