Dmitry Medvedev, the then Russian president and Broniław Komorowski, the then Polish president at the Katyn memorial complex, 2011 (Source: Kremlin.ru/https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en)

Stalin’s liability for the murder of Polish officers in Russia today is either distorted or denied. And yet the Katyn lie is no less dangerous to the truth about World War II than the Auschwitz lie.

Maciej Pieczyński

The most famous and radical Katyn denier is Yury Mukhin. A Stalinist, anti-Semite, and Great Russian chauvinist all in one. A metallurgical engineer by education. However, he gained fame as a historical journalist and promoter of historical revisionism. In his opinion, the Polish officers in Katyn were murdered by the Germans. He announced this thesis for the first time to his readers in 1995 in the book “Katyn crime novel”. In it he wrote: “Polish officers were killed in the Katyn forest by a German bullet in the back of the head. It’s rather unfair. A Soviet bullet – that would not be good either. Only a Polish bullet would be the highest form of justice”. This is proof that Muchin is a Stalinist in flesh and blood. In his opinion, Polish officers deserved to be killed at the hands of their countrymen because they had been taken prisoner. And this, in Stalinist standards, is treason…

Interestingly, although Muchin’s mission is to reassign the Katyn massacre to Germany, at the same time he writes and talks about Germans with much more sympathy than Poles. He calls the Third Reich “a very serious European bandit”, while he describes the Polish Second Republic as a contemptuous “European hooligan”. The Stalinist praises Hitler for his aggressive policy. Of course, towards Poland, not towards the Soviet Union. In Muchin’s opinion, “Danzig” (i.e., Gdańsk) is an eternal German city, so the Germans had the moral right to “defend their compatriots living there against the arbitrariness of Polish extremists and bureaucrats”.

Warsaw, in refusing to meet Hitler’s demands, in fact led to the outbreak of World War II: “Dumb and evil Polish politicians, in the name of their moronic ambitions, did not allow the creation of an anti-Nazi alliance, they caused World War II, in which the Polish population suffered the greatest losses in percentage”. According to Muchin, they have themselves to blame for the fact that the Germans then murdered their officers. And now, contrary to the facts, they are trying to accuse Moscow of this crime. Scandal! Moscow, according to Muchin, also has itself to blame. In 2005, this Stalinist made a pseudo-documentary entitled “Katyn vileness”. In it, he tried to prove that the order issued by Stalin to eliminate Polish officers was a fake, fabricated by Gorbachev. He compares the last leader of the USSR with Goebbels, for whom he, however, has more respect. Gorbachev, “by lying about the Soviet liability for Katyn”, allegedly blamed his own nation in order to break up the Warsaw Pact.

Exhumation of Polish victims killed by the Soviets in Katyn Massacre (Source: Muzeum Katyńskie)

Muchin himself is a caricature of the most radical, pro-stalinist sympathies of the Russians, longing for the years of geopolitical splendor of the Soviet empire. His views in the mid-nineties, on the wave of Yeltsin’s Occidentalism, perceived as extreme and marginal, are now gaining more and more supporters.

Laziness of the NKVD

Katyn deniers are also treated seriously by the state media. “In an interview with the RIA Novosti agency, Vladislavas Švedas quoted a whole series of facts, which, as he argues, testify to the fact that Katyn was the work of the Nazis, and not the Stalinist leadership of the NKVD” – one can read on the agency’s website, in an article published in March 2020. Vladislavas Švedas is a historical journalist, political scientist and politician, a prominent activist of Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. In an interview with a government agency, he argued that after the defeat at Stalingrad, the “Nazis” realized that military power alone was not enough for them to defeat the USSR. Therefore, they decided to break the unity of the anti-Nazi coalition by means of provocation. That is – accusing Moscow of the crimes they committed.

He included his ahistorical theses in a book published in 2007, entitled “The Mystery of Katyn”. Three years later, the second edition, entitled “Katyn. The Contemporary History of the Problem”. The author explained the revised edition appeared due to “great interest of the readers”, but also the need to react to current events. Švedas criticized the policy of the Kremlin, which, after the Smolensk catastrophe, made a few gestures towards Poland, unequivocally emphasizing Stalin’s liability for the crime. “Contemporary anti-Stalinists are successfully using Stalin’s methods of suppressing dissent”, Švedas wrote. The journalist cites in his books and media statements absurd-sounding, alleged “evidence” of German liability. For example, the murdered officers were to be buried in full uniform, along with military decorations prohibited by the regulations of the Soviet POW camps. Another piece of “proof”: the mass graves were very deep and filled with many layers of evenly arranged corpses, and yet it is known that only the Germans, famous for their love of order, would be capable of doing something of the sort – the NKVD would not want to put so much effort, and the Gestapo men had to care about filling the carefully dug pits as much as possible. Moreover, the falsification of the crime was also evidenced by the fact that some of the officers whose names were on the Katyn list announced by the Germans did not actually die in the Katyn forest. There could not be a mistake, it had to be made up! – suggests the Russian columnist. He calls “blaming” the Soviets for the crime committed near the forests of Smolensk “the Nazi-Polish version”.

Two years ago, Elena Prudnikova published a book entitled, “Katyn. A lie that became history”. Prudnikova, a journalist, like Muchin, has no historical background. She has a degree in physics. In the introduction to the book, she points out that there are two, well-documented and argued versions of what happened in Katyn: Hitler’s fault and Stalin’s fault. In the course of her considerations, she also examines the problem of liability from an “ethical” point of view. In her opinion, since the Red Army liberated Poland from Hitler, who murdered about a quarter of the Polish population, filing claims against the state “thanks to which not only Poland, but also Poles still exist on the globe”, is simply unconceivable. Ultimately, Prudnikova agrees with the first version. On the cover of the book, above the title, there is a motto, a quote from Stalin: “After my death, a mountain of garbage will spill onto my grave, but the wind of history will ruthlessly dispose of it!”.

(…) This article was published in 2020 in “Do Rzeczy” magazine.