On April 7, a ceremony was held in Katyn in the Smolensk region to mark the 70th anniversary of the massacre of Polish officers. Vladimir Putin and Donald Tusk participated in the ceremony. A special train delivered the relatives of murdered Poles to the memorial. This is the first time something like this happened, which could be blamed on a low level of relations between Poland and Russia.
Both countries took the preparation for the memorial seriously. Russian TV showed a popular film Katyn by Andjei Vaida followed by a serious discussion of Polish-Russian relations by politicians and public figures. In Poland, Katyn was a popular topic on TV and in the newspapers. Politicians and historians demanded that Russia reveals all the documents related to the events of 1940.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who made the speculation about Katyn one of his most prominent political issues, expressed his frustration about the fact that Poland will be represented in Katyn by his political competitor Donald Tusk. A special ceremony had to be organized for the President. The ceremony will be held near Smolensk on April 10, and high ranking officials will not be present.
What about this event that have been throwing a shadow on the relations between Russia and Poland for many years?
In 1943 a Nazi subdivision found a Polish burial near Katyn village. The Poles have been dead before Nazi stepped on Soviet earth.
The Polish government in exile oriented at the US and Britain demanded explanations from the USSR. The Soviets claimed that the Poles were killed by Nazi in 1941. A special committee created in Moscow after the war confirmed this theory.
The USSR has been denying its participation in the massacre for decades. Yet, some documents appeared in the West proving the opposite. The issue of acknowledging the fact of the massacre of Polish officers by NKVD was first raised by socialist Polish officials. Finally, in 1989 the USSR made an official statement that the Poles were murdered by the Russian state security.
Some documents regarding the event have not been yet decoded. Namely, the decision about killing of Polish officers captured in the late fall of 1939 after West Ukraine and West Belarus joined the USSR was made by Soviet officials early in 1940.
Poles were eliminated in the spring of 1940 in different areas of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Approximately 22 thousand people died, 4,000 of them died in the Smolensk region. When the first victims were found, the events were combined in one, and the case was named “Katyn.”