1940 massacre of Poles remains potent issue

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Efforts to gain justice for thousands of Polish captives executed apparently at Stalin's orders have been rebuffed by Russia's courts. The country's mood has swung away from probing the Soviet past.

The prisoners were mostly military officers, police, gendarmes and landlords, rounded up as a dangerous "bourgeois" elite when the Soviet Union invaded eastern Poland in the run-up to World War II. The following year, 1940, the Communist Party decided to eliminate them.

It's an old story among many old stories, pooling at the bottom of Russian memory long before it was articulated officially or publicly. And yet the mass executions of the Polish prisoners remain a potent issue today for Russians as well as Poles.

Today, lawyers, Polish families and human rights organizations are calling on the Russian government to establish the victims' innocence by "rehabilitating" the Polish prisoners. They are also pushing for the declassification of documents and recent decisions about the probe into the massacre.

The requests are meeting stiff resistance from Moscow. Appeals to the courts have failed and investigations have halted. The government has progressively curtailed access to intelligence archives, where historians believe more evidence may lie.

Some critics say Putin, who has called the Soviet collapse the "geopolitical disaster" of the last century and cut his teeth working for the KGB, is the intellectual product of the same system; that the powerful prime minister who previously served as Russia's president could not be expected to undertake any reexamination of history.

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Dalek Dukat - 5/21/2009

The thing to remember about the discussions about Katyn that are currently going on is that they are not happening in a vacuum. While the world is being diverted by this story of nearly seven decades ago, France and Britain have to cope with the modern-day Plombier Polonais who goes to their countries and undercuts native Frenchmen and Britains, thereby stealing their jobs.

Katyn should certainly be investigated and, if they are found necessary, restitution/rehabilitation should be made. But the name of "Katyn" must not be allowed to be translated into a license for today's Poles, many of who were not born until decades after Katyn, to exefcise unfettered economic rapacity in Western Europe a la le Plombier Polonais.