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Roginsky: Katyn is a Russian Question

Arseny Roginsky: "For me the question of Katyn is a Russian question ..."

Source:, 09/04/10
Articles by Human Rights Defenders
Victims of Repression
Moscow City and Region
Smolensk Region

The meeting of the prime ministers of Russia and Poland at Katyn was attended by representatives of the Memorial Society – Arseny Roginsky, chair of the board of International Memorial, Tatyana Kosinova, co-founder of the Memorial Research Centre in St. Petersburg, Irina Suslova, a staff member of the Memorial Research Centre, and Irina Dubrovina, chair of Conscience - a Memorial group - in Kotlas. We here publish commentary by Arseny Roginsky, given to Polish and Russian journalists.

Arseny Roginsky: "In my opinion, this speech by Putin is an important step forward. There was an awful lot he did not say. I can list dozens of points that needed to be made. And all this is widely known - to resume the investigation into the crime of Katyn, to give a clear legal classification to the crime at Katyn, and not the mockery of a classification given by the prosecutor's office which treats the crime as an abuse of office. Those guilty should be named, with Stalin at the head...

All the Poles shot here should be rehabilitated under the Russian law on rehabilitation. And it is untrue that rehabilitation is difficult because the Polish prisoners were shot without trial. Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg was rehabilitated in the absence of a court verdict, and without a detailed elucidation of the circumstances of his disappearance and death.

And the Russian side has nothing to fear in the rehabilitation of victims of the crime of Katyn. Nowadays there is a myth about the supposed enormous amount of compensation that would be too much for Russia to pay. According to the law on rehabilitation of 1991, still in force, no compensation is payable to relatives of those who were shot or died in the camps. Everywhere I go I say this: the law is such that it does not provide compensation, only a moral ‘compensation’ in the sense of a posthumous recognition of those who died as innocent victims.

And the quicker those shot at Medny and Katyn are rehabilitated the better for our country.

The rehabilitation of the executed Poles could simply be done by means of a decree issued by the President of Russia. To do this, he would merely need a complete list of victims. Military prosecutors say the list is incomplete, and therefore the question of rehabilitation is not straightforward. There are many necessary things that still need to be done. And we need to make sure they are done.

There are many things I want to see done, and Memorial makes these demands too. But it is impossible in today's situation when a majority of the population is convinced that it was the Germans who did the shooting, and not the Russians, and propaganda has been working in this direction over many years, it is impossible, obviously, to hope to achieve everything at once.

Steps are being taken, that cannot be denied. I am no admirer of Prime Minister Putin, I am certainly not an admirer of his. But I must say that a step in the right direction has been taken today.

The most important step forward has been, it seems to me, the showing five days ago on 2 April on Russian television (the Culture channel) of the film Katyn by Andrzej Wajda. The screening on Russian television of this film has huge significance. This means for people that what happened at Katyn has now been officially acknowledged, that that’s how it was. This is a revolution in the heads of Russian high school teachers. And it is precisely the mindset of Russian high school teachers that needs to be changed, so that they will be able to explain to their students.

Then on 3 April the Second Russian television channel emphasised that the Poles had been shot by decision of the Politburo. This was altogether surprising.

The next very important step was that, at the invitation of Putin, at the invitation of the Russian side, this meeting took place here. This is the first such positive step. It is very important to legitimize the question of Katyn. For me, the question of Katyn is essentially a question for Russia, it is a Russian-Polish question secondarily. This is a Russian theme – it is a question of our deeds in relation to our past.

And finally, some words about what the Prime Minister said today. You see, I'd like to hear much more. I would like to hear: we are reopening the investigation into the crime of Katyn, we want to give it a clear legal classification, we want all the victims of the crime of Katyn to be rehabilitated in accordance with our Russian law. This is what I would like to hear. But what he did say was a step in that direction. The Prime Minister of Russia today did nonetheless use the word "crime". And that means a great deal.

For us, who for so many years sought simply to legalize this question, to bring this question out into the open, to make it possible to discuss it, this is no small step. I look at this issue not in terms of Russian-Polish relations. To understand Katyn is important for us as Russians. It is important for Russia. If we do not understand Katyn, we cannot move forward. From this perspective, all that was said and done today is very important.

Prime Minister Putin said this is a crime that cannot be justified. Listen, this is serious, despite the fact that he said far from all that I would like to hear from him. What I want to hear, we shall hear only after many more years, it is a long job. The most important thing is that we must hope there is no turning back. After what he said, taking a step back will already be difficult. And, from my point of view, it is in this that the meaning of what we saw and heard here today lies.

The Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk was agitated, he said stirring things. The history of Levandovsky at the start is a disturbing story. The quotation from Solzhenitsyn is wonderfully to the point. A good speech. It is very intelligent: the truth, lies, violence ...

And for Russian heads, it is always important what the first speaker said. Let us face it: was it a crime or not? Thank God, he said, "crime". He did not say who the offender was. But he said the word crime - it is also very important.

Now a lot will depend on how the Russian media write about this. If the Russian media quote Putin’s speech in detail, and accurately quote Putin's speech, then in the minds of Russians Katyn will once and for all be recognised as the work of the NKVD.

Source: "Сogita!ru"
Rights in Russia,
10 Apr 2010, 14:11