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246 NATALIA S. LEBEDEVA THE PROCESS OF REVEALING THE TRUTH AND COMMEMORATING THE VICTIMS DOZENS OF MONOGRAPHS and document collections study the Katyn issue. Hundreds of articles and thousands of informational reports are dedicated to it. And yet we still do not know the rationale behind the decision making of the Katyn crime. Who came up with the idea, Beria or Stalin? What drove them to that fatal decision? When did it come up? How was the operation that executed Polish officers, policemen, and prisoners prepared and run? What follows is another attempt to clarify these questions and demonstrate how the Soviet leaders (for half a century) tried to deny their responsibility for Katyn’s execution and instead incriminate Nazi Germany. On 7 September 1939, Stalin, in a conversation with Georgi Dimitrov, the secretary general of the Comintern Executive Committee, characterized Poland as a fascist country that oppressed Ukrainians and Belorussians, and he emphasized that “destruction of this state under the conditions of today would mean one less bourgeois fascist state! Would it be bad if resulting from Poland’s defeat we extended the socialist system onto new territories and population?” This statement hides the deep reasons for the future decisions that led to the Katyn massacre. Stalin craved and strove for the liquidation of Poland as an independent state, and he planned the timely removal of those who could prevent him from succeeding in that, those who could fight for a revival of the country. On 17 September, the day the Red Army invaded Poland, Vyacheslav Molotov , chair of the Narkomindel and the people’s commissar for foreign affairs of the Soviet Union, in a radio speech, emphasized that the Polish state had gone bankrupt and had ceased to exist. The next day, a Soviet-German communiqué was signed that directly laid out the Soviet Union and Germany ’s mutual goal in the war against Poland. The goal implied “the restoring of order and peace in Poland, which had been violated by the dissipation of the Polish State, and helping the people of Poland to rebuild their statehood.” 247 REVEALING THE TRUTH AND COMMEMORATING THE VICTIMS The Boundary and Friendship Treaty, signed by the Soviet Union and Germany on 28 September in Moscow, described the reorganization of occupied areas by Germany and the Soviet Union “as a reliable foundation for the further development of friendly relations between the people of those two countries.” The secret articles contained a note of agreement of mutual assistance in the act of suppressing any Polish agitation. From the first days of that “undeclared war,” the Stalin administration closely looked into the issue of the Polish prisoners of war (POWs). Disregarding the rules of international law, prisoners were removed from the army ’s custody and entrusted to the home affairs authority. On 18 September, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) made the decision to give the guards of the Soviet Union’s People ’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD) the powers of martial law. On 19 September, Beria issued an order for the creation of the Prisoner of War Command. Maj. Pyotr Soprunenko became its commander, and Semyon Nekhoroshev was assigned as its commissar. During the period between 17 September and 1 October 1939, the Red Army captured almost 250,000 soldiers and officers of the Polish army. Of those, 126,000 were sent to eight stationary prison camps, whereas the others were in transition camps or on their way there. But due to an inability to provide food, accommodation, or even fresh water to that many people, on 3 October the Stalin administration decided to dismiss the common soldiers and noncommissioned officers who lived in territories that had been annexed by the Soviet Union. In mid-October, the Politburo authorized an exchange with Germany of those same categories of military men who were from central Poland, that is, to exchange them for those from eastern regions. However, about 25,000 soldiers and junior officers were kept in the Rovno (Równe) camp and other camps of the People’s Commissariat for the Iron and Steel Industry in order to build a strategic highway and to work at coal mines in Krivoy Rog and the Donbas. About 15,000 officers, policemen, prison warders, those serving in the Border Control Corps (KOP), and osadniki (Polish soldiers who had been given land in areas acquired in the interwar period) were detained in the Starobelsk, Kozelsk, and Ostashkov camps. On...


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