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Exhumation of victims of the Katyn Massacre, 1943
Soviet prisoners of war held near Radzymin

Anti-Katyn (Polish: Anty-Katyń, Russian: Анти-Катынь) is a propaganda campaign intended to reduce the impact of the Katyn massacre of 1940 — when approximately 22,000 Polish citizens were murdered by the NKVD on the orders of Joseph Stalin — by referencing the deaths of thousands of Russian and Red Army soldiers at Polish internment camps from 1919–1924.

"Anti-Katyn" first emerged around 1990 when the Soviet government admitted that it had previously tried to cover up its responsibility for the massacre by claiming that it was perpetrated by the Nazi German army after the commencement of Operation Barbarossa.[1]

Polish historian Andrzej Nowak summarized "Anti-Katyn" as an attempt by some Russian historians and publicists to "overshadow the memory of the crimes of the Soviet system against the Poles, creating imaginary analogies or even justification" because of the earlier deaths of the prisoners of war.[1]


Main article: Katyn massacre

In 1987, on the occasion of the 42nd anniversary of the Warsaw Pact in the midst of perestroika, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachyov and Polish leader Wojciech Jaruzelski signed a declaration about cooperation in the issues of ideology, on the base of which a Poland–Soviet commission on the history of Polish Soviet relations (Советско-польская комиссия по изучению истории двух стран).[2][3]

One of the most "difficult issues" was the World War II massacre of approximately 22,000 Polish citizens, who were executed and buried in mass graves in several places including Katyn, Smolensk Oblast, less than a year after the coordinated Nazi-German and Soviet invasion of Poland.[2] In 1943, by which time Smolensk had become German-occupied Soviet territory, the Katyn mass graves were discovered by German telephone and communication workers.[4] The Soviet Union officially denied responsibility; a Soviet commission blamed the deaths on Nazi Germany during the Nuremberg Trials.[2]

Under the subsequent communist regimes in Poland and the Soviet Union, the Katyn massacre was not subject to further investigation, even as a potential war crime committed by the Germans.[5] Georgy Smirnov, head of the archival Institute of Marxism-Leninism, was tasked with leading a full investigation. In 1990, the Soviet Union officially admitted that the NKVD committed the massacre on the orders of Josef Stalin following a recommendation by Lavrenty Beria. Gorbachyov condemned it as another example of Stalinism.


After the revelation of the Soviet government's responsibility in the massacre, some Russian historians and journalists responded by alleging mass executions of Soviets in post-World War I Polish internment camps. The early Soviet deaths became the subject of, according to the Polish government, "various propagandist campaigns" purporting that the massacre of the Poles was "justified" in the eyes of Stalin.[4]

Gorbachyov has been called one of the instigators of "anti-Katyn" when he demanded an investigation into the deaths of the Soviet citizens in Polish custody.[6]

In 2011, Russian historian Inessa Yazhborovskaya wrote:

The fear of clarifying the circumstances of the Katyn case, in particular the issues of responsibility for the party and state leadership, created a new problem, the so-called "anti-Katyn" – finding ways of glossing over the truth and avoiding admission of guilt on the Soviet side concerning the criminal, secret mass murder of Polish prisoners of war, by finding "balance" and presenting a "counterclaim."
— "The Katyn Affair: On the Way to the Truth" (Questions of History, May 2011)[2]

In 2004, a joint Polish-Russian research team estimated that approximately 60,000 to 80,000 Russian and Soviet army members were held in Poland from 1919 to 1924. An estimated 16,000 to 20,000 died because of disease, mainly typhus, cholera and dysentery.[4]

Others have countered that the "anti-Katyn" arguments concerning the deaths of the Soviet POWs are irrelevant to the discussion of Katyn. Historian Nikita Petrov of Russia's "Memorial" society said, "This is about that simple Russian 'correct' way of perceiving and absorbing the Katyn crime. This message should be: 'Stalin was, of course, bad. But he was no exception. He killed the Poles, but the Poles also killed us ...'"[7]

The subject was discussed during the 2011 Capitol Hill conference “Katyn: Unfinished Inquiry,” John Lenczowski, president of the Institute of World Politics, noted that Soviet POWs were invaders and while suffering harsh treatment in the camps, they mostly died of communicable diseases, while the victims of Katyn were deliberately shot.[8]

In the 2010 documentary What Can Dead Prisoners Do (pl:Co mogą martwi jeńcy), Russian, British, and Polish historians are invited to talk about these accusations.[9][10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Анти-Катынь [Anti-Katyn] (in Russian). Katyn Books. Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d Inessa Yazhborovskaya (May 2011). Катынское дело: на пути к правде [The Katyn Affair: On the Way to the Truth]. Questions of History (in Russian) 5: 22–35. Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  3. ^ Note, more recently, in 2002 the Polish-Russian Group on Difficult Issues (pl:Polsko-Rosyjska Grupa do Spraw Trudnych) was established.
  4. ^ a b c "Polish-Russian Findings on the Situation of Red Army Soldiers". State Archives of Poland. Archived from the original on 24 February 2012. Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  5. ^ "What Can Dead Prisoners Do". New York Polish Film Festival. Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  6. ^ Alexander Guryanov (5 May 2010). "The Katyn Problem in Contemporary Russia". FreeMediaOnline. Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  7. ^ "В России снимут анти-Катынь?". Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  8. ^ "Report from the Capitol Hill Conference "Katyn: Unfinished Inquiry"" (PDF). Retrieved 27 November 2014. 
  9. ^ Hanna Kosinska Hartowicz and Robert J. Wierzbicki. "What Can Dead Prisoners Do". Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  10. ^ "Film examines fate of prisoners after 1920 war". Retrieved 22 November 2014.