Streetwise Professor

April 11, 2011

They Just Can’t Help Themselves

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 7:27 pm

The aftermath of the Kaczynski plane crash just over a year ago seemed to provide the basis of a rapprochement between Poland and Russia. But the Russian handling of the report has irritated the Poles–including those better disposed towards Russia than the dead ex-president and his brother–and the Russians have expressed their dissatisfaction with the Poles’ role too. But those disputes at least involve some substance, in contrast to this gratuitous Russian insult:

The first anniversary of the plane crash that killed Poland’s president in western Russia was overshadowed by a decision by Russian officials to change a memorial plaque at the crash site to delete a phrase banned during the Soviet era.

The original plaque said President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others on his plane died while on route to a commemoration of the Katyn Massacre, “the Soviet crime of genocide against prisoners of war, Polish Army officers.” The plaque, only in Polish, was put up last year by “The Katyn 2010 Association of Families,” a name that irked Russia by suggesting a link between the crash — an accident resulting from a number of procedural errors and negligence in both countries — and the killing of Polish soldiers ordered by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Russian officials replaced it with a new plaque in Polish and Russian, which doesn’t mention the reason for Mr. Kaczynski’s planned visit to western Russia on April 10, 2010.

. . . .

At President Kaczynski’s previous visits to Katyn, Russian news reports would go as far as providing readers false explanations of why he was there.The new version of the plaque doesn’t do that — it just fails to mention Katyn. From the Polish perspective, this looks like Russia’s relapse on the crime despite last year’s declaration by the Russian State Duma blaming Stalin and other officials for the 1940 killings.

Facts are facts.  Stalin and the Soviets murdered the Poles in Katyn.  Kaczynski was flying there to visit the site.  Katyn is a hugely emotional issue for Poland.  The Russian Federation is not culpable for Stalin’s crimes.

Put all that together and it’s not too hard to figure that some deference is warranted.  Moreover, it costs Russia nothing to give it, and indeed, it might provide Russia with some real, tangible benefit.  But small minded homo Sovieticus lives on, especially in the Russian bureaucracy. Why do something that could provide a benefit in the future when that requires shedding a dark light on the Soviet past?

Russia needs to decide whether it is going to reject the Soviet past decisively and forthrightly.  Acts such as this suggest that it can’t bring itself to do so, and that it is in fact nostalgic for Soviet days. Russian officialdom often expresses resentment at the suspicion with which their nation is viewed just beyond the borders to the west.  The continued backsliding on Katyn is just the kind of thing that feeds those suspicions.  Are they really so clueless that they don’t understand, or is it that they really don’t care?

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  1. Genocide is a loaded word.

    Comment by So? — April 11, 2011 @ 7:58 pm

  2. Let me understand. Kaczynski died in a plane crash near Smolensk. And hte palque says htat he died near Smolensk. But you and the gentleman named Marcin Sobczyk, who wrote this much-ado-about-nothing, want the plaque to say that he died near Katyn? Why?

    Or do you want the plaque to be more of a story than a plaque and provide all kinds of details about the crash, like from where to where they were flying, why they took the trip, where they intended to go next, and so on?

    Well, that’s not how plaques work. I have never seen such wordy plaques. The plaques are supposed to say who, where and when died, not tell a propagandist story.

    And what’s the problem here? Medvedev recently took a special trip to Poland just to apologize for Katyn once more. How many more apologies do you two want?

    Contrast Russia with “democratic” Ukraine. Stalin murdered 21,000 Polish military men in Katyn. And Russia keeps on apologizing for it.

    The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists exterminated more than 60,000 innocent Polish civilians (plus tens of thousands of Jewish civilians) in Volyn in 1943-44. Civilians! And Ukraine hasn’t done anything to apologize. In fact, when several Ukrainian, Jewsih and Polish human rights groups organized a private exhibit in Kiev on this tragedy, all “democratic” (i.e., anti-Russian) leaders – Yushchenko, Tymoshenko, etc – went hysterical, demanding that this exhibition be immediately closed and accusing President Yanukovych of being an “anti-Ukrainian traitor” for allowing this exhibit.

    Comment by Ostap Bender — April 11, 2011 @ 10:26 pm

  3. Neither can the Poles!
    Must be a national trait. Larry Wachowski (of The Matrix fame) is now Lana. Explains all the leather.

    Comment by So? — April 11, 2011 @ 10:29 pm

  4. Gostapo, a lot of those who died at Katyn were civilians too.

    The number of victims is estimated at about 22,000, the most commonly cited number being 21,768. The victims were murdered in the Katyn Forest in Russia, the Kalinin and Kharkov prisons and elsewhere. About 8,000 were officers taken prisoner during the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, the rest being Polish doctors, professors, lawmakers, police officers, and other public servants arrested for allegedly being “intelligence agents, gendarmes, landowners, saboteurs, factory owners, lawyers, officials and priests.

    Your typical Russian knee jerk reaction says it all. As one of my friends (A real Jew from Russia) living in Israel said, there are words for collaborators like you, none of them pleasant.

    BTW, a link to your claims might be nice, they might be true, but then again like your claim about the “hundreds” of Cromwell statues in England, it is also quite possibly BS.

    The OUN, like many groups trapped between the totalitarian socialist systems of Germany and Russia, tended to have a varied stance towards Jews, some parts of OUN cooperated in the German round up of Jews, while at the same time other sections were helping Jews to escape.


    Once the OUN was at war with Germany, such instances lessened and finally stopped. An underground OUN publication in 1943 condemned “German racism, which carried anthropological nonsense to the absurd.” In the official organ of the OUN-B’s leadership, instructions to OUN groups urged those groups to “liquidate the manifestations of harmful foreign influence, particularly the German racist concepts and practices.” There were many cases of Jews having been sheltered from the Nazis by the OUN-B’s military wing UPA and Jews fought in the ranks of UPA .Finally, the 3rd OUN Congress held in August 1943 proclaimed equal rights to all minorities inhabiting Ukraine. The OUN position concerning the Jews was disseminated through its IDEIA I CHYN clandestine journal, and it specifically asked for resistance to manifestations of Antisemitism

    Now considering that was 1943…..

    Comment by Andrew — April 12, 2011 @ 12:18 am

  5. > Russia needs to decide whether it is going to reject the Soviet past decisively and forthrightly.

    It’s pretty obvious that Russia has long since decided that it’s not going to. It’s the relatively free part of the world that needs to decide whether it’s going to keep pretending like nothing happened.

    Comment by Ivan — April 12, 2011 @ 2:09 am

  6. > And Ukraine hasn’t done anything to apologize.

    Yet another installment of blatant lies from a shameless Kremlin stooge. Ukraine and Poland have long since officially and mutually apologized for such crimes of the past. Of course, the Kremlin is not happy about this and has been desperately trying to stir up the historic tensions.

    Comment by Ivan — April 12, 2011 @ 2:32 am

  7. Tens of thousands of Poles protest against the sham investigation of Smolensk crash

    Comment by Ivan — April 12, 2011 @ 2:41 am

  8. Ivan scribbled: “Yet another installment of blatant lies from a shameless Kremlin stooge. Ukraine and Poland have long since officially and mutually apologized for such crimes of the past.

    “Yet another installment of blatant lies from a shameless Kremlin stooge”? Really? Let’s see who is the shameless lair here:


    The question of official acknowledgment of the ethnic cleansing remains a matter of a discussion between Polish and Ukrainian historians and political leaders. Efforts are ongoing to bring about reconciliation between Poles and Ukrainians regarding these tragic events. The Polish Institute of National Remembrance, which is conducting an extensive investigation, has collected over 10,000 pages of documents and protocols. The Polish side has made steps towards reconciliation… The Ukrainian government has not yet issued an apology.[100][101]


    Marek Siwiec, head of the National Security Bureau, said on 13 February that Poland expects Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to issue an official apology for crimes committed by Ukrainian nationalists against Poles in 1943 in Volhynia in northwestern Ukraine, Polish Radio reported. Siwiec added that Poland will not pressure Ukraine for such an apology. He recalled that Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski apologized to the Ukrainians for Operation Vistula, during which Ukrainians were forced by Polish communist authorities to resettle to Polish territories regained from Germany after War World II (see “RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report,” 23 April 2002). Siwiec noted that apologies with regard to those crimes should be treated separately. “For us an apology will be a very natural and honest thing to do. The initiative is to be taken by Ukraine, though.” Siwiec said. According to Polish sources, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) brutally massacred 60,000-70,000 Polish civilians in Volhynia in 1943 (see “RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report,” 8 May 2001).

    Analysis: Ukraine, Poland Seek Reconciliation Over Grisly History

    May 12, 2006

    In July 2003, the then-presidents of Ukraine and Poland — Leonid Kuchma and Aleksander Kwasniewski, respectively — met in the village of Pavlivka in the Ukrainian region of Volhynia to commemorate ethnic Poles murdered by the UPA in 1943. Kuchma and Kwasniewski unveiled a memorial to several hundred Poles killed by the UPA in that particular village. [but no official apology was given]

    According to Poland’s National Remembrance Institute, in 1943 the UPA murdered some 60,000 civilian Poles in Volhynia, in anticipation of an independent Ukrainian state after the war

    One should not expect any official apologies from either Yushchenko or Kaczynski in Pawlokoma. However, their meeting there seems to be a significant, even if small, step toward Ukrainian-Polish reconciliation.


    What compels you to lie, Ivan?

    Comment by Ostap Bender — April 12, 2011 @ 1:42 pm


    During the last two weeks this newspaper has reported on moves toward reconciliation between two neighboring countries, Ukraine and Poland, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of what has been referred to as the Volyn tragedy – the killings of more than 100,000 people of both nations at the time of Nazi and Soviet invasions and occupations during World War II. First came the adoption by the Parliaments of Ukraine and Poland of a joint resolution on the bloody events of 1943-1944, condemning the “terror, violence and cruelty” of both sides during that period. Tens of thousands of innocent Ukrainians and Poles were killed in fighting by armed groups, including the Polish Armija Krajowa (AK) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). “Let the ability to forgive become the foundation of our future good-neighborly relations and Ukrainian-Polish friendship,” the resolution stated. “The tragedy of the Poles, who were killed and forced from their homes by armed Ukrainian formations, was accompanied by similar suffering by the peaceful Ukrainian population, who were victims of actions by armed Poles,” the resolution explained.

    Needless to say, the ever-lying Kremlin stooges are not happy about the last part I put in bold.

    Comment by Ivan — April 13, 2011 @ 2:06 am

  10. Volyn tragedy – the killings of more than 100,000 people of both nations at the time of Nazi and Soviet invasions and occupations during World War II.

    What a clever misrepresentation of facts. Yes, more than 100,000 people of both nations were slaughtered in Katyn. However, all of them were slaughtered by the same evil force: the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (Bendera). A truly evil force that massacred Poles, Jews and even fellow Ukrainians.

    Sorry, Ivan, but your quote from 2003 is irrelevant and outdated. Poland was NOT satisfied then (in 2003) and is NOT satisfied to this day, as my previous post attests.

    Notice that Russia has apologized for the murder of 20 thousand military men in Katyn infinitely more times than did Ukraine for the slaughter of 60 thousand innocent civilians in Volyn, most of whom were women, children and elderly.

    So, why keep on insisting that Russia should apologize even more and more? Why don’t we instead talk about the fact that the most popular party in West Ukraine is now the virulently antisemitic Social-Nationalist Party of Ukraine (aka “Svoboda”) that glorifies and models itself after OUN(B)?

    Comment by Ostap Bender — April 14, 2011 @ 12:52 am

  11. It is sad to see what Rupert Murdoch has done to the once highly respected WSJ in his 3.5 years of ownership.

    Comment by Ostap Bender — April 14, 2011 @ 1:28 am

  12. So now the Polish parliament is irrelevant and outdated, and not qualified to speak for Poland, whereas a Kremlin stooge O.B. is. You Soviet propagandists are so funny.

    And, for the record, I believe it is quite foolish to expect Russia to apologize for Katyn. That would be very much like expecting a hypothetical Gestapo chief running Germany to apologize for Holocaust. Lying, falsifying, switching plaques – that’s precisely the kind of behavior that should be expected from a KGB regime.

    Comment by Ivan — April 14, 2011 @ 2:12 am

  13. Gostapo lies as usual, Russia has never apologised for Katyn, or for the 1921 invasion of Georgia and the subsequent massacres, or the invasion of the baltic republics and massacres, or for the invasion of Finland and the following massacres.

    Or for the Gulags, the occupation of eastern Europe, and so on.

    All Russia has done is admit they committed the massacre at Katyn as the USSR, there was no apology, in fact they try and justify it instead.

    Comment by Andrew — April 14, 2011 @ 6:00 am

  14. Apologies follow crushing defeats. My money is on Georgia “apologising” to Abkhazia and Ossetia in the not too distant future.

    Comment by So? — April 14, 2011 @ 6:22 am

  15. Not really So?

    Some former Colonial powers have apologised for the crushing defeats they inflicted on others in the past.

    They are however civilized countries, not to be confused with places like Russia.

    Comment by Andrew — April 15, 2011 @ 6:44 am

  16. By the way, rational human beings understand that to apologize for past wrongs is quite normal.

    I guess this cuts you and most other Russians out though.

    Comment by Andrew — April 15, 2011 @ 6:49 am

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