The Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza reports (h/t Týden) that Russian experts have presented the Russian government with a proposal to recognize and rehabilitate victims of the Katyn massacre. The massacre takes its name from the small Russian village of Katyn near which the Soviets had murdered a large part of the 22,000 Polish “undesirables” they had captured in newly-conquered eastern Poland. (The mass murder took place in several places, but Katyn is the most notorious.) The “undesirables” in question included Polish Army officers, landowners, priests, government officials, police, factory owners and lawyers: in other words, anyone with any education and leadership ability who could challenge undisputed socialist rule in the USSR’s latest conquest.
The proposal before the Russian government reportedly proposes the rehabilitation of Katyn victims en masse – a kind of Russian version of “mistakes were made, people were hurt.” However, individual rehabilitation, by name, is out of the question because it might set a precedent for family members to sue Russia for damages.
That is something that Russia cannot afford. As the direct heir to the second most murderous regime in world history (the People’s Republic of China comes in first, Nazi Germany only third), Russia would be driven into chaos by the avalanche of lawsuits that would surely follow. After all, there is hardly a family on the territory of the former USSR that has not had one or more members murdered by the Soviet regime.
And I don’t even mention the genocidal injuries done to so many of the subject nations: imagine the Crimean Tatars suing Russia for the wrongful 1944 expulsion during which so many thousands died, or the Ukraine dragging Russia to court over the Holodomor!
Not only would Russia be driven into chaos by human rights lawsuits: the KGB gang that runs Russia today might well find itself before every court in Eurasia – for criminal obstructionism, if nothing else.
“Our law knows nothing of rehabilitation for the death due to communist terror,” stated the Russian historian Nikita Petrov.
This will likely remain so: in January 2011, the Russian government classified all Katyn-related documentation in perpetuo, to ensure family members have no access.
If this is any indication of the way things will be, one can assume that no citizen of the former Soviet Union will ever have access either.
The post-Soviet lukewarm Katyn “processes” that have wended their way through Russian courts have achieved little. Polish families of the murdered have therefore turned to the European Court of Human Rights.
One hopes that ordinary families from the territories of the former USSR – and so many other socialist regimes around the world – will one day gather the courage to do the same. It’s high time for communists worldwide to pay the piper.