Katyn Massacre Also Know As The Katyn Forest Massacre


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Katyn Massacre Also Know As The Katyn Forest Massacre


The Katyn massacre, also known as the Katyn Forest massacre (Polish: zbrodnia katyńska, 'Katyń crime'), was a mass murder of many thousands of Polish prisoners of war (primarily military officers), intellectuals, policemen, and other public servants by the Soviet NKVD, based on a proposal from Lavrentiy Beria to execute all members of the Polish Officer Corps.  

Dated 5 March 1940, this official document was then approved (signed) by the entire Soviet Politburo including Joseph Stalin and Lavrentiy Beria.  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 Poles arrested for allegedly being "intelligence agents, gendarmes, saboteurs, landowners, factory owners, lawyers, priests, and officials." 

Since Poland's conscription system required every unexempted university graduate to become a reserve officer, the Soviets were able to round up much of the Polish intelligentsia, and the Jewish, Ukrainian, Georgian and Belarusian intelligentsia of Polish citizenship. 

The "Katyn massacre" refers specifically to the massacre at Katyn Forest, near the villages of Katyn and Gnezdovo (ca. 19 km west of Smolensk, Russia), of Polish military officers in the Kozelsk prisoner-of-war camp. This was the largest of the simultaneous executions of prisoners of war from geographically distant Starobelsk and Ostashkov camps, and the executions of political prisoners from West Belarus and West Ukraine, shot on Stalin's orders at Katyn Forest, at the NKVD headquarters in Smolensk, at a Smolensk slaughterhouse, and at prisons in Kalinin (Tver), Kharkov, Moscow, and other Soviet cities. 

The Belorussian and Ukrainian Katyn Lists are NKVD lists of names of Polish prisoners to be murdered at various locations in Belarus and Western Ukraine. The modern Polish investigation of the Katyn Massacre covered not only the massacre at Katyn forest, but also the other mass murders mentioned above. There are Polish organisations such as the Katyn Committee and the Federation of Katyn Families, which again are inclusive of victims of the various mass murders at the various locations. 


Nazi Germany announced the discovery of mass graves in the Katyn Forest in 1943. The revelation led to the end of diplomatic relations between Moscow and the London-based Polish government-in-exile. The Soviet Union continued to deny the massacres until 1990, when it finally acknowledged the perpetration of the massacre by the NKVD, as well as the subsequent cover-up. 

An investigation by the Prosecutor's General Office of the Russian Federation has confirmed Soviet responsibility for the massacres, yet does not classify this action as a war crime or an act of genocide. This acknowledgement would have made necessary the prosecution of surviving perpetrators, which is what the Polish government had requested. The Russian government also does not classify the dead as victims of Stalinist repression, which bars formal posthumous rehabilitation.

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