Chapter published in:Political Discourse in Central, Eastern and Balkan Europe
Edited by Martina Berrocal and Aleksandra Salamurović
[Discourse Approaches to Politics, Society and Culture 84] 2019
► pp. 39–68
Chapter 3The conflict about the 1940 Katyn’ massacre and the 2010 declaration of the Russian State Duma
The execution of 22,000 Polish officers and intellectuals in the forests of Katyn’ in 1940 constituted a stumbling block for the relations between the two countries for several decades. Although the investigation conducted by the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office (1991–2004) already confirmed Soviet responsibility for the crime, Russia refused to recognize the massacre as a war crime or genocide and was not willing to declassify the Russian archive materials and to express a posthumous rehabilitation of the victims. On March 22, 2005, the Polish Sejm protested against this stance by requesting that the Russian side provide access to the Katyn’ files. In April 2012, the European Court of Human Rights recognized the Katyn’ massacre as a war crime. In the meantime, the Russian resistance had weakened: 67 out of a total of 183 volumes of the criminal case were transferred to Poland, and Andrzej Wajda’s film about the Katyn’ crime was shown on Russian television in 2007. After the official expressions of regret pronounced by Gorbačev, El’cin and Putin, the Duma eventually approved a resolution that blamed Stalin and the NKVD for the crime (November 26, 2010).Besides the historical and legal background, the article is devoted to the analysis of this debate as well as its Polish forerunners and subsequent reactions. Special attention is given to the position of the Communist Duma fraction, which kept denying any Soviet guilt. Moreover, the role of historical (counter)arguments and quotations is examined in detail. Based on a speech-act theoretical approach, the study finally gives a negative answer to the question whether the Russian government and/or parliament have ever delivered a full-fledged apology for the Katyn’ massacres.
Keywords: apology, European Court of Human Rights, genocide, Katyn massacre, historical parallels, quotations, parliamentary debate, Polish-Russian relations, political reconciliation, war crime
- 2.The broader context: Political vs. legal interactions
- 3.The Duma Declaration from 2010
- 4.How to do things with quotes
- 5.The role of historical parallels
- 6.Some echoes
- 7.Has there ever been an official Russian apology?
Published online: 23 July 2019
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