Death of Polish Katyn Delegation 169

A Head of State has a symbolic importance for the nation, that transcends the personalityand politics of the individual in office. I am therefore very sorry for the Polish people at the loss of President Kaczynski and the Polish delegation in the air crash at Smolensk.

Looking at the list of victims, I knew at least five of them, though not colse friends, from my time in the British Embassy in Warsaw, which makes the tragedy more real to me.

The massacre at Katyn was one of the most dreadful chapters in Poland’s tragic history. It was not just a massacre of 22,000 soldiers – it was a determined attempt by Stalin to wipe out the entire Polish officer class, as a step towards eliminating Poland’s indigenous leadership potential.

You have to understand Polish history to fully guage the significance of this. In the eighteenth century Poland was wiped off the map in successive partitions by Austria, Prussia and Russia. For two and a half centuries the Polish nation disappeared from Europe. Poles werensplit between different Empires, with Poles expected to fight Poles on their new masters’ behalf. A brief period of existence under Napoleon helped keep Polish identity alive – and along with the Chopin story sparked a lasting attachment to France..

So when Poland reemerged from the mists of time – to quote Norman Davies – in 1918 as a nation again, it was a nation with a sense of the precariousness of its own existence, which was to be strengthened by the hard but succesful battles against Soviet invasion in 1921.

It was only 18 years later, and Poland had only existed anew for 21 years, when Stalin and Hitler treacherously invaded Poland and partitioned it yet again. Britian’s declaration of war was no practical help to the Poles. As Poland was fighting for its very existence, even the least warlike had signed up for the hopeless fight against both Hitler and Stalin, so the 22,000 Polish officers among Stalin’s prisoners of war were a broad cross section of Poland’s educated classes.

Stalin’s decision to massacre them was an attempt to eradicate the very idea of an independent Poland.

When I was in Uzbekistan I was astonsihed to find that in Uzbek schools and universities the Stalin-Hitler pact had been eradicated from the history books. That is true today. They are told the “Great Patriotic War” started inn 1941. The Soviet invasion of Poland is a banned subject.

Since Putin’s new brand of Russian nationalism, the Stalin/Hitler pact has again diasppeared from Russian school books, although it is not formally a banned subject and is taught at some universities. But Putin – who of course is a product of the Soviet secret services – has discouraged at every turn openness about the crimes of Stalin, and archives on the subject have again been closed to the public.

The Poles were therefore quite right to press the Russians hard on Katyn, and you can be sure that the ceremonies would not have been given much prominence in Russian media. The fascinating thing now will be to monitor just how much depth the Russian media give to explaining just what President Kaczynski was on his way to Russia for

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169 thoughts on “Death of Polish Katyn Delegation

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  • Suhayl Saadi

    Thanks, Alfred. Much appreciated. The ‘slime’ concept is fabulous. You’re lucky not to have a TV set, I’ll tell you: Original Silence: a truly Zen situation.

    Dreoilin, have you heard the powerful Buffy St Marie early 1990s ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee’? It’s very good. She’s the one who did ‘Soldier Blue’ in the very early 1970s.

  • dreoilin

    “I think you will find that it is your comment’s that are sheer provocation”


    I agree with you Stephen.

    And anyone who dismisses a book like the one I mentioned (which by the way has 184 reviews on Amazon, compared to 6 for his masterful work by Charles C. Mann) can’t possible be treating the subject seriously.

    Maybe that’s why he dragged in the Polish crash again.

  • Alfred

    Re: Conspiracy theory on the Smolensk crash

    The report on “Poland’s suspicious second Katyn massacre tragedy”, which MJ linked to above states among other things that:

    “A close examination of the precise terrain WEST of the Smolensk-Severnyi military airport reveals that for an extended area, the terrain is DISTINCTLY LOWER than the airport itself, which is situated on a sort of plateau. The area to the WEST of the military airport is between 100 and 150 feet BELOW the plateau. In THAT case, the plane COULD NOT HAVE SCRAPED THE TOPS OF TREES, unless the trees were about 400 feet high.”

    This is not only bunk for the reason I stated earlier, but it is totally nonsensical since satellite images (see link below) show that the plane crashed on an approach from the East, not the West (the Google satellite image I referenced earlier clearly shows the features visible in the satellite photo published by the Daily Mail at the East end of the Smolensk Military Airport runway):

    ‘Russia engineered air crash that killed President Kaczynski,’ claims Polish MP

    So my ingenious theory about lakes and visibility is irrelevant. However, from the East, also, the land undulates sharply, with elevations of around 670 feet above sea level 5 km East of the airport, climbing to 820 feet, then dropping to 670 feet again, before a final rise to the East end of the landing strip at an elevation of 840 feet.

    As discussed earlier, the pilot must have glimpsed the ground at some point and then followed the terrain to keep within sight of the ground. Because forward visibility would have been severely limited, there would have been virtually no chance of avoiding a clump of trees before they plane struck them.

    There is nothing in this new allegation of Russian sabotage to warrant changing my earlier conclusion that the crash was due to pilot deference, against his better judgment and the instructions of the Russian air traffic controllers, to the crazy insistence of the President of the Polish Republic.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Technicolour – thanks – now I read it, I remember that one! Primal sludge…

    Did you that one of the 1st Dr’s assistants, ‘Vicky’ (Maureen O’Brien), is now a crime fiction novelist in the south of France?

  • Alfred


    I have assumed that you are a provocateur like your hero Jack Straw who was reported to be such in a message to the Foreign Office by the British Embassy in Chile when Straw was in Chile as part of some student delegation during his early political life.

    However, perhaps you have a problem like Dreiolin in understanding the English language.

    In particular, you should try to understand the meaning of the word “if”.

    Clearly, from Churchill’s post-war assessment that the war was unnecessary, he believed that co-existence with the Nazis could have been achieved had the British Government not blundered during after 1932 when the scale of German (illegal) rearmament became known. He said as much in “Great Contemporaries” published in 1937:

    “We cannot tell whether Hitler will be the man who will once again let loose upon the world another war in which civilisation will irretrievably succumb, or whether he will go down in history as the man who restored honour and peace of mind to the great Germanic nation. . . . [History] is replete with examples of men who have risen to power by employing stern, grim, and even frightful methods but who, nevertheless, when their life is revealed as a whole, have been regarded as great figures whose lives have enriched the story of mankind. So may it be with Hitler.”

    Thus Churchill did not believe, as late as 1937, that the idea of co-existence with Hitler to be nuts, therefore, by the statement of mine that you quote it cannot be inferred that Churchill was a nutter.

    So which is it? Do you have a problem with comprehension or are simply a liar?

    And don’t waste time citing that absurd popinjay Hitchens, who rightly denounced Henry Kissinger as a war criminal only then to become a Bushist, neocon advocate of Kissingerian war crimes himself.

  • Alfred


    I don’t dismiss the book you recommend. How can I, I haven’t read it.

    I have noted your recommendation, for which I thank you, but I don’t have the book to hand right now so what am I supposed to do about it?

    In any case, it is clear from what you say about it that the book does not provide a comprehensive picture of the impact of European contact on the native peoples of the Americas. Therefore, as a source, it is not an alternative to the book by Mann.

    The mortality rates that I quoted, admittedly from memory — I don’t have the Mann book to hand either, were Mann’s estimates. However, they were not entirely without basis in fact. Epidemics among native populations continued throughout the period 1491 to the modern era and there is no doubt that native populations were often largely destroyed by diseases such as small pox.

    For example, smallpox deliberately spread by American gold miners among the people of the village of Bella Coola on the BC coast resulted in a death rate of close to 99%. Europeans were also vulnerable to smallpox but their death rate was obviously much lower or they would never have managed to settle the Americas.

  • technicolour

    Does everyone know about the function CONTROL and PLUS (simultaneously), which makes text larger? It’s amazing.

  • Tom

    Craig wrote:

    “Thanks – that’s interesting, especially the Wajda bit. Hopeful, really. You may not remember, but did the Soviet alliance with Hitler get a mention? I can see a scenario where the audience was left to presume these were poles fighting for the Nazis like so many of the Baltics.”

    No, I don’t remember any references to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in the news reports I saw. Given that some of these same channels (especially Channel 2) were, a year ago, practically peddling the notion that Poland started the war by not accepting the German “peace plan,” I guess it would be too much to expect them to come full circle and explain why the NKVD arrested those Polish officers in the first place. Besides, the coverage had to be line in with the general tone of Putin’s remarks at the commemoration ceremony: the Katyn massacre was a particular episode in the overall tragedy of totalitarianism, from which Russians themselves suffered more than anyone else.

    Instead, Wajda’s “Katyn” film was made to do the heavy lifting. It was broadcast again, post-crash, this time on Channel 2 (“Rossiya”), during prime time on Sunday night, right after the weekly “news of the week” broadcast, which was mostly taken up by coverage of the crash.

    This is really remarkable, given that two years ago Memorial and other human rights organizations were holding what practically amounted to clandestine screenings of the film, one of which I attended in Petersburg. And now, suddenly, the film gets two screenings in the space of one week on two state channels (Kultura and Channel 2).

    This is not to mention the official and non-official response to the crash, which has been exemplary.

    On the other hand, it is hard to say what the overall effect of all these moves in the right direction will be given the general atmosphere of (officially encouraged) historical schizophrenia in the country, which on the “popular” level is expressed in attempts to decorate Moscow and other cities with banners and billboards with Stalin’s image for the V-Day celebrations, and, on the official level, in the work of Medvedev’s anti-“falsification of history” commission, whose brief is not only to combat the glorification of Nazi collaborators in former Soviet countries, but also to prevent more complicated interpretations of the war’s causes and its aftermath.

  • stephen


    You make several very valid points. The Russian government is playing an increasingly sophisticated game in order to spread its influence in to what it considers its sphere of influence, and it has probably realised that outright confrontation will not always deliver the influence that it wants. It is also becoming increasingly versed in modern PR techniques which use different messages for different audiences.

    Look at how Moscow has reasserted its influence over the Ukraine despite its previous heavy handed approcah. Look at how it is now jumping in to provide budgetary support to the new Kyrgyz government. There should be no doubt at all as well that Russia sees Uzbekistan and Afghanistan as being within its zone of interest.

    As for schizophrenia – I think most people who have visited Russia will know that it goes much deeper than the Government – many ordinary people see nothing wrong with nostalgia for the days of a strong Russia with the likes of Stalin at the helm – yet, they somehow divorce this from the experience of their private family lives, where there is nevertheless an increasing acknowledgement of the past – and an awful lot of people are accessing the records provided by Memory and others. Perhaps some day in the not too distant future Russia willn get the politicians who can start to address this schizophrenia rather than continue to play with it as at present.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Mind you, Stephen, there is a considerable degree of deep political and corporate psycho-pathology at home as well. So much so, that one might posit (as did R.D Laing and the anti-psychiatry movement way back when) that to seem sane is in fact to be insane. Take, as one small example, the whole ‘positive thinking’ tendency and look at its origins and context.

    This actually also relates back to technicolour’s quote from Max Hastings (Ah, my hero!) in which he asks why there is no mass civil disobedience/ mass street protestations about the UK’s part in illegal wars, as well as to anno’s astute observtion that to some extent, psycho-politically, the British people are in “shock” at the turn of events globally over the past several years.

    I’m not an avid supporter of the anti-psychiatry movement as such but Laing made some extremly astute and valid points in his sustained critique of the mind and society and the societal mind, as well as of the way psychiatry was being defined dispensed in the mid-C20th, a critique which to some extent holds validity today both in terms of our undertsanding of ‘mental illness’ and of such an understanding’s broader implication in the context of our society.

    Famed Pakistani writer, Saadat Hasan Manto wrote a short story entitled, ‘Toba Tek Singh’ which has since become iconic in this regard. It has been translated on numerous occasions and concerns a busload of ‘lunatics’ from various religious communities at the time of the Partition of India’ in 1947. It’s a good story.

  • Anonymous

    If you ask me, it was R.D Laing who was the nutter.

    I don’t suppose you’re asking me though.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Oh yeah, he was pretty flawed – and without getting too conspiratorial in tone about this, he may also have had links to the intelligence services via the IRD. Nonetheless, this Glaswegian psychiatrist did make some very penetrating and resonant observations and achieved some insights which since have permeated mainstream psychiatry.

    And the whole idea of society being ‘mad’ is a poignant one, esp. in these times of war, mass murder, Black Holes of Bagram and psychological/ physical torture.

    Btw, of course, we can’t really ‘ask’ you as we don’t who ‘you’ are, as you’ve not rendered even a pseudonymous identity for your post. Perhaps, then, you are RD Laing’s astral body, come to contend with yourself…

  • Alfred

    Re: The Smolensk crash

    According to Popular Mechanics, that reliable guide to the official 9/11 conspiracy theory, the pilot of the Polish President’s plane was attempting an instrument landing at Smolensk, i.e., he was bringing the plane down through the fog using his GPS, altimeter, etc. in the expectation that the runway would come into view before the plane hit anything.

    So, those who suspect a Russian assassination plot, might think about interference with radio altimeter and GPS signals, etc. But pilot error seems more likely. This is discussed at great length on the Professional Pilots Rumour network:

    And, Suhayl,

    There were no Indian wars here in British Columbia. Furthermore, some First Nations have negotiated settlements involving the transfer of thousands of square kilometers of land and the creation of a form of self-government. Altogether, British Columbia’s native bands claim more than 100% of the total area of the Province, and treaty negotiations remain in progress.

    True, in the US and eastern Canada, settlers adopted a more aggressive approach: we come, we kill you, we take you land, no hard feelings, huh? Same as Britain’s current approach to Iraq oil and Afghan pipeline routes, as supported by all parties but the BNP. True Nick Griffin has talked about destroying Afghan cities in the war against drugs, but that is another matter. And an aerial strike on the President’s cronies who run the drug trade does not seem an altogether bad idea.

    Could we now give up the struggle for existence? As long as individuals, tribes and nations differ in reproductive rate, the answer, as a strictly technical matter, must be no.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Swift was right! It’s all about eggs, after all!

    But the ENP…? That bunch of Hard State rent-boys wouldn’t know what it means to be English if an igneous statue of St George were thrust… uhm, into their consciousnesses.

    I’ve re-named them, btw, since they know nothing about the ‘water of life’.

  • Alfred

    “It’s all about eggs, after all!”

    Yes, how many you hatch, not how you crack them.

    I am having a some difficulty decoding your assessment of the nationalists. You’re saying none of them drink scotch? If that is correct, it is, no doubt, a defect.

    But can they be faulted for failing to recognize St. George, however petrified and wherever stuffed? Would any Englishman recognize this rather obscure Turkish person unless draped in the flag and with a dragon on his lance?

    Hard state is Israel and US, according the Indian Express as opposed to soft state India, although to some folks it describes a signalling protocol.

    Rent boy, I can figure that out, so OK, setting aside signalling protocols, these are beer-swilling agents of the security state. That seems a reasonable interpretation to me.

    But perhaps I am bashing the wrong end of the egg.

  • Alfred

    But Swift was right about the importance of cracking eggs.

    Individuals can increase their representation in the gene pool by raising their reproductive success or by decreasing the reproductive success of competitors. In gull colonies, as the late Wynne-Edwards of Aberdeen University documented, eggs must be constantly watched if they are not to be destroyed by aggressive neighbors.

    Either way, though, a reproductive rate below the replacement rate, if long persisted in, leads to extinction. The current autogenocide of the European peoples is largely concealed because of the extended post-reproductive longevity of present-day Europeans. Thus, while the reproductive potential of Europeans is collapsing, the numbers of Europeans will not collapse for some decades yet.

    A population collapse due to war, famine, epidemic, does not necessarily jeopardize the long-term survival of a population, provided that the remnants of that population are in a position to rebound and re-occupy the space. However, when a population collapses while a competing population expands within the same territory, then it’s almost certainly game over.

    Where the more fertile population breeds with the declining population, the disappearance of the latter is hastened through what is known as introgressive hybridization, although some genes of the displace population will remain in the resultant gene pool.

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