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The Katyn massacre

MARTINA CARR: Documents like those also related to the Katyn massacre and gained a lot of attention when they were publicized. Thousands of Poles were executed during the Katyn operation. Why Stalin did it? Did he need to kill all those Poles?

KIRILL ANDERSON: As far as Katyn is concerned, there are still several unexplained things related to it. If you compare the number of Poles that were arrested after September 1939 and found themselves on Soviet territory with the number of those that were executed, you will actually get a number that is not so significant, I think there were around 300,000 arrested and many less of them were killed - but yes of course it was a lot. There are no documents that would talk about how the execution was carried out or who participated in it. When they were taking arrested Poles for execution they were also destroying their personal documents. It is also not clear who initiated the whole operation, whose idea it was. What is clear is that those who were killed were either members of political parties that were not very keen on the Soviet Union, or officers, members of police, intelligence, counterintelligence, etc.  The explanation that is often used is that they needed space in the prisons as they were expecting a new wave of prisoners from the Baltic States so they were making space for them in the prison camps. But I think there were other motives there too.  I think they didn’t want a concentration of highly trained members of police, intelligence and counterintelligence, and politically active people on the territory of the Soviet Union – despite the fact that they would be under control in the prisons.  The NKVD could see this as a real danger, especially as a war with Germany was expected. They were scared of creating a fifth column in the heart of Russia. So it was taken as a preventive measure, and they were killed. The same way as Soviet citizens were killed earlier on - 1936, 1937 and 1938. Stalin and the people around him were simply worried that all these prisoners could organize some kind of uprising, especially as these kinds of uprisings were not uncommon in Soviet GULAG prisoners. It was the biggest mass execution in the history of executions.

MARTINA CARR: Amongst those that were executed were also a large group of Polish officers…

KIRILL ANDERSON: Yes, there were officers amongst them, what is not clear is how those that were executed were selected, as not all of the officers that were arrested were killed. I think of those that were killed there was some reason they were kept on NKVD lists. Most of those arrested survived, but those that were for some reasons brought to the attention of the NKVD, died.