Secret Documents on Katyn Massacre Published Online

April 29, 2010 Updated: November 30, 2015

MOSCOW—The electronic copies of secret Katyn documents were published Wednesday on the Russian Federal archive website, revealing details on the 1940 massacre of Polish officers by the Soviets.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the publishing of the documents, as he promised Poland following the tragic plane crash in Russia on April 10, which killed the Polish first couple and 94 others.

During the incident, 20,000 Polish officers and members of the intelligentsia were murdered on Soviet territory by the People’s Commissariat Internal Affairs (NKVD) with Stalin’s approval.

In 1943 the Germans discovered the mass graves near the camps, as well as prisons in Katyn Forest, which have now become a memorial site. Stalin accused the Nazi regime of the crime.

This propaganda has still circulated in Russia since the regime fell in 1991.

The secret documents contained in “Special File No. 1,” were originally kept in the archives of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party and were only available to a select few. The archives were later handed over to the political and social department of the Russian federal archive, where Stalin’s main documents are kept.

Among the seven secret documents—which include the signatures of Stalin and other officials from the top political bureau—there is a reporting notice written by People’s Commissary of USSR Lavrentiy Beria to Stalin suggesting that they shoot the jailed Polish prisoners.

“So it does not mean that nobody knows these materials, but they first were published in such consolidated manner,” Medvedev said.

The files were first declassified by the first president of Russia, Boris Yeltsin in 1992 and delivered to Poland. Before the communist regime began its wane, the issue was untouchable.

Despite Russia’s acknowledgment of the massacre, however, its leaders never referred to the incident as a genocide.

The Russian military prosecutor’s office suspended the declassification and investigation of the crimes in 2004, calling it the “excess of official’s duties.”

Soon after, the Russian international society for human rights “Memorial” appealed to a Moscow court to allow the process to proceed, but the court refused. They later asked the Supreme Court, which led Moscow to consider the issue.

Since the Poland president’s plan crashed, the Poles have been surprised with the overtures made by Russian leaders. Ties between the two former Soviet republics seem to be warming as the Katyn massacre was always a sensitive issue for late Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who put great effort into not letting Russia influence the country’s policies, which were typically oriented toward the West.

Claiming Responsibility

Memorial member Arseniy Roginskiy said that Russia has to claim responsibility for the Katyn crime. He said that revealing the documents is only recognizing that the crime took place. “The difference between guilt and responsibility is far bigger,” Roginskiy said, in the interview with The Epoch Times.

“Russian authorities must give the crime certain juridical classification and the murderers’ names must be made public,” he said. “The rehabilitation of all victims of the Katyn crime should be provided according to Russian laws on rehabilitation for victims of political repression.”