26 November 2010

Stalin ordered Katyn: Russian Duma

According to news reports, this afternoon the Russian Duma officially acknowledged that Stalin ordered the execution of approximately 22,000 unarmed Poles at sites in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine in 1940, an event known as the Katyn massacre. The full draft text of the resolution ‘Concerning the Katyn Tragedy and Its Victims’ («О Катынской трагедии и ее жертвах») does not appear to be available online at the moment. As of this evening (27.11.10), the Duma’s announcement of the resolution on its website makes no mention of Stalin or his responsibility for Katyn, employing the passive voice with reference to the fate of the victims: ‘Seventy years ago, thousands of Polish citizens were shot’ (Семьдесят лет назад были расстреляны тысячи польских граждан).

01 November 2010

A weekend of memory in Belarus

The run up to the Belarusian presidential elections, to be held on December 19th this year, has witnessed the intensification of the internal memory war in Belarus. The incumbent Alyaksandr Lukashenka, running for his fourth term in office after 16 years in power, has consistently promoted a vision of Belarusian nationhood which draws especially on Soviet mythology of the Great Patriotic War and “brotherhood” with Russia. The upcoming general release on November 4th of the “first joint cinematic project of the Russian-Belarusian Union State”, Brest Fortress (Brestskaya Krepost’), should be seen as official Minsk’s newest salvo in this civil memory war. In opposition to the state’s version of history, a number of political parties and grassroots movements position themselves as guardians of a historical legacy descending from the Western European, democratic traditions of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Two widely-publicised opposition demonstrations were held over the weekend in Belarus to mourn the victims of Stalinist terror in 1937 and NKVD-led massacres during the Second World War.