Katyn Massacre Memorial: Photo by Smolensk Memoryal (Alyeksyey Melkin) released into the public doman via Wikiwedia Commons
The Katyn massacre, in which an estimated 20,000 Poles were murdered by the Russians on the personal orders of the then President of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin, has become an iconic issue for millions of Poles, who regard it as the most egregious example of Russia’s historic hatred for the Polish people. The issue is so sensitive that for decades Moscow flatly denied any involvement in the murder of thousands of Polish military officers, politicians and artists during the Second World War, insisting that the murders were instead carried out by the Nazis. It is only in recent years that Moscow officially admitted responsibility, and President Kaczynski and his party were on their way to attend a special event to commemorate the massacre.
Although tensions still remain between Moscow and Warsaw, the fact the Russian government has now admitted responsibility for the massacre was seen as an attempt by the Russians to repair relations with their Polish neighbours.
But while this tragic plane crash is unlikely to materially affect this diplomatic rapprochement, it will nevertheless have a lasting impact on Polish attitudes to the Katyn massacre. Instead of trying to consign the Katyn saga to the history books, whenever Katyn is mentioned in future they will be reminded of the plane crash that claimed the lives of their president and his entourage.
By Con Coughlin Last updated: April 10th, 2010 – telegraph.co.uk