Monday, February 04, 2008

Katyn – it was the Nazis what done it!


A strange thing is happening at Wikipedia. Or perhaps it is not so strange.

I just went on the site to get some copyright free photographs for something I was doing, when I noticed that the first sentence of the entry about the Katyn massacres read:

The Katyn massacre, also the Katyn Forest massacre (Polish: zbrodnia katyńska, 'Katyń crime'), was a mass execution of Polish citizens ordered by Nazi authorities in 1940.

By the Nazi authorities? Maybe it was just a typo? Strange, especially as the rest of the article goes on about how the Soviets were responsible.

Even stranger – I went down stairs to get some wine, and when I came back the wiki article had changed:

The Katyn massacre, also the Katyn Forest massacre (Polish: zbrodnia katyńska, 'Katyń crime'), was a mass execution of Polish citizens ordered by Soviet authorities in 1940.

The word ‘Nazi’ had changed to ‘Soviet’ in the ten minutes it took to go and get a bottle of merlot.

How fluid history has become since the advent of wikipedia type sites, when anyone can get in and screw around with what someone else had written.

See here which word wiki is using at the time of you reading this.

But who could be screwing around with the Katyn entry? Well, it might be Russian ‘historian’ Aleksandr Shirokorad. Thenews.pl reports:

The Russian Niezawisimaja Gazieta daily claims that the Soviet NKVD secret police could not possibly have been responsible for the mass murder of over 20,000 Polish officers in 1940. The author of the article Aleksandr Szirokorad claims that the massacre could not have been the doing of the NKVD since the ropes used for tying the victims' wrists, and the bullets used to kill them, were not those used by the NKVD. He also claims that the shooting technique used was apparently alien to the NKVD.

Contrary to most historical opinion, the murders, claims Szirokorad, must have been the work of the Nazis [that old chestnut raises its ugly head once more, to mix metaphors].

There has already been a series of four articles in the Russian press questioning the truth about Katyn recently, the last one being inspired by the Oscar nomination for Andrzej Wajda's film Katyn. Moscow has refused to define the murders in Russia and Ukraine as ‘genocide’ or regard them as war crimes.

I meet quite a few Russians when I go to Egypt for holidays in the winter. Nice, intelligent people, some of them. But many seem to be psychologically unable to come to terms with their Stalinist past. The real low point for them was during the Yeltsin years, when the country was being humiliated by a bandit capitalist economy and a leader who was often very, very drunk.

The only good thing they have to say about poor old Yeltsin was that he appointed Putin to be his successor.

I also got the impression that they think that Yeltsin, in some ways, and to some of the more nationalist, was a worse leader than even Joe Stalin. OK, Stalin was a bad man, but he didn’t humiliate them like The Drunk.

I wonder how many Russian members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences there are? If there are any, I suppose they won’t be voting for Wajda’s movie about Katyn, a massacre in which some of his family died.

But I don’t think Wajda is going to need their help, as New York Times readers are putting the film as (87% at the time I looked last) favourite to win Best Foreign Film Oscar.

Vote here yourself and annoy a Russian 'historian'.

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