Ivan Katchanovski: Owning A Massacre ... 'Ukraine's Katyn'

Ivan Katchanovski teaches at the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa.

A mass-grave containing the remains of at least several hundred (and possibly thousands) of people has been uncovered in the small western Ukrainian town of Volodymyr-Volynskyi, near the border with Poland. This discovery is hardly surprising since the lands of Ukraine, dubbed by Yale history professor Timothy Snyder as 'bloodlands', are full of mass graves dating back to World War II. These lands endured a Nazi genocide that claimed about seven million lives, and a Soviet genocide and mass murder of several million other peasants, 'class enemies' and political prisoners.

What is surprising, however, is the rush-to judgment and near unanimity of Polish and Ukrainian politicians, experts, and journalists. Their conclusion they have all reached is that that the unearthed remains are of Poles murdered by the Soviet secret police (NKVD), even though the uncovered evidence and other sources indicate that these are Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide. Although both Polish and Ukrainian officials acknowledged recently that the Jewish victims of the Nazi executions might be among people buried there, they continued to advance the idea of 'Polish victims of the NKVD' as the main theory. On 13 October, Ukrainian and Polish officials and priests oversaw the reburial of the remains of 367 people at a local cemetery with a sign referring to the victims of the Soviet mass terror. 

A Soviet or Nazi massacre?

The finding of remains of hundreds people in the mass grave, which was only partly exhumed and which likely contains many more remains, has already been dubbed the 'Volyn Katyn'. This is in reference to a hugely controversial mass murder in Katyn forest, Russia, of Polish POWs by the Soviet NKVD in 1940, which the Soviets misrepresented as a Nazi massacre.

The Volyn massacre case can actually best be described as the Katyn in reverse. Its similarity with the Katyn massacre lies in the misrepresentation of historical facts...


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