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The Katyn Massacre: Causes and Consequences of Russian Impunity

by

Thomas Richard Langtry
Golden Gate University School of Law
San Francisco, CA

 

On March 5, 1940, the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD) of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) sent a memo to Josef Stalin stating that “[t]he cases of 14,700 people located in prisoner-of-war camps … and … 11,000 people … in … the western regions of Ukraine and Belorussia” should be examined, “with the application of capital punishment by shooting … without summoning those under arrest and without presentation of the accusation. … Review of the cases and pronouncement of sentence [should] be entrusted to a troika consisting of comrades Merkulov, Kabulov, and Bashtakov” (Crozier, 2000, pp. 523-524). These orders were executed and became known as the Katyn Massacre.

In June 1941, after the Soviet occupation of Poland, Polish General Władysław Anders began organizing Polish forces to oppose German Nazi forces, which prompted him to ask about the officers that were missing as a result of the Katyn Massacre. The Poles initiated an investigation and in 1942, Polish railroad workers reported rumors of a mass grave near Katyn. In early 1943, a German intelligence officer relayed the information to Berlin. Around March or April 1943, Joseph Goebbels, a top decision-maker in the German Nazi regime, was informed of the discovery and believed it could be used as a propaganda tool to smear the Soviet government. The German government prepared an excavation of the grave. On April 13, 1943, they issued a broadcast to world news media that they had uncovered a mass grave that was “28 meters long and 16 meters wide” (Engel, 1993, p. 71). More than 4,000 corpses were ultimately exhumed at that single site in Katyn. The German government placed the blame for the massacre entirely on the Soviet government. After the April 1943 discovery, the Polish government-in-exile in London insisted on an investigation by the International Red Cross.

The Soviet government had denied responsibility and had issued a press release stating that the grave was the result of “Polish prisoners-of-war who in 1941 were engaged in construction work west of Smolensk and who … fell into the hands of the German-Fascist hangmen” (Zawodny, 1980, p. 77). Polish diplomats in London met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and told him that they had definite proof that the Soviets, not the German Nazis, were responsible for the mass shootings. Previously classified documents from the British government support the view that Churchill agreed that Stalin was responsible for the massacre; however, Churchill viewed his strategic alliance with the Soviet Union as more important than the moral issues of the mass shooting. He resisted pressure to initiate an investigation by the International Red Cross, telling the Soviet leadership on April 24, 1943, that he “shall certainly oppose vigorously any ‘investigation’ by the International Red Cross or any other body in any territory under German authority” (Crawford, 2006, p. 20).

The Soviets responded to the German publicity campaign by creating and publicizing disinformation about Katyn. In September and October of 1943, the USSR NKVD conducted its own fraudulent “investigation.” NKVD operatives Vsevolod Merkulov and Sergei Kruglov led a disinformation team in the area of the Katyn Forest where the first grave had been uncovered. The NKVD removed much of what they regarded as incriminating evidence. The dates on artifacts such as identification and newspapers that had remained with the prisoners did not include any dates later than April 1940, so they planted evidence in an effort to allow them to claim that the shooting had taken place in mid-1941 when the area was under German control. They also conducted “interviews” with witnesses, all of whom were told that their testimony must conform to the official Soviet version of events. The “witnesses” were intimidated and threatened with arrest for collaborating with the German Nazi government if they didn’t comply.

Merkulov and Kruglov issued the preliminary report in early 1944, which stated that all of the Polish officers and other prisoners had been shot by Nazi German soldiers. Subsequently, in January 1944, the USSR assembled another commission to collect additional “evidence” that the German Nazis were responsible. This second commission was headed by Nikolai Burdenko, President of the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences, and was called the “Extraordinary State Commission for ascertaining and investigating crimes perpetrated by the German-Fascist invaders.” This so-called Burdenko Commission was comprised exclusively of top members of the Soviet leadership.

Burdenko was likely aware of the truth about what happened, but he had been given strict orders to issue findings that agreed with the report written by Merkulov and Kruglov.

The Burdenko Commission exhumed the bodies and produced a report concluding that all of the killings had taken place in late 1941 by German soldiers. The “Burdenko Report” became the official basis upon which the Soviet government rested its claim that Germany had been responsible for the mass killing.

As World War II ended, the events at Katyn were reviewed during the war crimes tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany in 1946. Prior to the trial, the Soviet leadership had sent negotiators to the London conference at which the indictments against Nazi Germany were initially formulated. The Soviet negotiators hoped to definitively pin the blame for the crime on the Germans and urged the prosecution to include in the indictments against the Germans the statement that “[i]n September 1941, 925 Polish officers who were prisoners of war were killed in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk” (Hepner, 1965, p. 138). American negotiators agreed to the Soviet request but told them that their effort was embarrassing, especially in light of the extensive public debate in the press to which the event had already been subjected.

The Americans told the Soviets that it was their responsibility exclusively to sustain any further propaganda efforts at trial. During the actual trial, Soviet General Roman Rudenko introduced the indictment and testified that “one of the most important criminal acts for which the major war criminals are responsible was the mass execution of Polish prisoners of war shot in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk by the German fascist invaders” (Trials of German, 1991). Despite Soviet efforts to co-opt the Nuremberg trials for their own propaganda purposes, they failed to make their case.

Efforts to establish the truth of the Katyn Massacre continued long after World War II ended. Once America was no longer dependent on its military alliance with the Soviet Union, their relationship became adversarial and eventually developed into the decades-long Cold War, during which two conflicts broke out—the Korean War and the Vietnam War. These conflicts were viewed as proxy battles in the larger Cold War. During the Korean War, the United States Congress revisited the events at Katyn during an investigation under the supervision of U.S. Representative Ray Madden.

Popularly known as the Madden Committee, this Congressional hearing was officially known as the “Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation of the Facts, Guidance, and Circumstances of the Katyn Massacre.” It took place from 1951 through 1952 during the 1ˢᵗ Session of the 82ⁿᵈ Congress. Congress heard the testimony of 400 Polish prisoners who had managed to survive the incident, including descriptions of “the investigations and procedures of the NKVD towards the Polish officers” (House of Representatives, 1951).

Congress also heard testimony from Major General Clayton Lawrence Bissell. Bissell had previously silenced a 1945 report by American prisoners-of-war that had placed blame on the Soviets. Bissell testified that he had been concerned that angering the Soviet leadership would harm American efforts to engage the USSR as an ally in the American effort to defeat Japan. The Madden Committee pinned the blame for the Katyn Massacre on the USSR NKVD and recommended that appropriate members of the Soviet leadership be tried by the International Court of Justice.

Regardless, Soviet responsibility and accountability for the war crime remained elusive. The American and British governments contributed to Russian impunity by accommodating the Soviet government in ways that contrasted with their condemnation of the Nazi German government. During World War II, both the UK and American governments believed the USSR represented such tremendous political and military power that their alliance should be maintained. After the war, Churchill delivered his famous “Iron Curtain” speech in the US. He deplored the brutal regimes of the Soviet-controlled territories in Eastern Europe, but many people questioned the genuineness of his views.

Some Americans viewed his speech as an effort to co-opt American political and economic strength to re-energize the waning influence of the British empire. In addition, British government officials themselves may have been subjected to Soviet intimidation. In 1944, a British-Polish intelligence agent by the name of Ron Jeffery had presented the British government with a Polish report regarding the Katyn Massacre. He appealed to them to take a stronger stand against the USSR. Initially, his efforts were rewarded, but soon he was ignored and subsequently released from the army. Jeffrey believed this reversal resulted from the influence of communist agents who had entrenched themselves within the upper levels of the British government.

The American position was even more hypocritical. The American government officially sanctioned and then silenced two investigations that had placed responsibility for the Katyn Massacre entirely with the USSR. The first report was the work of Navy Lt. Commander George Earle, who was then acting as a special emissary to the Balkans. In 1944, Earle produced a report that placed the blame on the USSR, but then-President Roosevelt issued an official opinion rejecting the report and declaring support for the position of Nazi responsibility. He also issued an order to suppress Earle’s report.

The second report was issued in 1945 by two American prisoners-of-war who had been in German captivity and were taken by the Germans to Katyn in 1943 for an international news conference. The two soldiers had sent coded messages to their superiors in which they stated that the Soviets had committed the mass killings. Major General C. L. Bissell destroyed the report in 1945 as soon as he received it. Six years later, he was forced to answer for his actions during the Madden Committee hearings.

Meanwhile, top-level Soviet bureaucrats were well aware of the USSR’s responsibility for the mass killing. In March 1965, in a letter to Nikita Khrushchev, former Committee for State Security (KGB) Chairman Alexander Shelepin provided a precise count of the Polish prisoners who had been shot, which included “in all 21,857 persons. … Of these, 4,421 in the Katyn Forest; … 3,820 in the Starobelsk camp; … 6,311 in the Ostashkovo camp; … and 7,305 … in other camps and prisons in Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia” (Crozier, 2000, p. 526).

Shelepin’s memo stated that “[t]he whole operation to liquidate the aforesaid persons was carried out in accordance with the Resolution of … 5 March 1940” (Crozier, 2000, p. 526). He cited the Burdenko Commission report, which stated that “all the Poles who were liquidated there are regarded as having been exterminated by the German invaders” (Crozier, 2000, p. 526). Neither the Nuremberg court nor the Madden Committee successfully assigned definitive responsibility to the USSR, so Shelepin stated that “[t]he conclusions of the commission have taken firm root in international opinion” (Crozier, 2000, p. 527). Shelepin advised Khrushchev “to destroy all the records of the persons who were shot in 1940 during the previously mentioned operation,” except for “the [r]ecords of the sessions of the USSR NKVD troika[,] which condemned the aforementioned persons to be shot, and the documents on the implementation of the decision of the troikas. In volume, these documents are insignificant, and they could be kept in a special folder” (Crozier, 2000, p. 527). Shelepin thought they might be helpful in “deal[ing] with possible inquiries through the” Communist Party of the Soviet Union Central Committee (CPSU CC) “or Soviet government” (Crozier, 2000, p. 256).

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Soviet leadership continued to take action in the international arena to maintain its façade, but continued pressure eventually forced them to admit responsibility. In 1976, Soviet leaders were “thinking about steps to counteract the propaganda pressure … and express[ed] views in favor of holding consultations with the Soviet party” (Crozier, 2000, p. 538). In 1989, another memo to the CPSU stated that the Katyn Massacre had “become a matter of extraordinary sensitivity in Poland and is being exploited to the detriment of Soviet-Polish relations” (Crozier, 2000, p. 543).

The USSR began “to arrange some publicity about the careful investigation being carried out by the competent Soviet organs” (Crozier, 2000, p. 543). State-controlled Soviet press agencies were instructed to publicize newspaper articles about the investigation. In 1990, then-president Mikhail Gorbachev received a letter in which the results of this special investigation were revealed. The letter contained an admission of Soviet responsibility and laid out a case for assigning blame to the Soviets. The letter stated that “materials … relating to the so-called Katyn Affair” have revealed that “as of the beginning of January 1940 there were about 14,000 former Polish citizens … in the camps … in Ostashkov in the Kalinin region, Kozelsk in the Smolensk region, and Starobelsk in the Voroshilovgrad region” (Crozier, 2000, p. 545). Furthermore, historians used “documents from the Soviet archives … to trace the fate of the interned Polish officers. … [T]he identification lists compiled by the Germans during the process of exhumation in the spring of 1943 revealed that they tallied completely, which is evidence of the interrelationship between the events that occurred” (Crozier, 2000, pp. 546-547). The letter further advised Gorbachev that “[t]he appearance of such publications would” compromise the Soviet position “that no materials revealing the true state of affairs … had been uncovered. …

Bearing in mind the forthcoming fiftieth anniversary of Katyn, it would be necessary to … spell out our position” (Crozier, 2000, p. 547). The letter finally advised Gorbachev to inform the Polish president that the information they had found “put in doubt the reliability of the … ‘Burdenko Report,’” thus making it “possible to draw the conclusion that the death of the Polish officers in the district of Katyn is the work of the NKVD” (Crozier, 2000, p. 547).

Later in 1990, Boris Yeltsin, who was to become the President of Russia, released the archival documents to Lech Walesa, then-president of Poland. This so-called “Package No. 1” contained most of the previously classified material, including all of the memos and evidence cited in this essay. Finally, on October 15, 1992, the New York Times printed a story entitled,

“Russian Files Show Stalin Ordered Massacre of 20,000 Poles in 1940.”

The story stated that the “Russian Government for the first time made public secret documents revealing that Stalin’s Politburo in March 1940 had specifically ordered the execution of more than 20,000 Poles, including nearly 5,000 senior Polish Army officers, whose bodies were dumped in a mass grave in the forests of Katyn” (Bohlen, 1992).

Despite the apparent final resolution of the Katyn Massacre and its cover-up, the controversy has continued. In spring 1990, the Russian prosecutor’s offices in Kharkiv, Ukraine, and Tver, Russia opened an investigation to prosecute the executioners and other perpetrators. Thousands of witnesses were questioned. Two interviewees provided particularly condemnatory testimony—Mitrofan Syromatnikov, a senior caretaker of the internal NKVD prison blocks, and Dmitry Tokarev, the head of NKVD headquarters in Kalinin (modern-day Tver). Former NKVD Director of POW Affairs Major Piotr Soprunenko also testified. He provided hostile testimony and attempted to defend himself by refusing to provide his signature.

The Soviet Prosecutor’s Office began proceedings against him but discontinued their efforts in consideration of his advanced age and ongoing cancer treatments. The Russian Federation continued the effort after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but they ultimately refused to acknowledge that the Katyn Massacre was an act of genocide. Current Russian President Vladimir Putin has referred to the Massacre as a political crime!

The proceedings were discontinued on September 21, 2004. The people of Poland lived under communism from 1939 until 1989, when they were finally free to speak about Katyn. During the intervening 50 years, the actual executions proved to be only the beginning of this horrendous crime. The Soviets continued to inflict damage on survivors and those forced to live under a government that was recognized by the world as legitimate even though its only claim to authority was based on the mass slaughter of 24,000 innocent citizens and a signed agreement with the German Nazi regime.

Thus, for the families of the Katyn victims, the past is not the past — it is very much the present. According to the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, “[s]urvivors or descendants of survivors of genocide, the mass murder of loved ones, may [develop] posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, a bipolar disorder, any of the… personality disorders, … substance abuse, or a sense of pervasive anxiety and pessimism” (Kaslow, 2000).

The Holocaust Dialog Interactive Group Sessions were initiated in 1994 to facilitate among survivors of the German Holocaust “catharsis regarding long-repressed issues” (Kaslow, 2000).

Yet, the Katyn Massacre has not officially been recognized   as genocide.

If the surviving victims and descendants of the German Holocaust still require ongoing acknowledgment of wrongdoing by the Holocaust perpetrators to be able to function and to heal, the need for such cathartic healing on the part of the Polish community must be even greater. The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union allowed the USSR to occupy Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, which set the stage for the Katyn Massacre.

There were reports of abuses throughout regions of Soviet occupation, such as prisoners who “had their testicles kicked to a pulp, were seated on red- hot stoves, had needles rammed under their fingernails, were scalped, had their jaws ripped down to their necks and had their eyes gouged and their tongues tore out” (Tolstoy, 1982, p. 195).

In Poland immediately following the Soviet occupation, Soviet efforts to conceal the cover-up were particularly harsh. The Soviet government maintained strict adherence to its propaganda narrative and censored any sources that might provide people with a means of discovering the truth.

The government of the post-Soviet People’s Republic of Poland constructed an official government censorship program that identified the Katyn Massacre in the “Black Book of Censorship” as a forbidden topic for the media and academia. Anyone who violated the ban faced arrest, detention, beatings, and permanent ostracism throughout society.

This oppression continued until the late 1970s when Polish pro-democracy groups such as the Workers’ Defense Committee began to defy the censorship rules despite the risks. In the early 1980s, the Polish trade and labor union Solidarity built a memorial to the victims that bore the inscription, “Katyn, 1940.” The authorities confiscated this memorial and replaced it with an “official” memorial with the inscription, “To the Polish soldiers—victims of Hitlerite fascism—reposing in the soil of Katyn” (Crozier, 2000, p. 537).

Solidarity’s efforts inspired annual gatherings throughout Poland dedicated to remembering the victims and their families. However, the authorities routinely disrupted the gatherings and maintained their position that the subject was off-limits for political, media, or academic discussion.

Polish leaders have not yet succeeded in forcing Russia to accept responsibility for having committed the crime.

Russian officials, since Boris Yeltsin in 1998 have begrudgingly agreed to allow construction of memorials to the victims of Katyn, have made such agreements contingent upon the simultaneous construction of pro-Soviet and pro-Russian monuments. Yeltsin conditioned his 1998 offer on the construction of a monument honoring the deaths of Soviet prisoners-of-war in Polish camps from 1919-1924 in which 16,000 to 20,000 Russians died from communicable diseases. Russian leadership compared these deaths as “a genocide comparable to Katyn” (Fischer, 2008), but Polish leaders view such efforts as an attempt by Russia to water down the seriousness of their own crimes and “balance the historical equation” by engaging in “anti-Katyn” propaganda (Fischer, 2008).

In 2010, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was then serving as Russia’s Prime Minister, invited the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk to attend a Katyn memorial service commemorating the 70ᵗʰ anniversary of the massacre. The visit was preceded in 2007 by the showing on Russian state television of the 2007 film Katyn. Three days after the memorial, an aircraft that was carrying Polish president Lech Kaczyński, his wife, and 87 other politicians and high-ranking military officers to another ceremony marking the anniversary of Katyn crashed in Smolensk. All 96 passengers were killed. Distorted Russian narratives have blamed the crash on bad weather and human error. However, “sitting politicians” acting in concert with the Polish Communist Secret Police, the WSI, and the KGB (GRU) are more likely to have engaged in disinformation to promote “Polish dependence on Russian Oil” (Yurtoğlu, 2018).

Russian impunity in the Katyn Massacre can no longer be regarded as an isolated instance of diplomatic and political abuse of power. Russia’s role represents a contribution to a larger effort to degrade societal standards, invalidate the rule of law, and support campaigns of ethnic and cultural cleansing around the world.

According to the Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, “[t]he U.N. has recognized the need for a tangible expression of contrition coupled with compensation as the basis for terminating the state-sponsor of terrorism designation. The U.N. Security Council articulated a threefold requirement” for fulfilling this obligation that includes “(1) renunciation of terrorism; (2) acceptance of responsibility; and (3) just compensation” (Gerson, 2012). Russia’s tepid and begrudging admission of responsibility did not come until fifty years after they had committed the crime. The record shows that both internationally and within the system of Russian legal administration, legal obstruction appears to be deliberate.

From the international perspective, it is indisputable that the Katyn Massacre violated both conventional and customary laws. The 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare and the Geneva Convention prohibit the “kill[ing] or wound[ing] treacherously [of] individuals belonging to the hostile nation or army,” or “of an enemy who … having no longer means of defense, has surrendered at discretion” (Gerson, 2012). The Geneva Convention requires the humane treatment of prisoners of war. “Under contemporary international law, as defined by U.S. courts, Katyn also represented state-sponsored genocidal terrorism” (Gerson, 2012). Thus, both U.S. and international law require that Russia submit to the three-point legal remedy established by the U.N. However, Russia has argued that because the Soviet government never ratified the Hague Convention or the Geneva Convention, they are not required to answer to these laws.

The United States has not officially designated Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, so it is legally possible for Russia to deny liability under U.S. laws relating to genocidal terrorism. The U.S. has tried to use its Alien Tort Statute (ATS) as an avenue of prosecution. The ATS states that U.S. “district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States” (Gerson, 2012).

The ATS has been used to prosecute the claims of Bosnian families in the wake of the Balkan genocides of the 1990s, but this case involved the prosecution of claims by individuals; the U.S. Supreme Court must decide whether corporations and states may also be prosecuted for violations of international law under this statute. Regardless, the Act of State Doctrine and the Foreign Service Immunity Act both limit the ability of parties to bring legal action against a foreign sovereign state or official and therefore represent another opportunity for Russia to continue to escape prosecution. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) attempted to prosecute the case under Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The court could not prosecute the case under Article 2 because the Katyn Massacre took place before the Convention had been ratified. The ECHR found that Russia had violated Article 3 and its obligation to cooperate with the ECHR under Article 38. The ECHR also found that Russia had demonstrated “‘a flagrant, continuous and callous disregard for the concerns and anxieties of the families of victims” (Gerson, 2012) but stopped short of issuing a prosecution and a legally binding order to compel Russia to adhere to the three-point U.N. statute.

Within the Russian legal system, the Russian Main Military Prosecutor’s Office in 2004 ended efforts to prosecute the perpetrators of the massacre, and all of the associated records and materials were classified. In 2005, they issued a statement that a few top members of the NKVD had “exceed[ed] their authority with serious consequences in the presence of particularly aggravating circumstances” (Guryanov, 2013). This ruling left outside the realm of prosecution Stalin and the Politburo members who had planned and authorized the slaughter and officially designated the Katyn Massacre as an ordinary crime subject to a ten-year statute of limitations. The Main Prosecutor’s Office declined to name as parties to the crime those who actually carried out the execution. A 2005-2006 review by the same office issued a ruling that “refused to consider whether each individual prisoner of war who was shot was an individual victim of political repression” (Guryanov, 2013), in direct violation of contemporary Russian law.

These abuses of bureaucratic authority allowed Russia to claim that “the investigation is terminated; the materials are classified; the Katyn Massacre is an ordinary crime that is long time-barred; only a few leaders of the NKVD, but not Stalin and other members of the Soviet leadership, are guilty; and the victims of the shooting are not subject to rehabilitation” (Guryanov, 2013).
The Katyn Memorial Society appealed the decision throughout every jurisdiction of the Russian legal system, but all appeals were denied. The Memorial Society also filed requests “in the Khamovnichesky district court of Moscow … and then the Moscow City Court” to have the remaining Katyn documents declassified, but the court “found no violations in the actions of the Main Military Prosecutor’s Office” (Guryanov, 2013). The Memorial Society appealed to the Interdepartmental Commission for the Protection of State Secrets, which is supervised by the president of the Russian Federation, but the Interdepartmental Commission denied their appeal. The Memorial Society appealed to the Moscow City Court, “which … ruled that the actions of the Main Military Prosecutor’s Office and the Interdepartmental Commission were legitimate.

Despite the Moscow City Court’s flagrant violations of the Civil Procedure Code, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation upheld the decision” (Guryanov, 2013). Finally, the Memorial Society formulated “a supervisory complaint” for the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation “concerning the illegality of the classification of key material … as well as the next complaint to the European Court of Human Rights” (Guryanov, 2013). The Memorial Society has acknowledged that justice through the international courts is one possible path toward resolution, but they would prefer to see a conviction within the Russian legal system. The problems of obstruction originate within Russia, and Russia’s refusal to prosecute the case represents a second legal violation—that of the Memorial Society’s legal right to “carry out its statutory activities and its right to a fair trial” (Guryanov, 2013).

Despite more recent efforts on the part of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian state to publicly voice … their opinion about … the personal responsibility of Stalin and his associates as the main perpetrators of [the] Katyn Massacre” (Guryanov, 2013), Russia has not changed its official position regarding the decisions of the Main Prosecutor’s Office or any of the appeals of those decisions.

The legal record shows that the people and the institutions responsible for interpreting and enforcing laws have made a conscious effort to invent reasons for not enforcing laws and for not holding violators accountable, even when the crime is as serious as genocide and the responsible parties have admitted guilt. Thus, no solution is possible except at the level of the individual.

Society cannot function without a viable apparatus of dispute resolution. The degree to which this apparatus is degraded through bribery and corruption is the degree to which society will no longer sustain its citizens’ ability to attain prosperity and security. Henry David Thoreau wrote in “Civil Disobedience” (1980) about the importance of acting according to individual conscience. Citizens endowed with the right of individual sovereignty do not have the luxury of shifting to a governmental body or set of institutional rules their responsibility to act or the consequences of failing to act. Quite the opposite, deadlocked legislative bodies result precisely from the collective, conscious actions of individuals engaged in obstruction of justice. Yet, individual action is within the grasp of each individual.

Lessening the Soviet victory at Katyn can now only result when each of us—whether we occupy positions of authority or live in the mundane mainstream—assumes individual responsibility for dethroning elements of corruption. Like depriving a fire of oxygen, our collective individual actions can deny repressive political regimes the access to power that they need to prevail.

 

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