Katyn (kətĭnˈ) [key], village, W central European Russia, 12 mi (19 km) W of Smolensk. During World War II, when it was part of the USSR, it was occupied by the Germans in Aug., 1941. In 1943 the German government announced that the mass grave of some 4,250 Polish officers had been found in a forest near Katyn and accused the Soviets of having massacred them. The officers had been captured during the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939. The Soviet government denied the German charges and asserted that the Poles, war prisoners, had been captured and executed by invading German units in 1941. The Soviets refused to permit an investigation by the International Red Cross. In 1944, a Soviet investigating commission alleged that the Germans killed the officers. In 1951–52, a U.S. Congressional investigation charged that the Soviets had executed the Poles. In 1989 Soviet scholars revealed that Stalin had indeed ordered the massacre and the following year Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev apologized to the Polish people for the killings. In 1992 Russian officials released secret documents that proved Stalin's direct involvement in the Katyn massacre. A Russian criminal investigation into killings, begun in 1990, was halted by the chief military prosecutor in 2004.

See V. Abarinov, The Murderers of Katyn (1992); W. Materski, ed., Katyn: Documents of Genocide (tr. 1993); A. Paul Katyn (upd. ed. 2010).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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