April 13 in Russian history

1934: I already told the story of the steamship Chelyuskin (there's a typo in that article, I put the article under 1924 instead of 1934, sorry.) Just wanted to remind that this drama ended successfully on April 13, 1934, when last members of the expedition were evacuated.

1943: On this day in 1943, the German army issued an official press-release anouncing the results of the investigation of mass burials found in the Katyn forest, near Smolensk. In April-May 1940, 4,421 Polish prisoners of war were executed in Katyn by Soviet NKVD. Thousands more were killed in other places: Kharkiv, Kalinin, etc. The total amount of victims, according to the KGB archives, was 21,857 people. The Nazi propaganda used this case to accuse mythical "Jewish commanders of NKVD" in the executions. USSR denied all accusations but refused to accept an international team for the investigation. A Soviet "investigation" later in 1943-1944 concluded that the Polish officers were killed in 1941, when the territory was occupied by Nazis. There's no reason to reproduce here the full detailed history, just a couple of comments. When the Nazis attacked USSR in 1941, it suddenly turned out that Poland and USSR found themselves on one side of the war. Stalin established contacts with the Polish government in exile, released all surviving Poles from prisons and began to form Polish detachments. On December 3, 1941, Stalin met the leaders of the Polish government, Wladyslaw Sikorski and Wladyslaw Anders, who were trying to find all Polish POWs in Gulag. Sikorski said that not all Poles were released from the detention camps, but Stalin answered that this is impossible and all Polish officers were released. Then Sikorski gave a list of 4,000 people who were not released and stressed that these people were not found in Poland or in German camps for POWs. Stalin said: "It's impossible. They are hiding." "Where could they hide?" asked Sikorski perplexedly. "Well, in Manchuria", answered Stalin floutingly... In the late 1980s-early 1990s, having studied a lot of declassified documents of KGB-NKVD, a group of Soviet historians found strong evidences proving that the massacre was organized by NKVD. On April 13, 1990 (47 years after the German announcement mentioned in the beginning of this article), M. Gorbachev officially called NKVD responsible for the executions and expressed the "profound regret". A criminal case was started and in May 1991 the General Prosecutor of the USSR said that "it is possible to make a preliminary conclusion that the Polish POWs could be executed on the basis of the decision of the Special Council of NKVD of USSR in April-May 1940 by regional NKVD of Smolensk, Kharkiv and Kalinin oblasts, in Katyn forest near Smolensk, in Mednoe located in 32 kilometres from Tver and in the 6th quarter of the park zone of Kharkiv correspondingly." In 1992, Boris Yeltsin transferred a pack of documents related to the Katyn massacre to Lech Walesa. With the inauguration of V. Putin, the situation has changed. In 2004, Polish investigators were not allowed to visit Moscow. In 2005, the official investigation was over, but the General Military Prosecutor A. Savenkov concluded that it was neither a genocide, nor a crime against humanity, not even a war crime, but a military crime with the term of 50 years which had already expired. During the last years, some conspirologists attempt to refute the proofs found by the multiple investigators and proclaim that the murders were committed by the Nazis. Like many other conspirologists and pyramidiots, they are mostly dilettantes, like a metallurgy engineer who is by coincidence the author of the hypothesis of human immortality, the founder of the Army of the Will of the People (?!), who has "proved" that Boris Yeltsin died in 1996, that American astronauts never landed on the Moon, that Stalin was killed by Khruschev, etc. And no, he is not hospitalized yet, if you meant to ask.

1958: Van Cliburn, an American pianist, wins the First International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow. He hasn't become a super star of the classical music, but his performance of Tchaikovsky and Rakhmaninov piano concerts in Moscow was so romantic, emotional and deeply personal, that the judges unanimously gave him the first prize (having consulted with Khruschev first) and the audience was applauding for eight minutes. The recording became a bestseller in Russia, with over 1,000,000 copies sold. I think one of them is still standing somewhere deep in my bookshelf, where old LPs are stored. He was known and loved by millions of Soviet people. The Reporter magazine wrote: "Russians did not discover Van Cliburn. They have simply accepted with enthusiasm what we watch indifferently, what their people value and we ignore." I think that most Russians still remember his name, especially after his visit to Moscow in 2004. There's even a rock group named Van Cliburn, AFAIK. Now, he lives alone in Fort Worth, without family or children. If you happen to find that recording of 1958, listen. It is worth it. Listen and drink a glass of wine for Van Cliburn, he really deserved it.

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