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In the autumn of 1939, after the annexation of Western Ukraine and Western Byelorussia, about 200,000 Polish soldiers were on the Soviet territory. Of these, more than 130,000 military personnel, as well as civilians, whom the Soviet authorities considered "counter-revolutionary elements", were imprisoned in camps. In October – November 1939, more than 40 thousand people from this number – Ukrainians, Byelorussians, Poles, permanently residing in the territory of Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia – were released to their homes. Approximately as much by agreement with Germany were repatriated to the territory of ethnic Poland.

In November 1939, the People's Commissar for Internal Affairs, Beria decided to concentrate the identified officers, officers, police, judicial and penitentiary personnel in the Starobelsky, Ostashkovsky and Kozelsky camps.

Excavations of  burials in the Goat Hills near Smolensk Germans began in February 1943. After the defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad, the Nazi leadership decided to deploy a broad propaganda campaign around these events, hoping to drive a wedge between the USSR and the Polish émigré government, as well as Western allies.


April 13, 1943 German radio announced the discovery near  Smolensk of burial place of 10 thousand Polish officers shot by the NKVD. The authorities of the USSR declared that the Poles were killed by Nazis.


The Nazi, and after the Polish government in London, appealed to the International Red Cross with a request for an investigation in the Goat Hills near Smolemsk. In this regard, Moscow accused the Polish émigré government of colluding with Hitler, severed relations with him and relied on Polish left organizations.

The Soviet authorities organized their own investigation of these events. In January 1944, a special commission was set up, headed by Academician N.N. Burdenko. On January 14, 1944 excavations began on the site of the executions, from January 17 to January 23, exhumations and interviews of witnesses were conducted. The commission came to the conclusion that in 1941 the Poles were shot by Nazi occupiers.


The TASS statement of April 13, 1990 said: "The Soviet side, expressing deep regret over the Katyn tragedy, declares that it represents one of the crimes of Stalinism." At the same time, the Soviet  authorities  handed over the first set of documents concerning the fate of Polish prisoners of war to the Polish Embassy in Moscow.

In the early 1990s, the authorities of the Russian Federation published documents from the so-called "Closed Package No. 1", according to which the prisoners of the Starobelsky, Ostashkovsky and Kozelsky camps, as well as part of inmates from the prisons of Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia, in accordance with the decision of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) of 5 March 1940 were shot.


On February 22, 1994, an agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Republic of Poland on burial places and places of memory for the victims of wars and repressions was signed in Krakow. In accordance with this decision, in 1994–1995, the Poles uncovered all the available graves of Polish prisoners of war in the Goat Hills, conducted full-scale exhumation work, which allowed to determine the exact number of  buried.

On October 19, 1996, the Government of the Russian Federation adopted Decree No. 1247 "On the establishment of memorial complexes in the burial grounds of Soviet and Polish citizens – victims of totalitarian repression in Katyn (Smolensk region) and Mednoe (Tver region)".

In 1999–2000 the Polish military cemetery was built. Based on archival sources, the personal composition of  Polish prisoners of war, buried in the territory of the Kozi Gory, was determined.

In May 2010, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev handed over  to acting  President of  Poland B. Komorowski 67 volumes of the criminal case on Katyn execution, and in November of the same year the State Duma of the Russian Federation adopted a statement "On the Katyn tragedy and its victims", which noted that the shooting of thousands of  Polish citizens is a tragedy for Russia.

On October 18, 1991, the RSFSR law "On the Rehabilitation of  Victims of Political Repressions" was adopted, which played an important role in restoring historical justice to citizens who were unjustifiably repressed during the Soviet regime.

In 1995, the Smolensk Oblast Prosecutor's Office established that the Goat Hills , which is located 15 kilometers from Smolensk, is the site of mass burials of soviet citizens – victims of political repression.

During 1995–1998, studies were carried out to identify the graves of Soviet citizens. More than 200 communal tombs dating from 1937–1938 were found on the territory known as the "Valley of Death," and its exact boundaries were detecting. In another part of the forest, closer to the highway, nine group graves of Soviet citizens were identified, according to a number of experts, date back to the late 1920s and early 1930s. In 2000, these burials were arranged into graves.

In August–September 2017, on the initiative of the Russian Military Historical Society and the State Central Museum of Contemporary History of Russia, search and exhumation work was carried out, which resulted in the discovery of the remains of more than 300 Soviet citizens buried in the territory of the Goat Hills. It was found out that in the boundary of  the Goat Hills, in addition to the burials of  bodies taken from Smolensk prisons, executions of victims of political repressions were also carried out. On October 30, 2017 the reburial of the remains found during this exhumation was held.