Katyn Memorial Complex {C}** Execution & Burial site | Russia's Necropolis of Terror and the Gulag

Katyn Memorial Complex {C}** Execution & Burial site



Date of burial
late 1920s-early 1940s
Show Map
Smolensk Region, Smolensk district, Katyn
Access outside a populated area
Public transport
Private or specialised transport
Visiting Hours or Restrictions
Visiting hours
9 am to 5 pm, 7 days a week
Type of burial
Secret interment of executed
Current use
Cultural and/or educational purposes
Ceremonial events
Presence of memorials, etc.
Protected status
National (Russian Federation)
Regional / Republican
Фотография 2011 года. Источник: Архив НИЦ «Мемориал»
Фотография 2011 года. Источник: Архив НИЦ «Мемориал»

The memorial complex is located 20 kilometres from the centre of Smolensk in a wooded area where citizens of two countries, the USSR and Poland were executed. Burials of Soviet citizens shot in Smolensk were made there, it is assumed, from the late 1920s onwards. In spring 1940 more than 4,000 Polish prisoners of war were shot and buried in the woods of Katyn. They were captured in September 1939 when the Soviet Union occupied the eastern territories of Poland and confined to the camp in Kozelsk. The remains of the Polish officers were first exhumed in 1943 when the forces of the Third Reich occupied that part of the USSR. After the end of the Second World War the Katyn woods were closed to outside visitors.

In 1988 the USSR Council of ministers adopted a resolution, “On the building in Katyn, Smolensk Region, of a memorial complex on the burial place of Polish officers and also a monument to Soviet POWs who died during the Great Patriotic War”. In 1990 Russia (the RSFSR) admitted that the Polish officers had been shot by the NKVD. Exhumation of their remains took place in 1990 and again in 1994-1995. A list was compiled of 4,413 Polish POWs who were buried in the Katyn woods. The burials of Soviet citizens were selectively studied in 1995 and 1998; as of 2015 a full investigation of the entire territory had not been conducted. Authoritative evidence of the number of Soviet citizens interred in the woods has not been found: documents refer to “more than 6,000 victims of Stalinist repression”.

Work on the memorial began after an agreement between the Russian and Polish governments was signed in Krakow on 22 February 1994 about burials and memorial sites of the victims of war and repression [in Russia]. The RF Ministry of Culture and the Polish Council were joint organisers and investors in the construction. Work on the memorial began in 1999 and it was opened on 28 July 2000. It combines a Polish military cemetery and the burials of Soviet victims of political repression. A complex of ritual and architectural structures has been created on the site. Further work on the Russian part of the memorial was halted and there was discussion of the development of still unstudied mass burials of Soviet citizens in the Katyn woods. The complex also includes an exhibition centre (opened in 2008) and a reconstruction of “the Gulag on wheels” (opened in 2007).

See also the Mednoe memorial complex [69-04] in the Tver Region.


As of December 2021 the Katyn Memorial Complex was downgraded on the RF Ministry of Culture’s Unified Register of Sites of Cultural Heritage from a monument of federal importance to one of regional significance; as in the years before 1988 it was again described as the place where the “Hitlerites” murdered thousands of Polish army officers.

DateNature of ceremoniesOrganiser or responsible personParticipantsFrequency
10 April
Anniversary of 1940 Katyn Tragedy
Katyn Memorial Complex
Public and Regional Administration, Polish governmental delegation, delegations from other countries
Annual event
28 July
Day of Truth and Remembrance; anniversary of opening of the Memorial Complex
Katyn Memorial Complex
Officials from Smolensk urban district, Polish diplomatic mission, State Museum of Russian contemporary history, NGOs from Smolensk, Orthodox and Catholic clergy
Annual Event
30 October
Remembrance Day for the Victims of Political Repression
Katyn Memorial Complex
Regional Administration officials and NGOIs in the Smolensk Region, ROC clergy, inhabitants and guests from the city of Smolensk and the Smolensk Region
Annual Event
1 November
All Souls Day
Katyn Memorial Complex
The Polish diplomatic mission in Russia, NGOs from Smolensk
Annual Event
8 December
Feast of Holy Martyr Archbishop Seraphim (Ostroumov) of Smolensk
Katyn Memorial Complex
Clergy of the ROC's Smolensk and Vyzazma diocese, students from Orthodox seminaries, military cadets, pilgrims and a delegation from the Polish Republic
Annual Event
Nature of area requiring preservation
State of burialsAreaBoundaries
burials of Polish POWs are denoted with memorial signs; burials of Soviet citizens are indicated in part but most are not shown or protected
total area 18.5 hectares, of which 10.5 have been developed and are in use
There is a fence around the grounds of the memorial complex
Administrative responsibility and ownership, informal responsibility for the site
Managed by the Katyn Memorial Complex, a branch of the State Central Museum of Contemporary Russian History in Moscow. Was included as No. 6701832000 in the Unified State Register of Sites of Cultural Heritage (monuments of historical and cultural significance) as being of national (federal) importance. [As of 23 December 2021 the site was demoted to Regional/Republican significance; in October 2023 the Unified Register listed its monument to executed Poles and many other points in the entry were "unconfirmed", 671711278280005.]
Sources and bibliography

[ original texts and hyperlinks ]

Shot at Katyn, an Index of the repressed, Vol. 1 Karta centre: Warsaw, 1995 {in Polish: Rozstrzelani w Katyniu. Indeks represjonowanych / Ośrodek KARTA. - T. 1. - Warszawa, 1995}

“Electronic images of the original archival documents concerning the Katyn issue from ‘collection No. 1’,” The Archives of Russia portal

Katyn, March 1940-September 2000. Shooting. The fate of the living. The echo of Katyn. Documents, N.S. Lebedeva (compiler), Moscow, 2001 (688 pp)

G.A. Andreyenkova, “Commemorating Soviet citizens who were victims of repression on the territory of the Katyn Memorial”, official website of the Katyn memorial

Truth and Remembrance, a guide to the exhibition, Katyn, 2011

Official website of the Katyn Memorial Complex [retrieved, 29 May 2022]


Airat Bagautdinov, “The Katyn Memorial Complex”, The Dmitriev Affair website (March 2022) {in English}